Back to School Supplies Average $95 Nationally

How much does it really cost to outfit a student for the first day of school?

The back to school supply lists keep getting longer—with more and more strange requests. Parents may remember their own back to school supplies, tucked neatly in their backpack: a box of crayons, a 3-ring binder filled with loose leaf paper, a ruler, a couple pencils. If you were lucky, mom got you the big box of 128 crayons and the deluxe Trapper Keeper.

These days students are loaded down with several grocery sacks of supplies, often filled with requests for enough pencils, tissues, plastic bags and glue sticks to outfit the entire classroom. Thoughtful moms bring the supplies in early, at orientation, just to avoid a mishap of spilled crayons and glue on the first bus ride.

The National Retail Federation’s recent survey on back to school spending estimates that parents will, on average, shell out $688.62 to get kids from kindergarten to high school ready for school, up from $603.63 last year. This price tag includes new clothes, shoes and electronics.

The price for just school supplies--nationally--is estimated at $95.44.

We thought we could do a little bit better than that. So Patch took a stroll down the back-to-school aisles at the to see what kind of supplies students are asked to bring in this year. We picked up a copy of the Wentzville grade 3 - grade 5 supply list and gathered prices for a fourth grade student. Here’s what we found, taking advantage of sales and store brands:

Fourth Grade

  • 1 box of markers - .50
  • 1 box of crayons - 1.12 (16 count)
  • 1 box of colored pencils - .97
  • 1 box of dry erase markers - $3.24
  • 1 old, clean sock - priceless
  • 2 boxes of tissues - .86 x 2 = 1.72
  • 1 pair of scissors - $2.97
  • 2 glue sticks - .50
  • 24 #2 yellow pencils - .37 x 2 = .74
  • 1 one-and-a-half inch 3-ring binder with plastic cover - $3.87
  • 1 pkg of dividers - .88
  • 1 one-inch 3-ring biner - .92
  • 6 two-pocket folders, 3 hole punched - .97 x 6 = 5.82
  • 6 spiral notebooks, 3 hole punched - .97 x 6 = 5.82
  • 1 pkg. loose-leaf paper, wide-ruled - .82
  • 1 plastic storage box, shoe-box size - .97
  • 1 red pen - .97
  • 1 pkg. of sticky notes - 1.94
  • 1 ruler - .25 (for the good old-fashioned wooden kind)
  • 1 large pencil eraser - .47
  • 1 pkg 3x5 index cards  - .48 (That's for the boys. The girls are asked to bring a roll of paper towels, which is about .50 for generic.)
  • 1 box sandwich or quart size zippered storage bags - $2.48

Total Cost: $37.42

Older students will find even more items on their list. In grades 6, 7 and 8, students are asked to bring a scientific calculator. And classes like P.E., band and choir will add items like uniforms and musical instruments.

If you shop at other stores you may find better (or more expensive) prices.


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