Grab Your Wallets, Back-to-School Spending Soars to $1,642, Up 33% from Last Year

Spending on musical instruments and mobile devices up significantly; Parents to spend average of $505 on gadgets, with 92% saying kids use tech for school

New York, August 15, 2016 — Summer may still be in full swing, but American families are already getting ready to “fall” back into the upcoming school year. According to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker, parents expect to spend an average of $1,642 on back-to-school expenses this year, up significantly from $1,239 in 2015.

This coming school year, parents are expected to spend more on musical instruments ($267 vs. $194 in 2015) and mobile devices ($172 vs. $125 in 2015), among other items also seeing a bump in spending:

 

2016 vs. 2015

 

Plan to purchase

Average Spend

School supplies

96% vs. 95%

$138 vs. $111

Clothing & accessories

95% vs. 91%

$293 vs. $269

Shoes

94% vs. 91%

$145 vs. $120

Outerwear/jackets

82% vs. 75%

$126 vs. $106

Technology (computers/laptops, tablets, phones, or other mobile devices)

59% vs. 46%

$505 vs. $466

Mobile devices

52% vs. 41%

$172 vs. $125

Musical instruments

34% vs. 24%

$267 vs. $194

“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, Senior Vice President, Consumer Lending at American Express. “This may be attributed to an ever-evolving back-to-school shopping list and, perhaps, parents’ ability and willingness to spend more when it comes to education and extracurricular activities.”

Technology Takeover
As overall back-to-school spend increases, so does the widespread use of gadgets in the classroom. A whopping 92% of parents report that their kids are using tech for learning (vs. 82% in 2015). To accommodate this gradual upswing in usage, six in 10 parents will purchase electronics for the upcoming school year (59%), spending an average of $505 on gadgets. Laptops will top the list of most popular back-to-school tech supplies (28% vs. 22% in 2015), followed by tablets (23% vs. 19% in 2015) and cell phones (19% vs. 14% in 2015).

The use of smartphones for education has steadily increased over the past four years, with 32% of parents agreeing that smartphones are a go-to gadget for learning (vs. 29% in 2015, 24% in 2014 and 19% in 2013). Of those parents purchasing a cell phone for back-to-school season, 73% will purchase a smart phone. However, whether kids are using phones for personal or educational purposes, parents say the average acceptable age for a cell phone remains at 12, consistent over the last three years.

Budgeting 101 & Extracurricular Credit
As back-to-school spending rises, parents are finding it more important to set budgets for certain school-related expenses. For example, 64% of parents are setting a shopping budget for clothes (vs. 59% in 2015). Despite setting these spending limits, 23% of parents say they would still purchase clothing or a tech gadget if it exceeds their budget because it’s an incentive for their kids to do well in school (59%, significantly down from 74%), or it’s an easier trade-off than arguing with their child (19%, significantly up from 3% in 2015).

In addition to setting budgets, 78% of parents are choosing to curb their own spending to afford their kids’ back-to-school expenses (vs. 74% in 2015). Many parents plan to cut down on “extras” including entertainment, such as plays, movies, sports games and concerts (42% vs. 38% in 2015); travel (40% vs. 32% in 2015); and extracurricular activities, such as club memberships and personal hobbies (28% vs. 21% in 2015).

While they may be cutting down on personal extracurriculars, nearly nine-in-ten (87% – on par with 2015) parents say their child will participate in at least one after-school activity. Overall, parents expect to dish out an average total of $409 on these activities per child (vs. $455 last year) with sports being the most popular (59% vs. 60% in 2015), followed by band, choir or music lessons (30% vs. 27% in 2015) and hobby groups (30% vs. 27% in 2015).

About the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker
The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of 2,050 adults, including the general U.S. population, an affluent demographic defined by a minimum annual household income of $100,000, parents of children of grade school children, and parents of college students. Interviewing was conducted by Ebiquity from July 6 – 11, 2016. The results among parents of children in kindergarten through college have an overall margin of error of +/- 2.5 at the 95 percent level of confidence.

About American Express
American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at americanexpress.com and connect with us on facebook.com/americanexpress, foursquare.com/americanexpress, linkedin.com/company/american-express, twitter.com/americanexpress, and youtube.com/americanexpress.

About Ebiquity, Plc.
Ebiquity are independent marketing performance specialists. Ebiquity enables brands across the world to make better informed decisions to improve their brand and business performance across integrated communications channels. Learn more at ebiquity.com.

SOURCE: American Express