Back to School 2023: Are Financial Pressures Holding Our Students Back?

From August 3 to 7, 2023, Abacus Data conducted a national survey of 1,636 adults exploring several topics related to Canadian politics and current events as part of our regular national omnibus surveys.

In this survey, we asked 464 back-to-school shoppers about their budgets and how they are feeling as the school year approaches. Will Canadian students be fully prepared for the upcoming school year, or are financial pressures holding them back?

On average, Canadians will be spending $294 on back-to-school shopping this year. With that said, most Canadians will be shopping for one student. However, while those shopping for one child are significantly more likely to be spending less than $100 than those with multiple children, 1 in 5 of those shopping for one are still expecting to spend over $300.

When compared to last year, 1 in 3 Canadians are spending more on back-to-school necessities. This remains statistically consistent regardless of the number of children they are shopping for. With that being said, most back-to-school shoppers will be planning on spending the same amount as in previous years.

Most back-to-school shoppers will have to budget their spending this year. Over half of back-to-school shoppers (58%) will have to budget their shopping this year, with 1 in 10 shopping beyond their means in order to purchase all of the needed supplies. 5% (or approximately 1.9 million Canadians) are certain that they will not be able to afford all of the necessary supplies their child(ren) needs.

When asked to consider how different factors are impacting their back-to-school budget this year, inflation, and the cost of other essentials (such as food and housing) are seen to be having the biggest impact on their budgets. 70% of back-to-school shoppers feel the cost of other essentials is having a major impact on their budget, and 76% feel the same way about Inflation.

In order to mitigate some of these concerns, many Canadians will be taking advantage of offers and savings while back-to-school shopping.

  • 81% will be taking advantage of in-store or online discounts, promotions, and sales.
  • Over half plan on using their credit card or store points that they have earned throughout the year
  • Nearly 2 in 10 will be using pay later payment plans such as PayBright, Afterpay, Klarna, etc.

However, even with these payment options and promotions, only three-quarters of Canadians are confident that they will be able to purchase all of the materials and supplies their child(ren) needs for this upcoming school year. Of those who are not feeling confident, half are certain that they will not be able to afford everything their child(ren) needs, while the other half are still uncertain. This represents over 9 million Canadians who are not confident that they will be able to afford everything their child(ren) needs for the upcoming school year.


With the cost of living and inflation being top-of-mind concerns for many Canadians, back-to-school shopping is more expensive than ever. And, with a number of Canadians concerned that they will not be able to afford all the supplies their child needs, many may look for assistance from back-to-school supply drives. No student should be limited by their parent’s income, especially when it comes to their education. That’s why it is more important than ever that those in more fortunate circumstances give back to their community and help ensure every child arrives on their first day of school, fully prepared for the school year ahead.

Here at Abacus Data, we have chosen to donate extra school supplies to the Start2Finish Backpack drive, which provides vital school supplies to thousands of kids who begin the school year without the proper essentials.


The survey was conducted with 1,636 Canadian adults from August 3 to 7, 2023. A random sample of panelists were invited to complete the survey from a set of partner panels based on the Lucid exchange platform. These partners are typically double opt-in survey panels, blended to manage out potential skews in the data from a single source.

The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 2.42%, 19 times out of 20.

The data were weighted according to census data to ensure that the sample matched Canada’s population according to age, gender, educational attainment, and region. Totals may not add up to 100 due to rounding.

This survey was paid for by Abacus Data Inc.

Abacus Data follows the CRIC Public Opinion Research Standards and Disclosure Requirements that can be found here:

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