Back to Basics: Cost of Essential School Supplies and Fees

From basic schools supplies to extracurricular activities, sending your child back to school can put serious financial strain on your family’s budget, even if you’re careful to look for sales and discounts. Take a look at the average cost of items your child will need when heading back to school, from cheapest to most expensive, based on 2015 and 2016 data compiled by The Huntington National Bank and nonprofit Communities in Schools.

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Back-to-school costs continue to climb because of a spike in extracurricular activity fees, despite a slight decrease for classroom supplies, according to The Huntington National Bank and nonprofit Communities in Schools. From 2015 to 2016, high school supply costs decreased 1.8 percent. The average price of a pack of No. 2 pencils was $2.79 in 2016, down from $3.58 in 2015. The cost of Crayola crayons remained the same at $2.49 for a pack of 24. The same was for a pack of black pens: $.8.99 for a 4-pack.
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Reusing basic school supplies, like folders, will save you some cash. In 2015, the average cost of 3-pocket folders was $4.47. In 2016, the price dropped to $1.20. Still, it won't hurt to recycle if the folder is in good shape.
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Don't forget glue and erasers. The price of Elmer's glue fell from $2.79 in 2015 to $1.69 in 2016. The price of erasers also dropped: It was $2.29 in 2015 and $1.99 in 2016.
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The average price of a 12-inch ruler didn't budge from $4.29 between 2015 and 2016. But an average price of a pair of regular scissors fell from $5.79 in 2015 to $2.99 in 2016.
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Everyone needs a good combination lock. In 2015 and 2016, the average price was $6.54.
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Since 2007, The Huntington Backpack Index has kept track of classroom supply and school fee parents are responsible for to show the impact on families each year. In 2015, a backpack at Target on average cost parents $19.99. In 2016, parents got a much-welcomed price reduction, paying $12.99 for the essential school supply.
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A thesaurus is essential for finding synonyms and you don't need to buy a new one every year. The average cost was $8.99 in 2015 and in 2016.
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Calculators can be pricy, especially those with advanced functionality. A cost of T-I 15 calculator for elementary schools kids was $19.99 in 2015 and 2016. For middle school students, the cost of a TI-84 PLUS graphing calculator dropped from $129 in 2015 to $119.99 in 2016. A TI-84 Plus calculator needed in high school cost $129 in 2015 and $119.99 in 2016.

A 4-GB flash drive cost an average of $8.99 in 2015. The following year a flash drive with double the memory cost the same amount.
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College prep materials aren't cheap. The cost of ACT/SAT prep book rose from $41.44 in 2015 to $52.09 in 2016. However, the fee for the SAT and ACT tests dropped from $147 in 2015 to $122.25 in 2016. The cost of the AP study book increased from $19.49 in 2015 to $25.18 in 2016. The cost of the AP test rose by $1 from $91 in 2015.
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For many parents, the cost of renting musical instruments is among the biggest expenses in the school budget. In middle school and in high school the cost was $332 for a one-year rental in 2015 and $285 in 2016.
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Pay-to-play fees in high school came with a sticker shock for many families. The fees to play high school sports rose from $200 in 2015 to $375 in 2016.
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According to the U.S. Department of Education, one in every five school-age children was living below the federal poverty line in 2014 — nearly 11 million kids in all. Many of these students will not be able to participate in school sports, clubs or activities because of the increase in fees. Parents of elementary school kids paid $649.01 per child, on average, in 2015 and $658.82 in 2016. In middle school, parents paid $941.67 in 2015 and $956.77 in 2016. The parents of high school students face the steepest costs. In 2016, high school extracurricular fees added up to $1,402.93 in 2015 and $1,497.87 in 2016.
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