How much these Canadians spent on back-to-school shopping

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How to combat Back-to-School over spending
WATCH: How to combat Back-to-School over spending – Aug 22, 2019

If back-to-school shopping isn’t already on your mind, we’re sure talking about setting a budget is a good reminder.

A recent survey from RetailMeNot found North American parents can spend an average of $507 on back-to-school shopping.

It may seem like a lot, but buying new backpacks, shoes and supplies for one or multiple children every year can add up.

A previous report from Ernst & Young in 2018 found Canadians were expected to spend four per cent more than usual, following a strong retail year in 2017.

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Another 2017 survey from found parents spent more on back-to-school shopping than holiday gifts. 

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What people are spending

Karl Zenith Nieva, 46, of Waterloo, Ont. said he is spending $0 this year on back-to-school shopping.

“I only buy them stuff when they’ve outgrown their clothes/shoes or if the items they’ve had in previous school years are wrecked beyond usefulness,” he told Global News.

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Zenith Nieva has two children, 13 and 16, and said he has made a deal with them.

“I will provide the basic necessities and if they want something more than that, they have to cover with their own money,” he continued. “My 16-year-old works so this is easy for him. My 13-year-old earns a salary for household chores. Example: jeans. If Old Navy jeans are $25 and they want a brand name pair for $50, they cover the difference.”

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Zenith Nieva added he doesn’t feel pressure to buy his children new things. “We also talked to them about not being too showy with shiny new things at the beginning of the school year because there are other kids in school who can’t afford back-to-school new stuff.”

Kyla Cornish of Cranbrook B.C. has two children in elementary school. Although she doesn’t create a budget for back-to-school, she does track how much she spends.

“I remember how exciting it was to get new things when I was a kid,” she said.

Budget breakdown (per child): 
Supplies: $75
New clothing: $50
Backpacks: $40
Shoes: $35
School fees: $50
Estimated total cost: $500

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Shilpa Khanna, 24, is a student at the University of British Columbia. Going into her sixth year of post-secondary education, she said each year has been very different for how much she spends.

“I did not have a specific budget but I tried my best to limit my purchases,” she told Global News.  “My parents offered some assistance through an RESP as well as a lot through basketball scholarships.”

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Khanna said she often bought new clothes going back-to-school, but also realized it wasn’t a mandatory cost.

Budget breakdown: 
Utilities: $100 (per month)
Rent: $1,000 (per month)
Groceries: $200 (per month)
Textbooks $250 (per semester)
School fees and tuition: $5,000
Spending money: $200
Estimated total cost: $6,750

How to avoid overspending

Overspending can be avoiding by making a budget, setting a shopping list (rather than buying on impulse) and only replacing items your children need.

You can look for deals in online marketplaces, second-hand stores or even hand-me-downs through other family members.

Tanis Ell, a credit counsellor with the Credit Counselling Society Regina, previously told Global News, if your child wants a new laptop or another device, plan ahead. 

“Perhaps buying used or refurbished items will be a little more cost-effective than brand new,” she said. “Or, utilizing loyalty rewards, like Air Miles [to purchase items like laptops or cameras].”
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Ell even recommends asking family members to pitch in.

“Asking grandparents if they want to chip in and help cover the cost [and] explaining to kids that this will be part of their Christmas or birthday gift.”

Julie Jaggernath of My Money Coach, noted you can also create a challenge for your children to get involved.

“Let them know what your budget is and then make it a contest to see who can get what they need and still have money left over,” she said.

“This is a great time to show them how to comparison shop, what to watch out for in the fine print of ads, and why not buying the least expensive version of an item is sometimes a good idea.”

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— with files from

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