The Rising Cost of Back to School

By Christie Duffy

Back to school shopping is in full gear with roughly two weeks to go until the bell rings. And parents’ wallets are also being put into high gear, as school supply lists run long.

Families are spending an average of $669 on back to school supplies this year, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.

And that’s up 5 percent over last year’s school time spending.

When asked how much will be spent this year, Eduviges Izquierdo said, “Oh $700, $500.”

“Minimum $100 [per kid],” said Bergenfield resident Bhabika Patel.

NJTV News took a recommended supplies list from a local district and filled our Staples shopping cart with the items. Our grand total — $231 in supplies for a single child.

The National Retail Federation survey says spending nationwide will top $26 billion this year.

They say the cash flow is being bolstered by tech purchases. Schools here in New Jersey have asked students to buy flash drives, iPad covers, ear buds and tablet stylus pens.

“Now all that new technology stuff you have to have a lot of things today. And it costs a lot of money,” said Paterson resident Shirley Sykes.

Some classroom costs in New Jersey are also being passed on to parents. Educators have listed toilet paper, paper towels, zip lock bags, tissues, hand sanitizer, baby wipes and even “three packages of a healthy snack,” enough for a class of 25 says the list.

But parents today reacted kindly to the requests.

“It’s good for our kids,” Patel said.

Extracurricular activities like sports and clubs are also a big driver. A survey by coupon site RetailMeNot says parents are spending an average of almost $400 on extracurriculars throughout the school year.

One Passaic mom has four boys, all on the football team.

“I think it ran, four pairs of cleats between four boys, Under Armour — it was almost $400,” said Sherese Hiller-Alston.

Think that’s expensive? Try cheerleading.

“This year she is in high school so I’m not sure what the total cost will be, but last year she was on an all star team and it came out to, with the traveling, about $5,000,” said Linda Perrucci of Wood-Ridge.

With back to school expenses on the rise, some are pooling resources. In Newark, the Foundation for Newark’s Future and other groups are giving away 5,000 backpacks full of supplies to students.

And in Atlantic City, where many parents may be out of a job after recent casino closings, the Shore Fellowship Church in Egg Harbor gave away over 1,000 backpacks and school supplies to families in need.