FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — As shoppers hit the stores for back-to-school supplies, many have experienced the tough lesson that the cost of items has increased this year.

“If it’s just the school supplies, you’re talking about a couple hundred dollars a year,” said Hatem Ali, a Fort Wayne Walmart store manager. “If you want to add clothing, it will be a lot more.”

The National Retail Federation expects consumers to spend $37.1 billion in back-to-school supplies this year, which is up more than $3 billion from 2020, when shoppers spent $33.9 billion. 

The study also found that families with children in elementary through high school plan to spend an average of $848.90 on school items, which is $59 more than last year.

Ali said the increased price of lumber is what drove up the cost of pencils and paper. To save money, he suggests comparing the prices of different stores.

“Sometimes competitors compare [with one another],” said Ali. “Online sometimes is a lot cheaper based on the items you’re buying. So, just shop around before you come here and have your list and shop around a couple stores on the Internet.”

Other tips include seeing what you already have in your home, reusing materials from the previous year and setting a strict budget.

The rise in costs could have consequences for students. Krista Stockman, the public information officer for Fort Wayne Community Schools, said it would “make sense that we will see more students who are in need of assistance.”

FWCS has several programs to help its students. One is The Casual Friday Project, where each Friday people who wear jeans donate a dollar that goes to a fund used to purchase supplies and backpacks to students who need them.

FWCS also offers supplies through its Family and Community Engagement Center in addition to students working with the Salvation Army’s Tools for Schools program.

“Its kind of fun to go, you know, back to school shopping and get those new supplies get that new backpack, new shoes, all those things,” said Stockman. “So, if kids can’t afford that, it becomes a source of stress, and that is not a good way to start the school year. We want our kids to start school, not worrying about those kinds of things.”

Stockman said anyone in need should contact their school’s case manager or guidance counselor.