LIMA — Jill Alt had a lot of planning to do this summer, which included preparing her two eldest children for their return to school on Wednesday.
Normally, it wouldn’t be too much trouble, but she gave birth to her fourth child, Evelyn, on Aug. 9, so back-to-school shopping was done earlier this year. Now that her youngest is a week old, and all the school supplies and clothing were taken care of while Alt was still expecting, the last week for her family before returning to school has been pretty relaxing.
According to the National Retail Federation, the average American family will spend about $688 on back-to-school items this year, including school supplies, clothing and electronics.
Alt, of Ottawa, doesn’t think she spent nearly that much.
Spencer, 8, and Audrey, 5, attend SS. Peter and Paul Catholic School in Ottawa. Because of the uniform policy there, Alt was able to save a lot of money on clothes that came from others.
“Fortunately, some friends handed stuff down to Audrey, and I have a nephew that handed some stuff down to Spencer,” she said. “We got stuff from The Gap and Land’s End, which is primarily where we get our uniform clothes.”
She potentially saved hundreds of dollars in that bargain. NRF showed estimates that parents will spend $246 on clothing for school this year. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Americans spent $7.7 billion at family clothing stores in August 2011.
Carla Vernon, of Bath Township, on the other hand, did clothing shopping at outlet stores, Old Navy and Kohl’s, for her son, Keaton, 6, who will begin first grade at Bath Elementary School. She probably spent nearly $300 on clothing, including shoes, but she said it’s also other aspects of Keaton going back to school that really add up. For instance, there’s a $65 school fee, fees to play soccer and take pictures with the team and more. Keaton plays flag football, soccer, basketball and baseball. Through the course of a year, those activities can really add up.
“It’s a lot for a young kid, but they enjoy it,” Vernon said.
The supply shopping list for her son included markers, No. 2 pencils, erasers, a paint shirt, folder, pair of scissors, four glue sticks, a backpack and two boxes of tissues. She said she spent roughly $70 at Walmart for all the supplies.
And Alt agreed with adjusting to a school schedule again. Spencer plays soccer, Audrey does dance and takes violin lessons, not to mention that she watches her newborn and her 2-year-old son, Tucker, during the day. She estimated that she spent about $60 in school supplies for Spencer and Audrey. Supply lists from teachers were also contained typical items: composition books, markers, pencils and the like. The savings in clothes perhaps allowed Alt to spend more on Audrey’s new backpack and lunchbox, which is bright pink with green polka dots, and has her name stitched on each.
For Kim Ward, of St. Marys, she said she’s probably under the $688 average for her three children Bryan, 11, Gavin, 8, and Mallory, 5, so far, too, but the shopping isn’t done yet.
“What I do is I get that list, and I get what’s on the list. But usually, when school starts, they usually get more things that they have to have. I’ll usually go out and buy those once school starts,” Ward said. “Like last year, my one son needed the dry erase Expo markers and an eraser. So we had to go out and get those.”
Ward said she’s kind of looking forward to school starting for her children, because it’ll kick off the regular, school-year schedule again. But parents might not be the only ones to express this. While many children may whine and groan about beginning classes again, parents may be surprised to learn that 70 percent of pupils ages 6 to 17 reported to like school, be interested, and work hard during classes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
All in all, back-to-school shopping is a booming retail industry. Between spending for pupils in kindergarten through 12th grade, NRF said the sector is expected to reach $30.3 billion this year. When including back-to-college spending, that estimate balloons to almost $84 billion.