Canadians expect to spend a whopping $883 per family on back-to-school supplies and fashion this year, $325 more than they spent on holiday gifts last year, according to a new survey.
Over half of parents said that shopping in preparation for the first day of school puts a strain on household finances, with nearly 40 per cent reporting that it takes months for them to pay off the bill.
The numbers come from an Angus Reid poll of more than 1,500 Canadians conducted on behalf of RetailMeNot.ca, an online deals site.
Tech gadgets are the biggest-ticket items in the back-to-school budget, according to the survey, with families dropping around $580 on average on laptops and over $250 on smartphones.
School supplies cost around $100 per family, while clothes and shoes account for another $300.
It adds up quickly. More than one-third of parents said they generally don’t realize how much they’re spending until they look at their credit card statement, the survey shows.
That’s why it’s important to set a budget and plan ahead, said Gary Tymoschuk, vice-president at the Credit Counselling Society.
Tips to keep back-to-school spending in check
The first step to avoid breaking the bank on back-to-school gear is setting a budget, Tymoschuk told Global News.
“Pick a number that makes sense based on your family income,” he said.
That involves taking a hard look at the list of supplies provided yearly by schools ahead of the first day of class, and deciding what is a want and what is a need, he added.
Making an inventory of reusable supplies from the previous year should also be part of the process.
And yet, when it comes to back-to-school spending, most parents have the right idea but fall short on implementation.
Nearly two-thirds of Canadians say they set a budget, but fully, 56 per cent admit to blowing past it.
It may be because doting moms and dads have a hard time saying, “No.” Over 60 per cent of survey respondents said they care more about making sure their children have everything they need than saving money.
The key is to include the kids in the budgeting process, said Tymoschuk.
In fact, back-to-school is a great opportunity for a crash course in personal finance 101, he suggested.
Having a conversation about how much the family can afford to spend, means, “the kids begin to understand there’s a give and take.”
READ MORE: 5 tips to teach your kids about money
If Mom and Dad bust the budget, they might not afford that vacation everyone has been looking forward to.
Parents can also encourage older kids to use their summer jobs to help pay for any extras – especially pricey gadgets that they tend to place in the “must-have” category due to peer pressure rather than actual needs, said Tymoschuk.
The other key to staying within budget is planning ahead, comparing prices and taking advantage of sales.
“Know your prices and who’s got the better deals,” said Tymoschuk.
Buying in bulk will save you money, he noted, especially if you have more than one kid.
And don’t forget to check dollar stores for pencils and notebooks. They can be a great resource for penny-pinching parents, previous reporting by Global News has shown.
WATCH: Global News visited Staples, Walmart and Dollarama in September of 2016, looking for the lowest prices on back-to-school gear. Here’s what we found.