Back-to-school time: This is how hard it is for families to afford supplies
That dreaded school supplies list comes nearly every year during a child's early education, but that doesn't mean families are prepared to take on the financial hit.
Sixty percent of parents in a Junior Achievement survey say it is a challenge to afford school supplies. Seventeen percent expect more than $500 will be paid for supplies, per child. Nearly 60 percent plan to buy the necessary supplies at discount stores; 5 percent will use office supply stores.
The survey gathered responses from more than 1,200 parents of school-aged children, as well as the responses of 1,000 teens.
Older students get the sense that affording school supplies isn't a cinch for their parents. Fifty-seven percent of teens say it's challenge for their parents or guardians to afford supplies.
According to Rose Acerra, president of the New Jersey PTA, the hunt for school supplies and paying for them creates a challenge for parents, students and teachers on a yearly basis.
She said many teachers dip into their own pockets to make sure start-up materials are on hand. Organizations and institutions may host collection drives to assist the thousands of New Jersey children who attend the first day of school without the basics.
GoFundMe pages, which collect financial donations from folks online, can also assist a classroom in which a number of kids have parents who may be struggling.
Since every cent counts, Acerra said in-school stores have also lightened the financial burden for students and families. Schools are willing to part with supplies at a lower markup than routine retailers. And it helps families save time.
"We were finding that sometimes, a parent is working — they don't have the time to bring their kids to Staples or to a store to get their supplies. It was easier for them to just write a check to the PTA store and then be able to purchase their products," she said.
While the sticker price of supplies is overwhelming enough, Acerra said parents deal with an extra dose of frustration when certain supplies go unused during the school year. She said it's important that the teacher or principal is made aware of any disconnects between what's listed and what's actually used.
Back-to-school spending is estimated to total $83.6 billion this year, according to the National Retail Federation. This time of year is the second-biggest shopping season for retailers.
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Contact reporter Dino Flammia at firstname.lastname@example.org.