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Survey Finds Back-to-School Shopping Creates Stress

Two-thirds of parents believe school costs are increasing
Both parents and children experience pressure to buy the latest trends
BELLEVUE, Wash. - 
July 10, 2018

The Coinstar® Back-to-School Survey, conducted among 1,001 U.S. parents, was released today and reports that the majority (70%) say back-to-school shopping is stressful. Contributing to the anxiety are increasing school expenses, peer pressure to buy the latest fashions and ongoing costs throughout the school year, according to the survey.

Rising school costs add to back-to-school stress

The Coinstar Back-to-School survey revealed that two-thirds (67%) of parents believe school costs are increasing, a trend that has shot up since 2017 when 50% of parents responded that costs continue to rise.

Nearly half (47%) of parents say they expect to spend between $101 and $300 per child on back-to-school shopping. Nine in 10 parents say they will incur added expenses during the school year to cover extracurricular activities such as field trips, science fair projects and book fairs. These tacked-on expenses add up with two-thirds of parents expecting to spend an additional $51 to $300 this year.

Keeping up with fashion trends comes at a price

In the Coinstar Back-to-School Survey, the majority of parents responded that they anticipate clothing to be the single largest expense related to back-to-school costs. This puts pressure on parents’ wallets and is compounded by three in five parents disclosing they feel like they (or their children) need to keep up with the latest fashion trends that may carry a hefty price tag.

Over 60% of parents prefer to shop for back-to-school supplies with their children and nearly half (47%) say decisions regarding clothing are made jointly between parent and child. While shopping with children is more common, parents who shop without their children are more likely to stay on budget. Forty-nine percent of parents who shop with their children for back-to-school clothing and supplies reported they spent more than they planned, compared with 32% of parents who shop without their children.

Parents are budgeting and finding creative solutions to manage back-to-school expenses

The majority (62%) of parents report creating a back-to-school budget; this is up slightly from 2017 when 57% of parents reported having a budget. When it comes to paying for back-to-school basics, the clear majority of parents (86%) say they use cash on hand (cash, checks or debit card). One-third of respondents say they have borrowed from their child’s grandparent to cover costs. Parents also disclosed going into overdraft (17%) or delaying credit card payments (16%) to manage expenses.

Well over half of respondents (60%) say they are considering or will cash in spare change to defray school expenses. Other cost-saving measures revealed by parents include shopping for clothing at second-hand stores and cutting back on household expenses.

Parents shop early, and big box stores are go-to retailers

Most survey respondents (83%) prefer to shop at big-box retailers for back-to-school essentials. Parents also reported shopping at clothing stores (48%), online (30%), and at office supply stores (25%) for their back-to-school shopping needs.

The vast majority of parents start their back-to-school shopping early with 70% of respondents saying they start one to three months before school begins.

Survey Methodology

The Coinstar Back-to-School survey was conducted online within the United States by Atomik Research, an independent creative market research agency, between May 14 and 16, 2018, among 1,001 parents of school-aged children. The survey is representative of the United States population age, gender, and region. Margin of error is +/- 2 percent points with a confidence interval of 95 percent. Atomik Research employs MRA-certified researchers and abides by MRA code.

About Coinstar, LLC

Based in Bellevue, Wash., Coinstar owns and operates the largest fully automated, multi-national network of self-service coin counting kiosks. With nearly 20,000 kiosk locations, Coinstar provides convenient and reliable coin counting services at mass merchants, grocery and drug stores and financial institutions. Consumer solutions include coin-to-cash, coin-to-eGift card and charity donation options. For kiosk locations and information, visit

Media Inquiries
Marci Maule Housley
Mpact Group
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