Back-to-School Spending Trends

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2014-08-info-thumb

Students will need to find more room in backpacks for tech gadgets as they head back to school this fall. According to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, parents expect to spend an average of $529 (46%) of their back-to-school budgets on electronic devices, equipping kids with the latest technology as the new school year begins. Overall back-to-school spending is up 5% since last year, as parents say they’ll spend an average of $1,151 (vs. $1,094 in 2013 and $867 in 2012).

With the majority of students using tech devices for learning (77% vs. 70% in 2013), it’s no surprise that laptops, as well as classroom-friendly tablets, top kids’ wish lists. The top five electronics parents intend to buy this season are: View/download the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker

1.

Laptop computer (21% vs. 25% in 2013)

2.

Tablet (20% vs. 15% in 2013)

3.

Scientific calculator (17% vs. 18% in 2013)

4.

Mobile phone (13%, on par with 2013)

5.

Printer (12% vs 13% in 2013)

Tots, Tweens and Teens Pace the Tech Race

Younger students outpace their older counterparts with technology, as more K-8 (80% vs. 74% in 2013) and high school students (77% vs. 71% in 2013) report using electronic devices for learning than college students (75% vs. 69% in 2013). Tablets, specifically, are the device of choice for the K-8 set.

While tablets may be the new go-to for school, mom and dad understand smartphones are essential to safety and socializing, with 75% of parents who say they’ll purchase a mobile phone for their child this year will choose a smartphone (vs. 69% in 2013). Parents report the average appropriate age for a phone remains at 12, and phone purchases for tweens (ages 10-14) have increased significantly (64% in 2014 vs. 57% in 2013).

Don’t Rule out Rulers

In addition to electronics, parents say they will still purchase traditional items for the school year, spending more in several categories including:

Category

2014

2013

2012

Clothing and Accessories

$265

$236

$241

Shoes

$129

$111

$102

Outerwear/Jackets

$114

$114

$97

School Supplies

$109

$102

$79

Textbooks

$270

$193

$209

Parents say they’ll spend the majority of back-to-school clothing budgets at department stores (26%) and big box retailers (21%), followed by malls (16%), outlets/discount stores (13%) and online (10%), with credit card usage up significantly (44% vs. 39% in 2013).

Parents Do the Math, and More

From dioramas to book reports, parents anticipate their kids will have six school projects per child this year, and they will spend an average of $325 on extra supplies for these assignments. On top of financing school projects, parents will also contribute to their kids learning beyond purchasing supplies by lending their brain power. Most parents (57%) say they will give general guidance when helping out but leave it up to their children to complete big assignments, while nearly one third (32%) actively participate and collaborate with kids on their school projects.

For access to previous American Express Spending & Saver Tracker results, please visit inr.synapticdigital.com/americanexpress/spendsave.

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