Sponsored by:

Comment, blog & share photos

Log in | Become a member
The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Wednesday, July 20, 2005

The cost of school

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer

Rose Daez, 40 and her boyfriend Blane Iba, 43, go shopping for school supplies. They expect to spend about $100.

Jeff Widener | The Honolulu Advertiser


School supplies recommended by Lincoln Elementary School*:

  • Two brief folders with pockets: $1.20
  • Coin purse: $1.60
  • Crayons (48 count): $3.12
  • One unruled and three wide-ruled composition books: $2.40
  • Two bottles of white glue (4 oz): $0.88
  • Loose-leaf binder: $1.82
  • 24 sharpened pencils: $3.34
  • Multicolor pencils: $2.77
  • Pencil-cap erasers: $0.84
  • Package of extra-fine-point permanent pens: $3.56
  • Package of fine-point permanent pens: $3.48
  • Manila folders: $1.56
  • Package of felt-tip pens, assorted colors: $3.14
  • Package of fine-tip felt pens, assorted colors: $3.13
  • Plastic freezer bags: $2.37
  • Three portfolios with bottom pockets: $2.34
  • Standard ruler with metric markings: $1.07
  • Scissors, pointed: $0.53
  • Sponges with scrubbers: $3.22

Total: $42.37

*Based on a July 7 shopping trip to an O'ahu discount store. Prices vary.

Rose Daez scoured the aisles of Fisher Hawai'i for bargains as she shopped for her 11-year-old daughter's notebooks and pens. "For school supplies, I buy on sale," Daez said. "But for clothes, she pretty much gets anything she asks for."

Kaikalani Ching, pink school-supply list in hand, was shopping for her 6-year-old twin daughters at Wal-Mart after a trip to Longs Drugs.

"I like to look around for the sales," said the 41-year-old Hawai'i Kai mother of three as she stared at a wall of pencils and pens.

Daez and Ching are like many parents who are shopping for school supplies in a year the National Retail Federation expects will see a slight upturn in spending.

"Some parents are saying that lists of required supplies are getting longer every year — meaning they are required to put up more money up front just to send their kids to school," said the National Retail Federation's Ellen Davis, by phone from Washington, D.C.

Ching said she has noticed the supply lists getting longer for her 6-year-old twins, who will be second-graders at Koko Head Elementary this year.

Last year, Ching said, "I notice some of it doesn't get used," but she'll still be buying all the items on her daughters' list.

In a 2004 survey, the federation found that families with school-age children spent an average of $483 on back-to-school items, a 7.2 percent increase from the previous year. That included about $219 on clothing, $90 on shoes, $73 on school supplies and $101.03 on electronics or computer-related products.

Those numbers are consistent with what Ching expects to spend.

This year, Ching said, she will spend about $65 on supplies — pencils, pens, folders, markers, crayons, tissues, loose paper, binders — but much more on clothes and shoes for back to school.

"Last year, I spent about $200 to $300 on clothes," Ching said, just for the back-to-school wardrobe.

Eventually, the girls will outgrow them or "come home dirty" and Ching will have to shell out more to replace them.

There are a number of reasons parents are spending more, one of them being that schools are asking parents to buy more items, said Davis. Parents also may be feeling more comfortable financially than they were several years ago, and so they don't want to skimp on things for their kids.

Prices for school supplies from Lincoln Elementary's list ranged from $27 to $65, depending on the grade, when matched up against the materials at a Wal-Mart.

Susan Emery, a Kailua resident and mother of two, strives to keep her spending under control by stretching it out. She doesn't buy everything for her 6- and 11-year-old sons at the same time or the same place.

"I like to buy just a few outfits," Emery said, as she shopped with her 6-year-old at Old Navy in Ala Moana Center. "He's still in the growing stage," Emery said, looking over at her son as he climbed a stepladder in the children's section.

Emery estimates she spends about $500 throughout the year on clothes for her sons, with at least $200 of that spent on back-to-school clothes and supplies.

She said she likes to start buying early and "go to as many different places" as possible.

As children get older, Davis said, the prices of supplies inevitably will increase. Computers with updated software and multifunction scientific calculators are optional but considered necessities by many parents, Davis said.

Rose Daez's 11-year-old daughter is not quite old enough for her mother to worry yet about scientific calculators or computers, but Daez said she plans to buy whatever it takes for her child to do well.

Daez estimates that she spends $50 to $100 on school supplies for her daughter, a sixth-grader who will attend Kaleiopu'u Elementary this year. But for clothes, she estimates she could spend upwards of $300.

While reusing some of last year's stuff, such as clothes, shoes and backpacks, may be an option for some families, Daez said it isn't for hers.

"She always wants everything new," Daez said.