Parents are gearing up to spend big on back-to-school stuff, boosted by pandemic savings and the new child tax credit payments

Mother and daughter wearing face masks and looking at school supplies in a store. The daughter is wearing a blue backpack.
  • While kids anticipate the return to school, parents are ready to buy supplies early and spend more.
  • According to Deloitte, K-12 spending could be $32.5 billion this year, 16% higher than last year.
  • Some Americans may spend child tax credit payments, which will go out on July 15, on school supplies.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

As the school year approaches, some children will say goodbye to virtual learning and hello to a lot of new back-to-school clothes, shoes, and other items needed for in-person learning.

A recent Deloitte report found parents are gearing up to spend more on back-to-school shopping than in 2019, and that they are ready to start buying school supplies earlier than the back-to-school season typically begins. The report points to a possible reason why: half of respondents said they’re worried items will be out of stock.

Plus, experts say parents’ spending will be boosted by higher-than-normal savings and the new child tax credit starting this week from the federal government.

The new child tax credits could help parents foot the bill

Many parents will start receiving monthly child tax credit payments of $250 or $300 per child this week through December. The payments may help with retail sales for items like food and school supplies as reported by CNBC.

“It’s a good thing for Walmart and grocery stores,” Jim Sullivan, an economics professor at the University of Notre Dame, told CNBC. “The retail sectors where middle- and lower-income families spend money are likely to benefit some from this.”

One parent told CNBC she’s planning to use some of the money from the child tax credit on school supplies. Fresh EBT, an app to track food stamp balances, found users also plan to spend some of the payments on back-to-school items, as reported by The New York Times.

People also stashed away savings over the last year

According to Deloitte’s back-to-school surveys, spending for both college and K-12 will be larger this year. Deloitte projects back-to-school spending for K-12 to increase by roughly 16% from the year before to $32.5 billion. Even as some students return to in-person learning, Deloitte found spending on tech will be 37% higher than in 2020. A survey from KPMG and Mastercard also shows spending will be much higher this year than last year.

Rod Sides, vice chairman of Deloitte and Deloitte’s US retail, wholesale, and distribution leader, told Insider he thinks one of the reasons consumers will be shopping earlier is because they want their kids to begin the school year with the items they need.

“And there’s more money available for that,” Sides said. “Generally when you’ve got reasonably low unemployment and a high savings rate that usually translates to a much higher spending season.”

The personal savings rate in May 2021 was 12.4%, higher than pre-pandemic rates. Personal savings totaled to $2.29 trillion in May. The unemployment rate has fallen from pandemic highs and now stands at 5.9%, still higher than the pre-pandemic rate of 3.5%.

Additionally, a recent KPMG survey of 1,000 people found that 39% of those who plan to spend more think items will be more expensive.

“According to KPMG economic analysis, many products are seeing a spike in prices, driven by the combination of supply shocks to US manufacturing suppliers and strong demand for goods, including certain school shopping categories,” KPMG wrote.

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