Back-to-School Season Amid COVID-19 Creates New Financial Concerns

Back-to-School Season Amid COVID-19 Creates New Financial Concerns

Survey shows pandemic increasing costs, cutting into work hours for parents
Brothers remote learning

Back-to-school season always takes a toll on the wallet, with school supplies and new clothing often topping family shopping lists. But the coronavirus pandemic is creating new financial challenges for parents as their children begin the school year.

More than 1 in 5 parents (21%) have had to either change or cut back on their work hours to be home with their children because of virtual learning, according to a new survey by financial services company Country Financial. On top of that, 7% have left a job altogether because of a lack of child care options.

And while the adjustments to work may have a financial impact, parents are also getting hit by higher costs related to the coronavirus crisis.

Short-term and long-term implications

According to the Country Financial survey, approximately half of the parents polled (51%) said the pandemic had created new financial concerns this back-to-school season. Among them…

  • 26% were concerned about increased food costs, possibly because children are no longer accessing school lunch programs
  • 21% cited increased costs for new technology needed for remote learning
  • 13% pointed to increased child care expenses as a concern

Indeed, an earlier survey found that parents expected to spend 28% more this year on technology products to help their children handle virtual learning more effectively.

The Country Financial findings suggested many parents expected the rising costs would have a significant impact on the family budget. Specifically…

  • 32% expected to spend between $101 and $249 more per month
  • 26% expected to spend between $250 and $499 more per month
  • 11% expected to spend between $500 and $999 more per month
  • 7% expected to spend between $1,000 and $2,499 more per month

Another 14% said they were unsure how much more they would be spending.

The rise in costs — and for those affected, the loss of work hours — not only cuts down on parents’ current budgets, but it could also prevent them from saving for key financial goals. On a related note, a survey earlier this year showed that the pandemic could cause many to delay their retirement date.

Parents of adult children also feeling the pain

Those with children over the age of 18 aren’t immune to financial pain during the pandemic. Nearly two-thirds of such parents (65%) said they have provided financial assistance to their adult children during the pandemic. In particular:

  • 50% have helped pay for daily expenses such as groceries, gas and cellphone bills
  • 21% have helped adult children pay health care costs
  • 21% have had their adult children to move in with them
  • 11% have helped their children pay their rent or mortgage

While some parents were also helping their adult children financially prior to the pandemic, 35% said they were giving their kids a “moderate amount” of additional support during the pandemic, and 5% said they were providing a “considerable amount” of such extra support.

Methodology: Country Financial commissioned polling and opinion firm Ipsos to survey 1,330 adults during Aug. 8-17, 2020. Of the sample, 578 were parents with children under 18 living in the household.

Tamara E. Holmes

Tamara E. Holmes is a Washington, DC-based writer who covers personal finance, entrepreneurship and careers.