Back-to-School Gadget Buys Are Up, Though Kids Still Need Pencils to Chew On


Back-to-School Gadget Buys Are Up, Though Kids Still Need Pencils to Chew On

Technology not just for high-schoolers — kids are bringing tablets to kindergarten

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)-- Ninety two percent of Americans will hit the stores for back-to-school shopping this fall, spending an average of $1,094 on supplies, up 26% since last year, according to the latest American Express Spending and Savings Tracker. A probable cause for the increase, half of parents with school-aged children plan to buy at least one digital gadget this back-to-school season, up from just 36% last year. Top tech buys on the back-to-school lists include:

  • Laptops (25% vs. 15%)

  • Scientific calculators (18% vs. 15%)

  • Tablets (15% vs. 7%)

  • Mobile phones (13% vs. 12%)

Download and view:American Express Spending & Saving Tracker

Infographic:Parents' Electronic Back to School Shopping List

Of parents buying their kids a mobile phone, nearly seven in ten will purchase a high-tech smartphone. On average, parents believe that age 12 is the most appropriate time for kids to get their first cell phone.

"Items like pencils, notebooks and crayons are completely 'old school' on parents' shopping lists," said David Rabkin, SVP U.S. Consumer Lending Products, American Express. "Instead, they're investing in the latest technology to help them learn, and we expect technology spending for back-to-school to only continue to increase in the years to come."

K-8 Students Use Electronics More Than Older Siblings

Kids aren't just using the latest technology to watch funny cat videos. This year, devices are highly valued as learning tools, with 70% of all students using technology, like tablets and smartphones, to support learning. Younger students are embracing technology at higher rates than their older siblings, with 74% of students in grades K-8 incorporating digital devices into their studies, vs. 71% of their high school counterparts. Tablets are the device of choice for the K-8 set, with 48% using them for learning, compared to 43% of high school students.

Still Need Pencils to Chew On

Beyond technology, parents with back-to-school shopping lists will spend an average of $102 for traditional school supplies this year, up from $79 in 2012. Over half (55%) of parents will purchase school books that aren't supplied by the school. The increase in students using eReaders and other devices for school may explain why parents expect to spend less on textbooks, paying an average of $193, compared to $209 last year and $265 in 2011.

Kids Play, Parents Pay

The majority of parents (89%) feel that back-to-school started early this year, as retailers encourage parents to purchase supplies sooner. Yet, most parents don't mind the early season, with 41% appreciating the opportunity to get a head start on their back-to-school shopping.

Back-to-school spending isn't all about the supplies. Many parents plan to invest in their kid's passions and interests, with 56% spending an average of $238 for extracurricular activities. For many, the cost of back-to-school means the family budget will be scaled back in other areas, and 69% of parents will make tradeoffs in order to afford back-to-school expenses, including scaling back on dining out (51%), wardrobe or accessory purchases (39%), entertainment (36%) and travel (31%).

About the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker

The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of 2,001 adults, including the general U.S. population, as well as an Affluent demographic defined by a minimum annual household income of $100,000, and parents with school-aged children. Interviewing was conducted by Ebiquity, formerly Echo Research, between July 24 - 30, 2013. The results reported in this release have a margin of error of +/- 3.0 among parents of school-aged children (n=1,081) at the 95 percent level of confidence.

About American Express

American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success. Learn more at and connect with us on, and

Key links to products and services: charge and credit cards, business credit cards, travel services, gift cards, prepaid cards, merchant services, business travel, and corporate card.

About Ebiquity Plc

Ebiquity provides independent data-driven insights to global media, marketing and communications professionals to continuously improve clients' business performance. This includes specialized services in research supporting creative testing, brand/advertising tracking, corporate reputation, brand image, research for public relations and thought leadership, global media/social media content analysis, and communications research. Ebiquity acquired Echo Research in May, 2011 and Echo officially started conducting business under the Ebiquity name on July 1, 2013. Learn more at


American Express
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