It’s July and our minds are probably on the beach, the pool, barbecue, relaxation, and vacation.

But it’s also a good time to start thinking about back-to-school-supply shopping. In fact, it’s probably even a better idea to start buying those supplies.

The latest LendingTree survey found that 36% of Americans are shopping now, in July, for the back-to-school season and 75% of parents with young kids said they are stressed about paying for the supplies.

Inflation is a big deal, said Matt Schulz, chief credit analyst at Lending Tree. Everything is getting more expensive by the day and when people are living on a budget and paycheck-to-paycheck, every little extra expense makes a difference.

Also, supply chain and item availability issues are making people stressed. Therefore, they have been shopping a bit earlier so they have the items that they need ahead of the upcoming school year, he added.

According to the survey, as supply chain issues persist, nearly a third of back-to-school shoppers say they started earlier, and they’re already facing challenges. Of those who started shopping, 44% report difficulty obtaining needed supplies due to product shortages. Still, 13% of shoppers had already completed their list when this survey was fielded in June.

“What is also scary is that about 3 in 10 folks who are doing back-to-school shopping say they expect to take on some debt, and that’s an awful lot of people,” Schulz said.
It may not be that surprising given the rise of inflation and interest rates. But Schulz said this is still a big deal because these are not costs that can be kicked down the road.Kids are going to be returning to school in September and need these supplies.

Additionally, 31% of shoppers with kids younger than 18 say they can’t afford some school supplies this year. But Schulz said there are a few things parents and guardians can do to help reduce costs like using hand-me-down clothes, shopping in bargain bins at stores, and reusing items from the previous year.

Schulz also suggested getting a new credit card. “This may sound counterintuitive but if you use it wisely, it can actually help you extend your budget a little bit,” he said. Many of these cards come with $100 or $150 sign-up bonuses after you spend $500.

If parents can use that card, pay that money off, and take advantage of that sign-up bonus or cash back bonus, then it may help extend the budget and make things a little easier, Schulz said.

Parents’ expected back-to-school spending hit the lowest level in this survey’s history: $409 on average, compared to $498 last year. Schulz said the survey found that parents have been making changes to keep costs down with 26% saying they’re seeking out more sales, 16% are buying fewer supplies, and 11% are purchasing secondhand items.

The LendingTree survey found that clothing is the number one item on shoppers’ lists. Schulz said this makes sense because, for the last two years, kids have been doing remote learning, hiding behind a computer, or even on a Zoom call. So, this year, they want to get back to shopping for clothes. Shopping for traditional school supplies like backpacks and lunchboxes, came in second.

But things like hand sanitizer, and face masks have dropped from shopping lists as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to wind down. Schulz said this looks more like a traditional back-to-school shopping season.

“With inflation running rampant and supply chain issues lingering, these are definitely not the best of times. Lots of families are going to have to make some real sacrifices and have some uncomfortable conversations this back-to-school shopping season,” Schulz said.

Beautiful sunflower fields to visit in NJ 2022

Among reasons why the “Garden State” remains a fitting nickname for New Jersey — late summer means the arrival of sunflower season.

There are at least six fields, spanning the state. Some are in bloom as of early August, while others are planned to peak from late August to late September.

Calling or emailing before heading out is always advisable if weather appears to be an issue.