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Parents Get SchooledTwo Thirds Plan to Make Trade-offs to Pay for Back to School Expenses
NEW YORK,  July 28, 2011 -- 

The average family of four plans to spend $800 on back to school purchases this year but two-thirds of U.S. parents (67%) say they will need to make trade-offs to afford these expenses according to the latest American Express Spending & Saving Tracker.

Clothing ($290), shoes ($110), and school supplies ($100) top back to school shopping lists and more than six in ten (64%) say they will spend more money on back to school supplies, an expense previously covered by the schools. Additionally, some parents are planning to splurge on braces ($2,000) and computers/laptops ($830). To pay for these costs, parents plan to dine out less (53%) and spend less on entertainment (39%) as well as their own wardrobe (37%).

"Although parents are experiencing some financial pressure and adjusting their lifestyle to pay for back to school expenses, they're not economizing when it comes to their kids" said Pamela Codispoti, executive vice present and general manager of Consumer Card Services, American Express. "Our latest survey shows that most parents plan to spend more or the same on back to school expenses as last year."

Forget the Books – Parents Spend On Designer Duds, Grooming and Gadgets
This year, parents are sending their kids back to school in style. They're spending on designer clothes and grooming products, while also making sure their kids have the latest technology.

Designer Duds
Parents intend to spend the most on their children's wardrobe this year. Three in five (61%) parents plan to fill their kids' closets with designer labels and name brands. Following are the most popular items parents will go designer for:

  • Sneakers (68%)
  • Jeans (66%)
  • Shoes (53%)

Nearly four in 10 (39%) parents expect to purchase cosmetic or beauty products and services to help their kids look their best at school. Haircuts ($40) and hair styling ($70) top the list, but parents will also spend on:

  • Teeth whitening ($140)
  • Spa treatments ($100)
  • Manicures and Pedicures ($50)

More than one quarter (27%) of parents say electronics are on their back to school shopping lists. This number is down from last year among parents with kids in high school or below (25% in 2011 vs. 34% in 2010). The largest single purchase some parents (13%) will make is a laptop computer. Other electronics that made the shopping list include:

  • Scientific calculator (10%)
  • Cell phones (9%)
  • Printer (7%)
  • MP3 player (5%)
  • eReader/iPad (4%)

Who's the Boss?
Many external factors influence parents' purchasing decisions but when it comes to what to buy for back to school, the kids rule. More than two-thirds of parents (67%) say that their kids' wishes/desires carry the most weight. Thirty-nine percent of parents also admit that their children have more influence when it comes to buying their back to school wardrobe (vs. 31% of parents who say they have more influence over what to buy). Current trends (20%), friends/family (19%) and TV (17%) also shape parents' purchases.

Parents Write the Curriculum on Where to Shop
When it comes to where they shop, half of parents (50%) say they decide where to go vs. listening to their children (19%). Nearly two in five (38%) parents plan to shop for their kids clothes at department stores. Significantly fewer (24%) parents will choose to shop at an outlet or discount store.

Of those parents who plan to shop online for back to school clothes, online coupons and deals (31%) and avoiding the hassle of lines (21%) are their primary reasons. This back to school season, American Express Cardmembers who use inSite (SM) – a shopping tool that delivers Membership Rewards® bonus points, discounts and free shipping to Cardmembers while they shop online – will find a host of discounts from merchants selling goods to help get kids classroom ready.

About the American Express Spending & Saving Tracker
The American Express Spending & Saving Tracker research was completed online among a random sample of 811 parents of children in grades kindergarten through college. Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between July 2 and July 6, 2011. Overall, the results have a margin of error of +/- 3.4 percentage points at the 95 percent level of confidence. For access to previous American Express Spending & Saving Tracker results, please visit

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



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