Back to School 2022 rips a hole in American pockets

The steep inflation rate is restricting the buying capacity of many Americans. However, it is estimated that a record number of children are coming back to attend school in person.
Back to School 2022 rips a hole in American pockets
The rising inflation in the United States has put immense strain on families with low and middle incomes to provide for their kids’ school supplies this year. Many parents are making budget cuts to ensure their children have everything they need to get back to school in person.
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School is expensive. We admit that. Going back to school in 2022 is just that: an expensive affair. Although wealthy families aren’t affected much, they are still keeping an eye out for discounts, deals and other ways to save money. 

Record numbers come back to school

Even though the country is reeling under the weight of the steep inflation rate restricting the buying capacity of many Americans, it is expected that a record number of children are coming back to attend school in person. The high prices of school supplies and other back-to-school costs don’t seem to deter the wealthy since they are prepared to pay the extra costs. But families earning middle and low incomes are struggling to meet the expensive costs of school supplies. 

Many families earning a middle-class income have been able to manage quite well through the pandemic. But now schools have reopened for in-person sessions and the prices have also shot up. Even families with an income of around $80,000 a year are finding it difficult to manage the increased expenses. Many of them are looking to take on additional jobs to meet the family expenses, especially since grocery bills have almost doubled compared to 3 years ago. As such, families are cutting their school expense budgets by up to 75% this year compared to last year. 

How much Americans are spending on back to school?

According to research done by retail groups, it is expected that Americans are planning to spend about $37 billion this year on school supplies. This is the same as the amount spent last year, making it approximately $860 per household. However, there are some changes in back-to-school numbers in 2022 compared to last year. In 2021, only 7% of consumers spent more than $500 on school supplies and related purchases. This year, this share is expected to increase to 25% even though inflation now stands at over 9%. 

But that doesn’t mean everyone is able to afford such expenses at the same rate. The buying power of low- and middle-income families are depleting at a much faster rate than wealthy families. Much of the school-related spending predicted for 2022 is set to come from wealthy consumers. They don’t mind paying the extra cost for their kids to get back to school. Wealthy families are expected to spend about 32% more than they did last year in this regard. 

How families are keeping costs low in 2022

However, families that are only a little affected by inflation are planning to reduce their school expense budgets by 6%. For families that are on tight budgets due to the increased costs, the plan is to spend about 15% less on school supplies than they did last year. Families with low and middle-level incomes are looking at recycling school supplies as much as possible to keep their costs down. While it doesn’t spell the worst for such families, it definitely is a huge hit on their finances from the past two years when things were relatively a lot easier.  

The situation is much bleaker for parents who have only one source of income or have to deal with their own medical conditions, especially if they haven’t been able to collect on their disability insurance. Many of them are expecting their kids’ school-related expenses to go up by 50% this year, presenting a serious dilemma. To combat this, parents are planning to get the necessary supplies from Walmart, thrift stores, and hand-me-downs. 

How to save while spending on back to school

School supplies and other expenses are seen as priority purchases by parents. Hence, they are ensuring that their kids have everything they need to start the school year right. To compensate for the increased costs, parents are forced to cut budgets in other areas and save money. One way they’re saving money is by buying in bulk or at discounts whenever possible. There are plenty of discounts and offers available on school supplies as well right now, especially at large retail outlets. Hence, parents are making the most of them. 

Families that aren’t affected by the rising inflation are continuing to buy school supplies as usual. However, they too are keeping an eye on the increasing costs. Even homes that have a total income of more than $250,000 a year are making use of deals and offers whenever possible. They are maximizing the rewards and points they get on their credit cards to make additional purchases. 

For tips on how to plan finances if you’re in college, read our blog.

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Johnathan James

Johnathan James

With over 11 years of experience, Johnathan started his writing career as a copywriter. Coming from a finance and management background, he excels in covering financial topics. When he's not spurning out fintech content, you will find him playing football, basketball and racing.


This page is purely informational. Beem does not provide financial, legal or accounting advice. This article has been prepared for informational purposes only. It is not intended to provide financial, legal or accounting advice and should not be relied on for the same. Please consult your own financial, legal and accounting advisors before engaging in any transactions.

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