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Back-to-school spending up a third

News, 16 August 2016

NEW YORK: US parents are expected to increase their back-to-school spending by a third compared to 2015, often cutting back their own personal spending to manage, according to a new report.

The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, based on online research among 2,050 adults, put the average outlay this summer at $1,642 – significantly up from $1,239 in 2015.

"When looking at trending data on this topic from the past five years, 2016 is showing the largest year-over-year increase for back-to-school shopping," said Jed Scala, SVP/ Consumer Lending at American Express, the financial services company.

"This may be attributed to an ever-evolving back-to-school shopping list," he said "and, perhaps, parents' ability and willingness to spend more when it comes to education and extracurricular activities."

Specifically, technology – in the form of computers, tablets, phones and other mobile devices – is attracting greater levels of spending by more parents.

Six in 10 parents (59%) will purchase electronics for the upcoming school year, spending an average of $505 on gadgets.

Laptops top the list of most popular back-to-school tech supplies (28% vs. 22% in 2015), followed by tablets (23% vs. 19%) and cell phones (19% vs. 14%).

As regards extra-curricular activities, sport remains the most popular (59% of parents will spend here), followed by music, with interest in the latter growing quickly; 34% of parents intending to purchase musical instruments this year, compared to 24% last year.

Faced with these ever greater educational demands on their finances, however, more parents are cutting down on personal "extras" (78% vs 74%).

Travel is the sector likely to be most affected by this financial re-appraisal, with 40% of parents opting to scale back spending in this area, compared to 32% in 2015. Entertainment – plays, movies, sports games and concerts – will also be hit (40% vs 32%) as will club memberships and personal hobbies (28% vs. 21%).

Data sourced from American Express; additional content by Warc staff