Back to School: Peer Pressure and Wallet Woes

Back to school season is right upon us, as teachers, schools, and students all gear up to go back in September. That means new classes, new books, new supplies, and new clothes for a lot of families across America. However, peer pressure at school could seriously impact your budget.

New shopping data from CNBC shows that back-to-school shopping seasons come in two waves. The first one is right before school starts, when students and parents rush out to get all the basics for class. The second peak, however, is the one most spenders are ill prepared to handle. After class starts, a lot of parents find themselves looking to chase styles they missed out on during their summer shopping. These trends are established at school and enforced by peer pressure.

This second “peer pressure” peak starts in September after classes begin. Cardlytics, a card-linked marketing firm, provided the data to CNBC. The September shopping spree, which takes place primarily online, reflects the notion that students want to fit in by wearing the latest styles and trends. The trend has become predictable for several years at this point. Lynne Laube, the president and co-founder of Cardlytics said, “We believe this second wave in apparel purchases reflects in part students responding to the new trends they’re observing at school. Intuitively, this effect makes sense if you consider how sensitive students are to their peers.”

The apparent problem for retailers though, is that the second peer pressure peak only exists online, not in stores. Laube suggests that retailers “drive awareness of their e-commerce site among in-store customers and highlight convenience factors like free shipping, easy in-store returns, and larger inventories.”

The second wave of shopping only applies to apparel. Purchases like school supplies, sporting goods, and shoes get locked down in the first wave of shopping. Apparel revolves almost entirely around peer pressure to follow trends at school and is the near exclusive focus of the round two shopping.

If you are trying to stick to a budget for back to school shopping, the best advice is to simply limit your child’s August clothes shopping. If you expect them to want the latest trend, waiting until September to do the rest of their shopping gives your wallet an opportunity to brace for impact. Instead of spending their entire budget before they find out what the latest trend is, finishing their shopping mid-September gives you and your child an opportunity to do their research.

Our team at Apex financial advisors always advocates for a financial plan, and budgets are one part of that blueprint. If you’d like help to create, discuss, or modify a plan for your wealth, contact an advisor to get started today.