With the start of a new school year, students are already facing their first big test: affording new school supplies amid record-high inflation.
"I didn’t realize it when I was shopping, I noticed the prices when I was at the checkout and it's ridiculous," one parent told Fox Business.
Families are expected to spend 40% more on items for school this fall compared to 2019, according to the National Retail Federal (NRF). Across the country, total back-to-school spending in 2022 is expected to meet last year’s record of $37 billion.
A NRF report found that prices for stationary (21.8%), furniture (21.1%), and shoes (9.9%), increased the most for K-12 and college students.
Those climbing costs have stretched household budgets thin at a time when people are already paying higher prices for everything else, from gas, to groceries to rent. Some consumers now plan to take on debt to afford the supplies their children need.
"There are a lot of factors contributing to the higher prices right now, but we are definitely seeing the impact of inflation and ongoing supply chain challenges," said Katherine Cullen, Sr. Director of Industry and Consumer Insights for the National Retail Federation.
Individual families could spend as much as $864 this year on back-to-school expenses. About 43% of consumers plan to use credit cards, loans or ‘buy now pay later programs’ to cover those costs according to NRF, while 38% say they will cut back in other areas to afford supplies and 18% says they will work overtime to get what they need.
As people prepare to shell out more, Cullen explained many are still hoping to find good deals.
"[Consumers] are looking for more sales and promotions, they’re thinking about trading down to different brands and substitutes, to make sure they can afford the core items they need," Cullen said
In addition to sales, many families are turning to their communities for free supplies.
At Hope Northwest Academy in Cleveland, office manager Jessica Umpierre told Fox Business her school purchased hundreds of dollars for supplies that were distributed to students at recent a "back-to-school bash." While shopping for the school and her own family, Umpierre said she noticed the higher prices.
"As a parent you want to buy the 25-cent folder, but you can’t find them, the inflation is on our items but not in our pockets," she said. "This is why I’m so glad my school steps up, there’s no reason any kid should go without what they need."