Back-to-school supplies: how much you’re spending and how you can save

WATCH ABOVE: Global News went to three different stores to find you the best deals for your back-to-school supply shopping.

TORONTO — Sending your kids back to school can be costly. The average cost of items on a fifth grade school supply list in Canada is around $108 per child, according to a recent survey by Consolidated Credit. And clothes aren’t even included on that list, neither are fees for field trips, extra-curricular activities nor tutoring.

“If [parents] haven’t really planned for it,” said Jeff Schwartz, the executive director of Consolidated Credit, “it’s going to end up on credit cards and if they don’t pay off the balances in full at the end of each month, it could double or triple the price of the items they actually bought — just with interest costs.”

READ MORE: What affects your credit rating and how can you improve it

The good news, though, is that there are ways you can save your hard-earned dollars. The team at Consolidated Credit has come up with the following tips:

Story continues below advertisement

1. Make back-to-school shopping a learning opportunity for your kids

“Involving the kids in the shopping process is probably a good idea,” said Jeff Schwartz.

This can be a chance to help them develop good shopping habits and practice differentiating between a want and need. That might mean explaining to your children that even though they may “want” a backpack with superheroes on it, they definitely don’t “need” to have that. As unappealing as store-brand school supplies may be to a 10-year-old, they can sometimes save you big bucks.

You can also explain budgets to your children, and depending on their age, get them to practice their math skills by sticking to your pre-set limit.

2. Comparison shop

Use your kids’ online skills as another way to get them engaged in the shopping process. Get them to search out the best deals (comparison shopping apps like Flipp can help) to figure out where to go to save the most money.

READ MORE: More students back-to-school shopping online as retailers embrace mobile

If you’re feeling generous and want to give them some positive reinforcement, you could even reward them with some of the money that they saved.

3. Go on with a plan and stick to it

Story continues below advertisement

Schwartz says back-to-school can be the second busiest shopping time of the year. That means retailers will go to a lot off effort to get your business.

“A shopping list with a set budget is your best defense against dazzling promotions and impulse purchases.”

4. Buy in bulk

Chances are, there are some supplies that your children will need year after year. It might be too late for this now, but if you see any on sale during the year, stock up and dish them out every September.

You could also get together with a few other parents and buy in bulk, which can be cheaper.

5. See what you have at home first

Not everything from last year may have been used up, so rummage through your kids’ stuff to see what they still have. And check your junk drawer. You might be able to check many items off your list with household items. Maybe you over-bought last year, or maybe you have some reusable items like binders or pencil cases.

READ MORE: Back-to-school checklist: 4 things you need to know

For a closer look at how school supply costs compare across the country, check out the map provided by Consolidated Credit below. The agency’s methodology is explained underneath.

Story continues below advertisement

“In lieu of a city-by-city or provincial breakdown of back-to-school spending, we downloaded “school supply” lists from major cities across Canada. In some cases, the lists were standard across a school board (Vancouver, Ottawa, and Montreal) or province (PEI). When standard lists were unavailable, we accessed lists from the websites of public schools. All lists were designed for grade five students.

We searched for the items on and, buying generic or store brands where possible (some lists specifically requested brand names), and taking the average of the two prices. Since sale prices come and go, we stuck to the normal price. When quantities were not specified on supply lists, we bought one pack (i.e. “pencils” were interpreted as “one pack of pencils”). Some lists were classified as “mandatory” while others were “suggested” – but if it was on the list, we included it in our shopping cart. We then applied local taxes to the totals.

Story continues below advertisement

The numbers on total household spending on education are from Statistics Canada’s most recent Household Spending Survey and include any spending related to education, such as text books, tutoring, and tuition.”

Sponsored content