How to make back to school shopping affordable

Jul 31, 2023, 2:28 PM | Updated: Aug 16, 2023, 9:44 am

SALT LAKE CITY -- Back to school means back to the store for many families, but the long lists of s...

FILE - Back-to-school supplies are pictured in a shopping cart. (Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

(Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY — This may be the most expensive year for back-to-school shopping in history, according to the National Retail Federation. The average American family is expected to spend $890 this year, or about $25 more than last year.

“It’s just getting more and more expensive and more difficult,” said Bri Butterfield, volunteer project coordinator with United Way. “We’ve seen a huge increase in requests from our schools. Last year we served about 10,000 students and gave away about 4,500 backpacks. This year we have requests for 7,800 backpacks. We’ll be serving about 11,000 students.”


The best thing for families to do who are struggling to pay for everything their kids need would be to reach out to their local school.

“A lot of schools have coordinators who will help them find the resources within their communities,” Butterfield said.

What about clothes?

What if you’re having a challenge just getting clothes that fit your growing kids, let alone pencils and notebooks?

“Same thing,” Butterfield explained. “Reach out to the school to see what resources they have available. A lot of our schools have food pantries and clothing pantries that are already in them that are free for families and for the community.”

So, start with the school. 

“[If you don’t find what your children need there,] log on to 211Utah or call 211,” Butterfield said. “That is a great way to find those resources in your community. Someone at 211 will help you find the resources you need.”

Stuff the Bus

United Way is involved with volunteers all over the state who help them with their “Stuff the Bus” campaign to get kids what they need before school starts.

“This is our 13th year of doing Stuff the Bus with United Way of Salt Lake,” Butterfield explained. “Every year from June through the end of July, we have community members and corporate partners who come out and host supply drives for us.”

This campaign gathers between 90,000 to 100,000 individual supplies every year. People donate pencils, pens, notebooks, folders, glue sticks, highlighter pens, crayons, markers and colored pencils.

“Last week we had 100 volunteers come and sort through 30,000 school supplies,” Butterfield said. “Tomorrow (August 1st) we will stuff all of the backpacks and get them loaded up. Then the school districts will come to pick them up on Wednesday and distribute them to the schools for us.”

Tomorrow, they’ll stuff 6,800 backpacks for schools in the Canyons, Granite, Salt Lake, and Davis school districts. The rest of the backpacks have already been stuffed by corporate partners who adopted individual schools.

Amazingly, United Way of Salt Lake does not need any volunteers for tomorrow’s event. “The community is so eager to help. It’s amazing,” Butterfield shared.

But volunteers and donations for Stuff the Bus and United Way’s other campaigns are always welcome. Click here to find out more about volunteer opportunities near you.


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How to make back to school shopping affordable