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Report: Back-to-school spending to jump 33%


Shoppers are opening their pocketbooks for back-to-school spending this year.

Parents expect to spend an average of $1,642 on back-to-school expenses this year, up significantly from $1,239 in 2015, according to the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker report.

Parents are expected to spend more on musical instruments this ($267 vs. $194 in 2015), along with mobile devices ($172 vs. $125 in 2015).

To accommodate the increasing use of tech gadgets in school, 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).

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 VP, 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.”

The use of smartphones for education has steadily increased over the past four years. 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.


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).

Here’s a look at how this year’s BTS spending compares to last in the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker report:

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