Back-to-school shopping anxiety, millennials feel pressure to overspend

It use to be that holiday shopping created the most tension and anxiety for shoppers.

That has now moved up a few months to back-to-school season.

The National Retail Federation now estimates this to now be the most expensive back-to-school shopping season ever and it is putting a lot of pressure on parents to overspend according to a new survey.

The report finds that more than 4 in 10 parents (43 percent) who have gone back-to-school shopping have felt pressured to overspend. This includes 51 percent who currently have children under the age of 18.

For comparison, a previous survey found that 57 percent of parents with children under the age of 18 who give gifts during the holiday season have felt pressured to overspend on presents.

Millennial parents (ages 23-38) are the most likely to have felt the squeeze.

Fifty-six percent of Millennial parents who have gone back-to-school shopping say they have felt pressured to spend more than they’re comfortable with, compared to 39 percent of older parents.

“For many parents, back-to-school shopping can be just as daunting as the holiday shopping season, and the pressure to overspend – whether from your own children, social media or somewhere else – can wreak havoc on a budget,” said analyst Ted Rossman. “It’s important to identify your spending triggers and set limits.

Overall, nearly half of U.S. adults (49 percent) say they have felt pressured to overspend on something in order to look successful in the eyes of others.

Millennials are much more likely to feel this pressure than those who are older (64 percent vs. 40 percent), as are parents with children under 18 (65 percent).

Millennials, especially younger Millennials (ages 23-29), are the most likely to blame friends (45 percent of Millennials and 52 percent of younger Millennials).

They are also more than three times as likely to say they’ve felt pressured by social media (27 percent vs. 8 percent of those who are older).

Sadly, 1 in 4 U.S. adults have charged something on a credit card that they couldn’t afford to pay for with cash in order to appear successful, and another 14 percent who haven’t would consider it.


The most common things people feel pressured to overspend on to validate success are clothing/shoes/jewelry (23 percent), social activities/dining out (22 percent) and cars (18 percent).

The total sample size for the survey was 2,744 adults, including 1,534 parents.