A few cents here and a few cents there add up quickly when shopping for the family. Economists said back-to-school shoppers might get sticker shock as we get closer to the first day of class.
The National Retail Federation is expecting families to spend more than $37 billion in school supplies in 2021; that's $3 billion more than last year. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said as of June consumer prices climbed 5.4% over the last year which is the nation's highest 12-month inflation increase since August of 2008.
Today, Paula Becker, shopper, is feeling the effects.
"Prices are going up with everything. That's gas, clothing, groceries," Becker said.
Marketing Professor Jon Shapiro said inflation in an economy is inevitable. Shapiro believes a few factors are causing the sticker shock.
"It's hard to predict a market when there are so many unpredictable variables," said Shapiro, Northeastern State University.
Shapiro said, for one, the government has been printing a lot of federal stimulus checks. There's a pent-up demand to buy things following the COVID-19 lockdown. What we're seeing is a real domino effect.
There's a nationwide shortage of workers, many of the products aren't being manufactured in the same quantity, and a shortage of truckers is a roadblock in getting the products to the market.
"You're thinking about families, schools starting back, it's very important," said Becker. "A couple of dollars here and there makes a big difference for them."
Economists said this is affecting the cost of school supplies, clothing, travel, and virtually any technology.
Some products may be a few cents more, some a few dollars extra. The National Retail Federation's annual survey shows families with kids in elementary through 12th-grade plan to spend an average of about $848 on back-to-school items.
"On a global level, the solution is better health policies. That we become healthier. We're able to hire more workers. In some cases, pay them more," Shapiro said.
Shapiro said it's tricky territory because while increasing the pay of lower-wage jobs is an incentive for employees it will also lead to a surge in prices.
For now, Becker's list is stacked with needs versus wants.
"There's some little things that I used to do for myself that I've cut that out," Becker said.