Average Back to School Costs in 2019

Spending expectations are high. We help you set a better budget!

The back to school shopping season is the second most expensive time of year after the winter holidays for families and spending expectations this year are even higher than last year. The infographic shows where parents plan to spend along with tips to help you save.

No Extra Credit for Back to School Shopping Infographic
Consolidated Credit back to school infographic detailing average back to school costs with shopping tips

No Extra Credit for Back to School Shopping Create a budget and spend wisely to avoid credit card debt Families with K-12 children will spend $697 on back to school shopping $249 clothing / accessories $203 electronics $136 shoes $117 school supplies Families with college students will spend $977 on back to school shopping $235 electronics $149 clothing / accessories $120 dorm / apartment furnishings $99 food items Ways to spend wisely Clothes • Inventory closets. Only buy items they’ve outgrown or worn out. • Shop clearance sales first. Start in the sale racks and work your way to full price. • Avoid trendy items. Stick to the classics that will be versatile for mixing and matching. • Don’t buy all at once. Put off buying fall and winter pieces for later this year. Electronics • Stick to necessities. Buy what they need, not what they want. • Consider warranties. Make sure warranties cover accidental damage. • Skip smartphones. A new phone is not a necessity for school. School Supplies • Check the published list of supplies. This ensures you only buy what they need. • Shop at home first. Take stock of leftover supplies to see what you already have. • Be smart about bulk shopping. Only buy pens, pencils and paper in bulk. Source: https://nrf.com/media-center/press-releases/record-spending-expected-school-and-college-supplies

More ways we help you save

In addition to this infographic, we have more ways to help you save big on back to school shopping this year. Consolidated Credit will host a free webinar on Wednesday, August 14th, 2019 to talk about back to school budgeting and how to really save money this year.

Using credit strategically as you shop

The tips in the infographic can help you cut back on your budget so you don’t spend as much. Hopefully, that means you won’t have to rely on credit cards to cover your back to school costs. Ideally, you want to cover all of your back to school purchases with cash so you don’t add to your overall debt load.

However, that doesn’t mean you necessarily must avoid credit cards when you shop. You may choose to use credit strategically during back to school shopping, particularly if you have a rewards credit card that offers incentives on back to school purchases.

In this case, it may be beneficial to use a rewards credit card to make back to school purchases. You just need to be strategic about how you use your credit cards and how you pay off the debt once it’s incurred.

Here’s how to maximize cash-back rewards without increasing your debt:

  1. Set up a back to school budget before you shop.
  2. Include all planned purchases from clothes and electronics to school supplies.
  3. Check your accounts to see if you have funds available to cover the total, using either free cash flow in your checking account or money from savings.
  4. If you don’t, review your back to school budget to cut anything your kids don’t need for the start of the school year. Or, you can adjust your household budget to cut a few things you can do without this month. That will increase your cash flow for back to school spending.
  5. Ideally, the rewards credit card you want to use should have a zero balance at the start of the billing cycle. This will help you maximize cash back rewards by minimizing interest charges.
  6. Make your purchases, using your rewards credit card when it’s advantageous; otherwise, make purchases on debit or with cash.
  7. Once you finish shopping, use the money you have allocated to pay off the credit card balance in full before the due date.
  8. Doing this will eliminate interest charges, so the cash back you earn isn’t offset by high interest charges.

If you can’t pay off the balance in full within one billing cycle or your rewards credit card already has a balance, keep in mind that the rewards won’t be nearly as rewarding. After all, if you earn 5% cash back but it’s offset by interest charges on an 18% APR credit card that comes out to a net loss. So, your reward credit cards are their most rewarding when you start and end every billing cycle with a zero balance.

To help you set a budget for back to school shopping, Consolidated Credit created a helpful back to school spending planner. You can also find more tips on how to set an affordable back to school budget, in our back to school budget guide.

Use this infographic

<a href="https://www.consolidatedcredit.org/infographics/average-back-to-school-costs/" target="_blank"><img src="https://www.consolidatedcredit.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/backtoschool_infographic-2019-01.png" alt="Consolidated Credit back to school infographic detailing average back to school costs with shopping tips" class="img-fluid" /></a>