back to school

The pressure’s on for buying school supplies for kids, teens and college students heading back to school. According to a National Retail Federation report, families sending children back to school and young adults off to college plan to spend record amounts of money on school and college supplies this fall.1

The average amount families with children in elementary school through high school planned to spend per child is $849 in 2021, an increase of $59 from last year. Back-to-school shoppers planned to spend $296 on electronics, $253 on clothing and $161 on shoes (top three expenses). College students and their families planned to spend an average of $1,200 on college items in 2021, which is an increase of $141 from last year. They planned to spend $306 on electronics, $164 on dorm/apartment furnishings and $159 on clothing (top three expenses).1

It pays to be prepared for back-to-school shopping season. Consider some of these tactics to help you save money from kindergarten through college.

School-Age Kids

Back-to-school shopping can be a great opportunity to teach your child about saving and spending money with these tips:

  • Shop with a list. Check with your child’s school for a school supply list based on grade level before you go shopping. Stick to this list and resist the temptation to buy extra items.
  • Take stock of last year's supplies. Many of the pens, pencils and notebooks your child used last year are still good. Be sure to count these items before purchasing more.
  • Do the math. Getting your kids involved in comparing prices to find the lowest price on school supplies can be a good learning experience.
  • Save up for special items. If there’s something your child wants to buy – and it’s not on the list – encourage them to save their own money to buy it in the future. Help your child grow their savings with our Money Musketeers Kids Savings Club.

Help your teen understand the difference between needs and wants by getting them involved in budgeting for back-to-school shopping:

  • Create a budget. Make a list of everything your teen needs for school (plus some of the extras they want to buy). Decide how much to spend on school supplies, clothes, electronics and other items. Let your teen figure out how to stretch their budget to cover the essentials while staying within the budget. 
  • Shop online and in stores. Save money by comparing similar items and shopping around for the best deals online and in stores.
  • Trade up or buy used. Is your teen ready for the next size or level in sports gear, scientific calculators or musical instruments? Check with your network of family, friends and parents on buying, selling or borrowing equipment.
  • Pay the difference.  If your teen wants to upgrade to a more expensive pair of shoes or high-end tech gadget, consider paying the cost of a lower-cost item and have your teen make up the difference with their own money. Encourage your teen to build their savings with Dinero Teens.
  • Spend smart on credit. Talk to your teen about the risks and responsibilities that come with a credit card. Encourage them to use credit cards to purchase things they can afford to buy, and pay off the balance monthly. Advancial’s Dinero Visa® Card is a great first credit card for learning how to handle credit responsibly. These good habits will help them as they move in to the next phase of their lives – college!
College Students

Send your college student off to school with the financial tools they need for success:

  • Budget for college expenses. Paying for tuition is only part of the story. College expenses also include room and board (or rent), food, books, activities fees and more. Plan ahead with your student and decide how to budget for these costs together.
  • Save money on furnishings. Shop thrift stores or search Facebook marketplace and other online apps to find deals on dorm or apartment furnishings. Encourage your student to share costs with roommates and connect with students on campus who are moving or selling furniture. This will also make it easier with moving the furniture.
  • Manage money with a checking account. Your student can learn a lot from managing a checking account and tracking their income and expenses with online and mobile banking. Ultimate Checking from Advancial includes no monthly service fee and unlimited free ATM access, so your student can access cash from anywhere.
Stay on Top of School Expenses

Help your student start the year on the right foot with everything they need – without going over budget. Keep track of all your back-to-school spending with the Advancial mobile app. Log in or visit to learn more.

1 Source: National Retail Federation 2021 Back-to-School/College Survey.