For a child, the end of summer vacation and heading back to school is a bittersweet time. It seems as though every TV commercial and storefront is a constant reminder that it's time for another school year.
However, the back to school season can be equally stressful for parents. With an ever growing list of increasingly expensive school supplies and an endless number of retailers offering back to school deals, parents may have a hard time deciding what their child needs to return to the classroom, and how much to pay for it.
Parents may or may not be surprised to know that going back to school this year will be even more expensive. According to Huntington Bank's annual BackPack Index, on average, parents will be dealing with a considerable price increase for supplies and school related fees in 2013.
Since 2007, Huntington's yearly study has tracked the cost of traditional school supplies such pencils and notebooks as well extracurricular fees and other school related expenses. The study showed 2013's school expenses increasing by 7.3 percent and significantly outpaced the rate of inflation for kindergarten through high school-aged students.
The study shows the largest expense increases for high school-aged students which the study shows could pay as much as $1,223 for supplies and fees this year, an increase of 9.3 percent from 2012. Middle and elementary school students also will see increased back to school expenses increasing by 5.3 percent compared to 2012.
"This year there wasn't any one particular increase, it was more across the board," said Huntington Bank Regional Public Relations representative William Eiler. "The increase of supplies and the "pay to play" and (extracurricular) activities price hikes - those are all hard on parents."
Despite budgeting and shopping around for the best deals, parents may still find themselves having a hard time making ends meet and sending their children back to school with everything they need. Luckily there is assistance available for families in need through local nonprofit organizations and school districts:
* Team Mojo Foundation will be giving away 100 sack packs before the start of the school year through the Office Depot Foundation's National Backpack Program, according to Team Mojo Founder and Executive Director Bill Crawford. For more information on these events and the other work which the organization does for area kids, go to their Facebook page or visit teammojofoundation.org.
* Southern Local School District will host its "Back to School Bash" 5-7 p.m. Aug.15. Free school supplies will be given away to Southern Local students.
* Wellsville First Christian Church will hold its "Back Pack Bash" from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Aug. 17. Backpacks with school supplies will be given away. There will also be a petting zoo, bike giveaway, free food, live bands, games and more. The church is located at 831 Main St., Wellsville. For questions or those who need a ride, call 330-532-1587.
* Contact your own school district to see what is offered.
* Among others offering assistance: the Highlandtown United Methodist and Bethel United Presbyterian churches previously held "Back to School Bash and Community Picnic" for Southern Local students; Destiny House in Calcutta also provided some 500 backpacks to area students at its event; and those educational entities in East Liverpool, known as the Edutech Corridor, celebrated back to school on Saturday.
Eiler also noted the growing popularity of tablets and smart phones for classroom applications have made family's back to school needs more pricey.
According to information compiled by the Pew Research Center, 23 percent of teenagers now have tablets and 78 percent own phones, almost half of which are smartphones. Despite the popularity of the devices and the pressure some parents might feel to purchase them in order to give their child an educational edge, Eiler says it is best for parents and kids to review their school's policy on these type of devices before investing in them.
"You really need to know your school's policy on using tablets," said Eiler. "There's some pressure there to keep up with the norm."
Back to school shopping can be daunting task, however Huntington's Backpack Index gives some simple tips parents can follow, and in the process teach their children a bit about financial responsibility.
The first such tip is to shop around for the best prices. By strategically buying generic supplies, like paper, pens and binders, children can afford to spend more money on more significant name brand items like backpacks and clothes.
"It's a good exercise for the family, together, and it's a fun exercise to sit down, look at adds and do your research," said Eiler. "Go into stores together and keep the the brand names to one or two items and then look for more generic items."
Eiler notes that involving one's children is an important aspect of back to school shopping.
"Teach your family how to budget and not stray from the budget because those are good skills to have as you go through life," he said.
Other tips include taking an inventory of school supplies left over from last year and make sure not to buy supplies you already have, talking to neighbors and friends to see if there are ways you can share or borrow sports or band equipment.