MENASHA — Families expect to spend record amounts on back to school in 2022 because of higher prices due to inflation, according to the annual survey released July 14 by the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics.

“Families consider back-to-school and college items as an essential category, and they are taking whatever steps they can, including cutting back on discretionary spending, shopping sales and buying store- or off-brand items, in order to purchase what they need for the upcoming school year,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said in the survey. “The back-to-school season is among the most significant shopping events for consumers and retailers alike, second only to the winter holiday season.”

Parents with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $864, topping the previous record by $15, according to the NRF. Total back-to-school spending is expected to match 2021’s record $37 billion, and total back-to-college spending is expected to reach a record $74 billion, up from $71 billion in 2021.

According to the NRF, back-to-school spending has increased dramatically since the onset of the pandemic, as families adjusted to changes from virtual and hybrid learning. Compared to 2019, back-to-school shoppers are expected to spend $168 more on average, and total spending is up $11 billion.   

Families can stretch their dollar by shopping thrift. By doing so, families also are helping their community by providing job-skills training to people with disabilities and other barriers to employment.

Here are budget-friendly tips on shopping thrift for back to school:

  • Donated items with the color tag of the week are 50% off the ticketed price. Shop clearance racks for extra savings.
  • Go often. Frequency and quick decision-making can pay off. Goodwill NCW and other thrift stores are in the business of donations, and what is donated is one of a kind. That means if you see something you like, buy it. You might never see anything like it again. Plus, if you go often you’ll have a better chance of scoring some of those amazing finds.
  • Jeans are a back-to-school staple, and children’s jeans at Goodwill NCW are $4.99, and adult jeans are $7.99. Jeans sold in the boutique area vary in price.

Don’t forget to go beyond apparel. Check the racks for belts, purses, backpacks, dorm-room totes, shoes, desk décor, blankets and more.

What to look for

Here are our tips for shopping thrift for back to school:

  • Shop new with tags. Just because they are at a secondhand shop doesn’t mean they have been worn or used before.
  • If you have a child who goes to day care, shop thrift for items they can leave there rather than taking back and forth between home and day care, like changes of clothing, winter outerwear and blankets. The same is true for elementary-school kids who go outside for recess and need extra layers.
  • Children grow so quickly year to year that sometimes they don’t have a chance to wear out their clothing before they have outgrown it. Fall and winter coats can fall into that category. Families will find some great-quality coats for a fraction of the cost.
  • Never pass up looking at the purses and bags sections. Find inexpensive laptop bags, backpacks and totes for all uses — to hold library books, craft supplies, toys for kids in the car, workout necessities for after school, clothes for sports practices and much more.
  • Have a teen girl? Shop the men’s section. Find this fall’s hottest trends, including oversized polos, massive hoodies, vintage button-ups and retro prints.
  • Some clothing items are needed every year come fall. Sweatshirts and athletic apparel are two costly ones that top that list. Find new-to-you and budget-friendly options in name brands like The North Face, Adidas, Nike, Under Armour and more.

About Goodwill: Goodwill Industries of North Central Wisconsin is a nonprofit organization whose mission is Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment. We work to enhance people’s dignity and quality of life by seeing individuals for who they are, creating pathways for them to reach their goals through skill building and the power of meaningful work. We do this work in our stores and through our community partnerships. We are proud of our sustainability efforts and the life-changing impact we make on neighbors in our communities with the help of our donors and shoppers. Goodwill NCW is a Platinum Level member of, the world’s largest source of nonprofit organization information. Visit