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Back-to-school shoppers expected to spend $168 more on average, compared to 2019

With tax-free weekend around two weeks away, many families across Tennessee are getting ready to stock up on school supplies for the upcoming year.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Families are getting ready to stock up on school supplies for the upcoming school year. The National Retail Federation said they expect consumers to at least match the record-high set last year of $37 billion.

This year, they said families could spend around $168 more on school supplies on average, compared to 2019. With prices rising for everything from groceries to electronics, typical notebooks and pencils can also come at a higher cost.

In Tennessee, the tax-free weekend is around two weeks away. It's when families will be able to snag deals on school essentials without paying taxes on them, helping bring down the price. However, the NRF said some families aren't waiting until then to stock up. They said more than half of shoppers have already started picking up school supplies.

"Even with all the sales and couponing, I'm still paying a lot more this year than you would in past years," said Rachel Rheule, a mother of three children getting ready for school. "Especially compared to a family who's been schooling for a while."

She said she has been strategically picking up time throughout the summer but still spent around $450 so far on school supplies. Some other families have been using the same strategy.

"It's been really expensive this year," said Patrick Goodwin, a father of three. "Normally, before the pandemic, we would only spend a couple of hundred dollars on supplies. Now that we have to get everything ourselves it's definitely more expensive."

His family homeschools their kids now and he said he expects to spend around $5,000 on school supplies this year. He partly expects to spend that much because his older daughter is getting into middle school and her homeschooling supplies are getting more expensive, he said.

For the past 20 years, the Knoxville Area Urban League has tried to help families give students the supplies they need to succeed in school. They organized the Shoes for School event, where they hope to give around 2,000 students bags filled with school supplies and new shoes to go with them.

"We know that within these economic conditions, there are so many parents who are struggling just to fit basic needs and a new of tennis shoes and a backpack full of school supplies will put a smile on a lot of kids' faces," said organizers.

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