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Heading Back to School During Inflation

school bus with school supplies

Across the United States, parents are preparing for students to return to school. And with that comes needed supplies, clothing, equipment for extracurricular activities, and more. With the help of inflation, those expenses add up quickly! According to a chart by CNBC, since 2019, the cost of paper has increased by 29%, lead pencils and art goods increased by 24.6%, and writing tablets and pads increased by 23%. 

So, we thought we’d provide some ideas on ways to reduce or mitigate some back-to-school expenses. Many of these ideas come from our own staff who are also dealing with the rising costs of sending kids to school. 

  • Know what students need. Check in with schools and teachers to determine what supplies are necessary. Then go through last year’s backpack, your supply closet, and cupboards to inventory what you already have. This will eliminate spending on items kids do not need for school and ensure you are not buying more than is needed.
  • Clothing. Along the same lines, inventory the clothing your students already have. You could even group clothes by categories: Not okay for school, okay for school, donate or trash. Kids grow, so purchasing clothes may be a necessity. Set a budget for clothes and consider shopping at used clothing stores, consignment stores, and discount marts. If you take your kids shopping with you, consider involving them in those budgeting decisions. Let them know the amount available to spend and allow them some freedom in making choices.
  • Electronics. If the student needs a new computer or laptop, look for refurbished or discounted options. Ask about discounts for students as well. On Amazon, you can find deals on used products simply by viewing the item in full detail. Click the item you are interested in and then view the pricing options (shown below). On this laptop, a person could save $80 buying the used model that is in “like new” condition.

Buying used comparison from Amazon

  • Shop dollar stores and secondhand stores for school supplies. Some receive brand new products from other box stores.
  • Spread back-to-school shopping out. Shop over different pay periods and different weeks, so it isn’t such a big bite out of one paycheck. 
  • Ask family and friends if they have items you need to get the school year started.
  • You can also review advertisements online or in the newspaper to take advantage of sales and discounts. Search online for discount codes or promotions, as well. Online shopping can be much less expensive. 
  • Check local food banks/churches for back-to-school drive programs.
  • Ask teachers if they have any coupons or deals for supplies.
  • Plan and a budget for school shopping and do your best to follow that plan!

We’d love to hear your ideas and tips for saving on back-to-school expenses. You can write us anytime at 

And, as always, if your budget is in need of a review or you have questions about managing your debts and expenses, reach out to our certified counselors at 888-282-5811 or send an email to 

Published Aug 7, 2023.