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TransUnion Research Finds Resilient Consumers Not Skimping on Back-to-School Shopping

Report finds Buy Now Pay Later financing popular with financially resilient consumers, among other trends

The vast majority (84%) of families plan to spend the same or more on back-to-school shopping in 2023 compared to last year, according to new research from TransUnion (NYSE: TRU). In general, households appear ready to absorb the impact of inflation rather than make cuts to spending.

The number of households planning to buy fewer school-related items dropped significantly to 10%, compared to 34% in 2022. This resilience held among low-income households as well, with only 13% of low-income families planning to spend less on back-to-school items this year.

With 60% doing as well or better than planned, families appear to be in a good financial position this year. Increases in back-to-school spending seem to be driven more by changes in what children need for school, rather than inflation.

Cecilia Seiden, vice president of TransUnion’s retail business

Percent of Back to School Shoppers Who Say They Will Spend More, Less or the Same Compared to Last Year













Among those planning to spend the same this year, 62% plan to spend less than $250 per child on back-to-school items, which is roughly the same as households who plan to spend less on back-to-school items this year. About half of families planning to spend more this year are budgeting between $250 and $500 per child, while 14% said they plan to spend more than $500 per child.

The research was conducted in June 2023, with more than 1,000 U.S. adult consumers surveyed about their financial health, back-to-school shopping plans, payment methods and more. The full findings are available in the “2023 Back-to-School Shopping Report.”

“With 60% doing as well or better than planned, families appear to be in a good financial position this year,” said Cecilia Seiden, vice president of TransUnion’s retail business. “Increases in back-to-school spending seem to be driven more by changes in what children need for school, rather than inflation.”

While Millennials’ children are increasingly approaching their teens and hitting growth spurts, their parents are spending more on new wardrobes, athletic gear and pricier school supplies such as laptops. Meanwhile, Gen Z parents are just beginning to see their children reach school age and are now spending on the basics, like folders, scissors and crayons.

Retailers can leverage tools like TransUnion’s TruAudience™ Audience solution to help model, create and segment relevant back-to-school audiences. Doing so can help retailers better market to parents of children across distinct age and grade segments.

Buy Now Pay Later adopted by well-to-do households

TransUnion’s research found 32% of consumers planned to use Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) financing this year, with an additional 18% considering its use. The profile of these consumers appears to contradict the stigma that BNPL is a crutch for the financially distressed. Instead, BNPL’s popularity is likely due to its simplicity and convenience as a checkout option that spreads payments over a short period.

Among those using BNPL, nearly half (45%) are doing so to purchase a collection of back-to-school items. More than one-third (36%) plan to use BNPL to purchase an expensive item that their child needs, while 19% said they would use BNPL to purchase expensive items that aren’t necessary.

The report also found those most likely to use BNPL this year also said that their household finances were better than planned. In addition, families who use BNPL the most also spend the most, at $350 and more per child—suggesting that BNPL usage can be a part of a healthy consumer balance sheet. 

Tap-to-Pay clicks with parents

Convenient payment options, like Apple Pay and Google Pay, are seeing a surge in favorability. Comparing the change in attitudes from last year, consumers’ appreciation for this technology has improved, while concerns have decreased.

Consumer Attitudes Toward Mobile Payments (e.g. Apple Pay, Google Pay)


Having it available makes me more likely to shop at a store

I like not carrying a wallet or purse

Don’t trust it to be secure and safe

Don’t see how it’s more convenient than using a debit or credit card











What’s more, among parents whose children aren’t using their own funds, 42% have enabled mobile payments on their children’s devices. Millennials are leading this trend, with 48% enabling access for mobile payments. Across generations, 11% reported their children have mobile payment options enabled on their devices, using their own money.

Security’s importance ever-increasing

Just as retailers should anticipate higher use of tap-to-pay and one-click payments, they should also anticipate that consumers are more interested in security. 

Half of households are spending more time trying to keep their information secure, while 44% said they were spending time talking to their kids about fraud. Gen Z and Millennial households were much more likely to take the extra step of paying for an identity protection service.  

As parents take steps to protect their family’s identity and fight against fraud, they expect retailers to step up efforts as well. Identity verification tools such as using one-time passcodes were most popular across generations, with 69% of Baby Boomers expecting this type of service.

Younger generations were slightly more likely to desire the use of biometrics or to create an account before shopping. Whatever the method, consumers are setting high bars for retailers to verify their identity, protect against account takeovers and provide a safe and secure shopping experience.

Retailers interested in making online shopping and use of mobile payments seamless and secure should consider TransUnion’s TruValidate™ solutions. 

For more information about the survey findings and their implications for retailers, download the “2023 Back-to-School Shopping Report.”


This online survey of 1,011 adults was conducted in June 2023, by TransUnion in partnership with third-party research provider, Dynata. Survey participants included adults 18 years of age and older residing in the United States- who will be shopping for back-to-school items this year. Participants were surveyed using an online research panel method across a combination of desktop, mobile, and tablet devices. Survey questions were administered in English. All U.S. regions are represented in the study survey responses. To ensure general population sample representativeness across United States resident demographics, the survey targeted respondents in line with the census statistics on the dimensions of age, gender, household income, race, and region. Generations are defined as follows: Gen Z, born 1996-2005; Millennials, born 1981-1995; Gen X, born 1966-1980; Baby Boomers, born 1945-1965; and Silent, born 1928-1944. These research results are unweighted and statistically significant at a 95% confidence level within ±3 percentage points based on calculated error margin. Please note some chart percentages may not add up to 100% due to rounding or multiple answers being accepted.

About TransUnion (NYSE: TRU) 

TransUnion is a global information and insights company with over 12,000 associates operating in more than 30 countries. We make trust possible by ensuring each person is reliably represented in the marketplace. We do this with a Tru™ picture of each person: an actionable view of consumers, stewarded with care. Through our acquisitions and technology investments we have developed innovative solutions that extend beyond our strong foundation in core credit into areas such as marketing, fraud, risk and advanced analytics. As a result, consumers and businesses can transact with confidence and achieve great things. We call this Information for Good® — and it leads to economic opportunity, great experiences and personal empowerment for millions of people around the world.