According to the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights and Analytics, spending on essential school items will reach record highs in 2023


NORTH CENTRAL WISCONSIN — Across north central Wisconsin and beyond, back-to-school shopping is well underway, and back-to-school and back-to-college spending is expected to reach unparalleled levels, according to the annual survey released in July by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and Prosper Insights & Analytics. For families looking to stretch their dollar, secondhand stores like the 28 retail locations operated by Goodwill North Central Wisconsin (NCW), offer options to cover back-to-school basics.

“By shopping our stores, families can stay on budget for back-to-school spending and provide job skills training and other programs that benefit their neighbors,” Kris Rihn, Vice President of Retail Operations at Goodwill NCW said. “It’s a win-win for our communities.”

One such program of Goodwill NCW, GoodNeighbor and Back-to-School vouchers, partnered with more than 700 community organizations to provide a total of more than $650,000 in merchandise for families across north central Wisconsin that struggled to afford basic household and back-to-school essentials in 2022.

This relief is offered to families as expenses soar. According to the NRF survey:

  • Back-to-school spending is expected to reach an unparalleled $41.5 billion, up from $36.9 billion last year and the previous high of $37.1 billion in 2021. Back-to-college spending is expected to hit $94 billion, about $20 billion more than last year’s record.
  • Families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $890.07 on back-to-school items this year, approximately $25 more than last year’s record of $864.35 and a new high.
  • As of early July, more than half (55%) of consumers who are buying for back-to-class said they have already started shopping. While consumers have started shopping early, as of early July, 85% said they still have at least half of their shopping left to do.

Budget-friendly tips at Goodwill NCW

  • Donated items with the color tag of the week are 50% off the ticketed price. Shop clearance racks for extra savings.
  • Shop often. Frequency and quick decision-making can pay off for finding one-of-a-kind treasures. New donations hit the store floors daily.
  • Children’s jeans at Goodwill NCW are $4.99, and adult jeans are $8.99. 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 essentials, shoes, desk décor, blankets and more.

Tips for shopping thrift for back-to-school

  • Shop new with tags. Just because items are at a secondhand store doesn’t mean they have been worn or used before.
  • If you have a child who goes to day care or elementary school, shop thrift for items they can leave, rather than taking items back-and-forth. These include changes of clothing, winter outerwear, extra layers and blankets.
  • Find items that are out of season, like fall and winter coats. Families can often find great-quality coats for a fraction of the cost than new.
  • Check out the purse and bag section. Find inexpensive laptop bags, backpacks and totes for a variety of 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.
  • Some clothing items are needed every fall. Sweatshirts and athletic apparel are two costly ones that top that list. Find name brand options like The North Face, Adidas, Nike, Under Armour and more that are new-to-you and budget-friendly.

To find a Goodwill NCW location, visit Locations | Goodwill NCW.


Goodwill North Central Wisconsin (Goodwill NCW) is a tax-exempt organization with a mission of Elevating People by Eliminating Barriers to Employment. Support from donors and shoppers provide pathways for people who are underserved, underrepresented or disadvantaged who have a goal of building job skills that lead to sustained employment and improved financial stability. Goodwill NCW does this work within our retail stores and through community partnerships across north central Wisconsin. Learn more at