American Families Cut Back on Back-to-School Shopping

The weakened economy is affecting both parents and students preparing for back-to-school. According to a survey from Zoomerang, the majority of parents, college students and graduate students surveyed are cutting back this year. In fact, about 60 percent of parents and 62 percent of students report that they are cutting back on shopping for the upcoming school year, a fact that is impacting not only shopping behavior, but also how students and parents are feeling about back-to-school.

The reduction in back-to-school spending is closely tied to the overall rising cost of living in the U.S. and, specifically, high gas prices. When asked how the current state of the U.S. economy has impacted their lives, 25 percent of all those surveyed said it has impacted their lives a lot, while only 4 percent said not at all. Further, more than 20 percent of all those surveyed noted that they are spending less on back-to-school items specifically because of gas pricesâ - in fact, among parents who say they are cutting back this year, a staggering 92 percent say rising gas prices are affecting their back-to-school plans.

The impact of these cutbacks is detrimental for both students and the economy. Zoomerang's research found that 23 percent of students are feeling unprepared and 43 percent of students are feeling angry or embarrassed. Among parents, 38 percent actually reported feeling like smart shoppers due to their behavioral changes, but many are not so upbeat - 79 percent of those cutting back this year are buying fewer clothes for their children.

In response to tough economic times, 38 percent of people surveyed say they are driving less for back-to-school this year. Among those who indicated that they are cutting back, the numbers are even higher - 65 percent of parents and 59 percent of students in this group are driving less due to high gas prices. Interestingly, even those students who say they are not cutting back are still feeling the effects of tighter wallets - 48 percent of these students say the current state of the economy has somewhat impacted their lives and 62 percent say they are reducing the amount of gas they use.

The Zoomerang survey also explored how Americans are coping and found that parents and students alike are finding creative ways to save money. Among all those surveyed, 39 percent are shopping at discount stores this year - less than 10 percent of those surveyed will be shopping in high-end and designer stores. Even those who are not planning to cut back are still curbing their spending - 68 percent of parents who are not cutting back are still planning to shop at discount stores.

Additional back-to-school coping trends include:

- 18 percent of students are purchasing wholesale school items
- 55 percent of students are buying store brand (vs. name brand) supplies
- 10 percent of parents are shopping online
- 24 percent of parents are buying used items
- 67 percent of students who indicate that they are cutting back this year are looking for sales more often
- 56 of these same students are also simply buying fewer clothes
- Students also said that they working from home instead of driving, reusing notebooks and even changing the types of food they buy in order to curb spending
- Parents are stopping landline phones and only using their cell phones, buying bikes for their kids (instead of driving), making lunches, staying at home for vacations and asking friends for hand-me-down clothes

Finally, Zoomerang found that new computers in particular may be passed up on back-to-school shopping trips this year's 68 percent of parents surveyed say the number of computers their family currently has is adequate and 81 percent of those students who are planning to spend the same or more on back-to-school this year indicate that they still are not planning to purchase a new computer.
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