Parents struggling with high cost of school supplies

Back-to-school supplies are another financial burden for many parents amid sky-high inflation. Shauna Hunt shares tips on how to save money as the school year approaches.

By Shauna Hunt and John Marchesan

The soaring cost of food, gas and housing is hitting families hard, and with school just around the corner buying supplies is another financial burden for many parents.

CityNews looked at three major retailers – Walmart, Staples and Amazon – to see what a short list of school supplies would cost. Prices for the same items sometimes varied widely across stores, and just because a shop had a bargain on one item, doesn’t mean other items were priced at an equal deal. For basic supplies – such as a backpack, binder, pens, pencils and a graphing calculator – the cost per student ranged anywhere between $200 to $300.

“When you have that big list it’s easier to cross things off – do you really need this now? Or if you do, let’s revisit it in a couple of months when it actually comes up,” says Jessica Moorhouse, a financial counsellor who points out there are ways to scale back and find those deals.

“One thing to look at as well – do you need every single thing new? There’s a lot of people who finished high school and don’t need their calculator anymore, maybe you can find it on one of those secondary market websites. So it is about taking the time, looking at those retailers websites and looking where the deals are.”

The Toronto District School Board is holding its own back-to-school drive, saying everyone one-in-three children in the city live in poverty. And in just over a week they will be welcoming back nearly a quarter million students.


To try and alleviate some of the burden, a number of people are also turning to charities who say they are seeing demand like never before.

The Compass Food Bank & Outreach Centre in Mississauga collects essentials to ensure students have what they need to head back to class. Mike Giguere, the charity’s board chair says three years ago 150 families registered for back-to-school supplies. This year, that number has nearly doubled.

“When COVID started we were expecting the sky to fall and it didn’t and things kind of went along and now we are seeing, ok this is how this is shaking out in the economy,” he said.

Giguere adds the number of people using the food bank is up 40 per cent year-over-year and he believes until we get a handle on the affordable housing crisis, the already unprecedented demand will continue grow.

“We must be armed for it, we have to keep fundraising activities ahead of the curve… to support demand that we have to look after families in our community.”

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