Back to School Finances – How Much It Costs and How to Save

It’s that time of year again, where parents and children start shopping for back to school supplies. But just how much will it cost? A pretty penny, in fact, according to the annual National Retail Federation (NRF) survey, families with elementary, middle, and high school children will spend $26.2 billion or an average of $696.70 per household out of their own pockets to ready their children ready for the upcoming school year! Older students enrolled in a public undergraduate college can expect to pay an average of $1,200 for books and supplies.

Back to School BudgetingWhile you can score plenty of deals, back-to-school time is almost comparable to a mortgage payment on a house or double your car payment, a large undertaking for families looking to stay on a budget. Here are some tips for saving some cash so your children are prepared for a successful school year.  

Rent or Buy Used Textbooks 

If you have college-bound children, buying new textbooks can add up fast. Instead, consider used. Many of the used textbooks are gently used and have little signs of use. You can find used textbooks usually in the bookstore among the new ones or look on websites such as campus books where you can type in the title and find used books to buy or even the option to rent.

Reuse supplies

Chances are if you have younger children, they came home with a backpack on the last day of school with crumpled up paper, uneaten snacks and other desk items that hardly look worth saving. Before you reach for the backpack and dump the contents into the garbage, make sure there are not hidden supplies scattered throughout. Teachers will return any unused supplies from the year and reusing them this year could be a major score on your part!

Search for sales and shop resale

When it comes to school supplies it isn’t always about the markers and crayons, many parents also shop for clothes. Why spend hundreds of dollars on brand new clothes when you can find name brand gently used items at a resale store. Kids grow fast so buying resale makes sense if you are trying to save money. Also looking for sales on school supplies can help significantly, even if you have to run to multiple stores to get the best deal.

Plan for next year

School supplies are not cheap, and costs can get out of hand if you are shopping for multiple children. Setting aside money each month to offset the cost at the end of the summer can really help and take the burden off your shoulders when it’s time to shop. Saving as little as $25 a month will give you $300 toward the supplies and allows you to easily stick to a budget, especially big-ticket items that might come up with older students such as a laptop.

For those looking for additional financial counseling or back-to-school financial tips, Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services offers programs that are designed to support and assist individuals in understanding and mastering the “basic” financial habits of budgeting, managing credit, and homeownership. For additional information on what we offer, reach out to us at, call (510) 237-6459, or visit our programs page. Visit us on Facebook today!



Richmond Neighborhood Housing Services, Inc. (510) 237-6459