By Chad Frey

Newton Kansan

For some families back-to-school is a tense time as there is a new expense line in the budget — school supplies.

The Salvation Army has helped 151 families — 340 children — with school supplies this year. More than $2,649 in supplies donated and given to help kids return to the classroom.

"We only give the basics," said Barbara Lee, director of the Salvation Army.

This year the Salvation Army will help students from nearly every school district in the county, along with two private schools and some preschools as well.

According to the National Retail Federation the average cost for back-to-school spending this year is projected at nearly $670 per family with children in grades K-12, which means U.S. families will spend a total of $26.5 billion for K-12 children.

Those numbers are in line with Kansan Facebook user Cathy Anderson, who shared on the social media site her family spent $650 — not including tuition.

The average cost for school supplies, not including clothing, electronics or tuition, for grades kindergarten through eight in USD 373 is about $46 per child. The most expensive grade, according to Anderson Office Supply which creates back-to-school kits for those grades, is fifth grade — a little more than $63.

The cost of school supplies skyrockets with the purchase of new clothing and electronics, according to the National Retail Federation. K-State Research and Extension family resource management specialist Elizabeth Kiss said it pays to spread out the back-to-school buying process — especially if the list includes new clothing or electronics.

"You may not need to buy school clothes," Kiss said. "You can probably get by with spring and summer things before you need to head into winter clothing. That means you have an opportunity to plan ahead, watch the sales, and look for coupons and other bargains."

For the standards — pencils, water colors, glue and pencils — Andersons made some of their pre-made school supply kits available at a discount to the Salvation Army. First Presbyterian purchased those.

This week, there are still a few of those kits on the shelves at Anderson's awaiting last minute shoppers.

Several of those lists require multiples of some items — leading to more expense as school begins.

"One class is asking for 12 glue sticks," Lee said. "We can't do that. We do give between two and four glue sticks."

The first day for kindergarten through fourth grade students in Newton schools is Friday. Also Friday,

fifth grade students at Santa Fe 5/6 Center, seventh grade and new eighth grade students at Chisholm and all ninth through twelfth grade students at Newton High School will start the school year. All students will be in the building Aug. 18.