Raising Kids

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Here's How Much 15 Parents Have Spent On Distance Learning Supplies This Year

No. 2 pencils? Check. Glue sticks? Check. There’s nothing like getting that school supply shopping list to get you excited for that most wonderful time of the year — when kids go back to school. And while backpacks and fancy pens can be pricey, nothing can really prepare you for the amount of money you might have to shell out if you decide that your kids will be distance learners. So we found out how much 15 parents have spent on distance learning costs this year — and, in some cases, be prepared for sticker shock.

It’s not until you have to recreate a classroom at home do you actually realize how costly it can be. You don’t want your child to be Zooming from their bed, so they’re going to need a proper desk. And then the dining room chair isn’t the right height, so you’re going to have to fork over some big bucks for that, too. Plus, there are the reams and reams of printer paper you’re going to need because, (womp womp), no more free copies. Add to that the ink you’ll need to spend, plus all the other traditional school supplies you have to buy, and well, it might feel like a small fortune.

Oh, and you might have to pay for a big-ticket item like a computer, laptop, or iPad if your school doesn’t supply you with one. Sigh.

So get ready to break out the credit card, as these parents talk about how much virtual school supplies cost, in real dollars and cents.


Tania, mom of 1


“I had a really old computer that makes a loud whirring sound. It’s okay for me to use as a spare computer, but not when my kiddo is on a Zoom call with her class. So we had to buy a new Chromebook, an HP one that I ordered from Target that has been great. Thankfully, I had a desk and chair for her to sit at. We bought other school supplies, too.”

Total: $350


Minna, mom of 1

“We had to start from scratch and buy everything. We got our daughter a desk, a chair, a lamp, and your typical school supplies. We also bought a new printer, since we figured she’d have to print a lot.”

Total: $928


Nancy, mom of 2

"It actually wasn’t that bad. We wound up buying the stuff you’d find on a normal school supply list, and then just doubled it. We did get extra printing supplies, (like paper and toner), but haven’t had to use them yet. I don’t know if the district is being kind, or if it’s just because school has just started to get underway. Either way, I’m prepared.”

Total: $242


Jane, mom of 2

“The school provides iPads for my boys, so all I bought was a pack of pencils, pens, and some paper. So far that’s it.”

Total: $25


Marta, mom of 3

Anthony Devlin/Getty Images News/Getty Images

“We bought three (yes, three) Samsung Chromebooks similar to the ones that the kids were using when we went remote in March. Our district made us return ours over the summer, which made no sense, so we decided just to get new ones. It is just enough for them to do what they need to do online. We also got school supplies, too. #mostexpensiveschoolyearever”

Total: $1275


Francine, mom of 1

“Thankfully, we had a desk and chair at home for her where she does her homework, so we didn’t have to make that financial investment. I got her lots of school supplies, too, because really, who can beat the smell of No. 2 pencils?”

Total: $63


Agnes, mom of 3

“My kids all needed a working computer, desks, and chairs. I also bought a printer for them to use. And then there were all the school supplies like markers, pens, notebooks, calculators, and so on. I bought everything in chunks over the summer, so I wouldn't have to max out my credit cards."

Total: $2370


Susan, mom of 2

“Every year, I buy the kids new backpacks. It’s a tradition and something they get excited about. It seemed kind of silly to buy a backpack this year, because, really, where are they going? But I invested in them anyway, since it made the kids happy, and they actually do put their books back in them when their day of remote learning is over. We gave an old extra laptop that we had to one kid, and had to buy a second one.”

Total: $622


Adriana, mom of 2

“The only thing I ordered (besides the school list) was a desk for $180 but it never came. I'm going to cancel the order because it looks like she doesn't really need it. The school provided us a computer.”

Total: $34 (after the $180 desk refund)


Erin, mom of 4

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“We bought the kids an entire classroom set. We got new laptops, chairs, partly because they needed it, but also because we felt badly (read: guilty) that they weren’t going to be back in school and with their friends. We had them help us pick out things like a printer, a school desk, and supplies, so that they were part of the process, and we tried to make it feel like they were actually in school. But it was an expensive process.”

Total: $2189


Erica, mom of 2

“I only bought 3 subject notebooks, folders, and pencils/pens for my boys.”

Total: $26


Leandra, mom of 1

“I got my kid a Melissa & Doug desk and chair set. It’s a new school year and I wanted to give her something special that was just for her. I also got school supplies and let her pick out the ones she liked best.”

Total: $158


Patty, mom of 3

“Maybe I’m cheap, but I just bought what they would need if they were starting a regular school year. I didn’t want to invest too much because we don’t know if they’ll want to stay home or if they'll need to go back to school."

Total: $73


Kim, mom of 2

“You don’t really realize how much the school supplies each classroom in terms of paper and ink until your kids are at home. We only bought the regular school supplies, but we’ve already gone through two packages of glue sticks and one package of construction paper... and I see no end in sight.”

Total: $39


Antonia, mom of 1

“We bought an iPad Pro for our 8 year-old, and that was our biggest investment by far. I bought everything else from the school supply list. It's an investment in our child's education, and hopefully he doesn't drop the iPad on the floor right away. (If he does, I bought AppleCare+ protection for it, though.)"

Total: $1147