See how typical budgets for grade school and college students compare.

After the holiday season, back-to-school shopping is the second largest spending event of the year.

Nearly half of Americans will shop online, according to the National Retail Federation. In total, they’ll spend an estimated $83.6 billion — a more than 10 percent jump over last year, and a five-year high — to get grade school and college students ready to learn.

Here’s what families expect to spend on their grade schoolers…

We wrote Monday that college is the bigger chunk of that spending, in part because computers are more of a necessity. According to the NRF, “61 percent plan to purchase a laptop, 28 percent a tablet, 26 percent electronic accessories, 24 percent a calculator and 21 percent a smartphone/cell phone.”

At the grade school level, as an Ebates survey pointed out, things like laptops, cell phones, and tablets are considered “non-essential.” Of course, that doesn’t mean students don’t want them. Here are teens’ top priorities for “non-essential” items…

  • Headphones (49 percent)
  • Laptop (25 percent)
  • Cell phone (19 percent)

Headphones might be a hard sell when the point is to listen and learn. But all told, families will spend $8.8 billion on back-to-school electronics — more than double what people spend on Black Friday. That’s more than will be spent on shoes ($5.6 billion) or school supplies ($4.9 billion) but less than clothes ($10.2 billion).

People are also shopping earlier. Compared to the 22 percent who started two months before school resumes last year, 27 percent are ready to shop this year. But the number of stragglers — possibly waiting for last-minute deals the week before school starts — remains about the same at 21 percent.

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Brandon Ballenger

Brandon Ballenger


Ballenger is a writer for and its first political columnist.

Budgeting & Saving, College

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Article last modified on November 29, 2017 Published by, LLC . Mobile users may also access the AMP Version: Your Back to School Budget Might be Breaking Your Bank - AMP.