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Canadian Parents Spending More on Back-to-School than Holiday Gifts

Aug. 14, 2017
3 mins
A dad plays with his young daughter at home in their living room while mama laughs happily in the background

With September just around the corner, kids across the nation are likely dreading the thought of going back to school, and parents are likely dreading the costs that come with it.

From clothing and technology to snacks and supplies, a recent survey found 53% of Canadian parents agree that back-to-school shopping puts a financial strain on their families, with the average back-to-school spend per family adding up to $883.

And while nearly two-thirds (64%) of parents set a budget for their kids, 56% admit to usually spending more than planned.

New clothes, new shoes, school supplies, a smartphone, and a laptop top the list of items kids ask for the most, leading parents to spend $325 more on back-to-school shopping than what they even spent on holiday gifts last year.

For those parents purchasing those items, the average spend per item breaks down as such:

  • New clothes: $204
  • New shoes: $97
  • School supplies: $103
  • Smartphone: $255
  • Laptop: $582

Tips to save on back-to-school items

The survey also found more than one-third of parents (40%) don't realize how much they are spending on back-to-school shopping until they get the credit card bill, and 39 per cent say it takes months to pay off their bills after.

Don’t start the school year in debt. Here are a few ways you can beat rising costs of back-to-school:

Take inventory

Look around your house and gather up all of the school supplies that may be lurking in drawers and cupboards. You might find that you have more than enough lined paper, pencils, and highlighters to last the entire year!

If it ain’t broke, don’t buy a new one

Just because it’s a new school year, doesn’t mean you need to splurge on a new backpack, lunch bag, pencil case, and binders. If these items held up well from the year before and are still in good repair, there’s no sense in letting them go to waste.

Stick to the list

If your child’s school sends home a list of items you need to purchase, shop only for those items. It’s easy to get caught up in all of the fun gadgets and stationery items your kids may want, but if it’s not necessary and you’re trying to stick to your budget, don’t go overboard.

Play the waiting game

Don’t feel like you need to rush out and buy everything the day before school starts. Chances are, most items can wait until later that week or over the weekend when items start to drop in price. By shopping a week or two after the BTS rush, you can avoid the crowds and also save a few bucks.

Use your points on groceries

Juice boxes, granola bars, fruit snacks… you’re likely going to spend a lot on just groceries in advance of the first day of school. However, you could potentially save a lot by using PC points.

The President’s Choice Financial MasterCard offers 10 PC points per $1 spent on the card, and the President’s Choice Financial World Elite MasterCard offers 30 PC points per $1 spent at participating grocery stores where President’s Choice® products are sold, on top of 10 PC points per $1 spent everywhere else. PC points can then be used towards groceries and any products at participating stores where President’s Choice® products are sold. Every 10,000 points equal $10 in free groceries.

Don’t have any of these cards? For a limited time, you can get a $100 e-gift card and up to 20,000 PC points when you sign up through RATESDOTCA and activate your card. That’s $100 in your pocket and $20 in free groceries. And since groceries are an ongoing expense, you may as well collect more points as you shop too.

Shop around online

Browse through online flyers, coupon sites,, and other comparison sites when you’re on the hunt for bigger ticket items like laptops or tablets. Depending on your child’s workload, you can likely afford to wait a few weeks after school starts to buy these items as well.

Shop as a group

Take advantage of bulk sales by shopping with a few parent friends this year! If you all need to buy a few packs of pencils, save by buying a case instead of buying each item individually. If you all can’t find the time to shop together, one person could take everyone’s list to buy the items and divvy up the cost later.

Follow these tips to stretch this year’s back-to-school shopping budget. The money you save on school supplies can now go towards things like extracurriculars and school trips!

Wishing you a safe and happy September!


The RATESDOTCA editorial team are experienced writers focused on sharing stories and bringing you the latest news in insurance and personal finance. Our goal is to provide Canadians with the information and resources they need to make better insurance and financial decisions.

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