Surprise your friends and family with your gift giving prowess.

How Much Do Americans Plan To Spend on Back-To-School Shopping in 2021?

2 minute read
Share article

It’s that time of year again, for the kids to go back to school. There are always so many new transitions, as the littles start kindergarten, teenagers start high school, and newly turned adults start college.

This year feels a little different than most. 

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a strange 2020 school year, with many students learning from home, or with hybrid schedules.

So for the large majority of American families, this year’s back-to-school shopping season also feels like a return to normal, and a transition back to in-person learning.

How much, exactly, are Americans spending on back-to-school shopping in 2021? The average amount families plan to spend on elementary through high school students, according to the National Retail Federation, is $848.90. That’s about $59 more than last year.

Here’s why:

Students need more supplies

Pencils, notebooks, binders, calculators, highlighters, and craft supplies are relatively common and normal items that appear on back-to-school shopping lists across the country.

And many students might also receive new clothes, backpacks, and lunchboxes each year.

However, in 2021, students need a few more supplies to transition back to their school buildings. Teachers are, understandably, asking for students to come to school stocked up with a few other supplies, like hand sanitizer, masks, reusable water bottles, and cleaning supplies to contribute to the classroom.

These extra items contribute to the increased cost of back-to-school shopping this year.

Educational technology has become more important than ever

According to the NRF report, electronics made up the top category of back-to-school costs this year. This makes sense.

In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, students stayed in touch with their teachers and continued their education using technology, notably personal computers, and Internet access.

Any technology isn’t cheap. But these items have become needed and nearly mandatory back to school items in 2021.

Some schools provide computers to students. Even these families might purchase accessories for the year, such as a computer mouse or extra charger. All of these costs certainly add up.

Kids grow a lot, and so do clothing prices

Last year, a lot of students could sit around their house in comfortable pajamas and sweatpants, so there likely wasn’t a huge surge of back-to-school clothes purchasing.

Of course, kids grow. So with the start of the school year comes the purchase of new clothing items. 

And this year, the cost of clothing has also increased, contributing to higher back-to-school costs. Essentially, there are some shortages of fabric and workers due to the global pandemic, and demand is quite high this year for clothing items and shoes.

For all of these reasons, back-to-school shopping costs have increased this year.

Under-funded classrooms

Teachers are often looking to enhance their classrooms and don’t always have a big budget for supplies. Websites like offer a way for their members to create wish lists with items from any store that others can help them purchase. Sharing a classroom wish list with specific items can make it easier for parents to know which items to donate.

With the elevated costs of supplies, families and teachers will have to get creative this year. Let’s hope 2022 has better things in store for parents and teacher’s back-to-school budgets.

Share article

Want gift giving to be fun again?

Quit guessing and stressing over gifts. Share and shop wish lists with family and friends for birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, and more.