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: Stung by inflation, parents flock to back-to-school community ‘supply drives’ for notebooks, pens and clothing


It’s not easy to find affordable school supplies, especially with soaring inflation

More parents have turned to supply drives — where the community comes together to donate clothes, notebooks and pens for their children — ahead of the forthcoming school year. 

The number of people showing up for back-to-school supply drives increased by 168% in the first seven months of 2022 compared to the pre-pandemic levels in 2019, according to Eventbrite. That marked an increase of 1,135% from the previous year. 

While some of it was due to a mass return to in-person events, parents were also looking to get ahead of back-to-school preparation with rising inflation and concerns over the economy, said Tamara Mendelsohn, the chief marketing officer at Eventbrite, an event management and ticketing platform.

Most of the drives were community events and started a lot earlier than in previous years, she told MarketWatch. The uptick in participation not only reflects parental concerns about school costs, but also concerns among the community as well, Mendelsohn said.

Parents reported stress and anxiety during the back-to-school season as prices soar for rent, food, clothes and gasoline. This single mom previously told MarketWatch that even discounted clothes on sale were not affordable and turned to dollar stores for stationeries. 

“More than a third of parents were using “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) loans for making the purchase.”

— TransUnion report on back-to-school shopping

With more than half (55%) of consumers expected to spend more on back-to-school shopping this season, parents have endeavored to cut down on costs, including purchasing fewer and cheaper items, according to a recent report by TransUnion

But stocking up on school supplies also means taking on debt. More than a third of parents were using “buy now, pay later” (BNPL) loans for making the purchase, the report finds. 

Spreading payment over time and interest-free is a “very attractive” option for parents and students who are “already stretched financially,” Cecilia Seiden, vice president of TransUnion’s

retail business, said in the report. 

“Families are especially hard hit by inflation, and back-to-school shopping represents a significant cost on top of everyday expenses,” Seiden said in the report. 

Inflation was 8.5% in July compared to a year ago. Although energy prices fell slightly in the past month, the rise in prices has reached a 40-year-high. In order to save money, many Americans are cutting back on discretionary spendings such as clothing and electronic devices, as well as changing their diets.

This left parents with limited budgets to set aside for back-to-school shopping. Many households have already dipped into their savings to pay for bills and more were turning to credits. 

Credit-card balances nationally went up by 13% in the second quarter of 2022 compared to last year, the biggest increase in more than two decades, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York

Community drives held by schools and communities are especially significant to those who need them, Maritza Guridy, the Deputy Director of Parent Outreach for the National Parents Union, previously told MarketWatch

“If you know that in your community, there are those that are not able to get everything you can get, make a donation to the school or whatever entities collecting donations,” Guridy said. “Bookbag drive, shoe or sneaker drive. Help them out.”

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