With inflation at 39-year high, Quebec parents feeling school supply squeeze

·3 min read
While shopping for supplies for her two children in high school, Ana Salaverria said reusing as many pencils, binders and notebooks from previous years can go along way toward helping parents save a few bucks. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC - image credit)
While shopping for supplies for her two children in high school, Ana Salaverria said reusing as many pencils, binders and notebooks from previous years can go along way toward helping parents save a few bucks. (Rowan Kennedy/CBC - image credit)

Prices for food and gas have soared and with the return to class just a few weeks away, Ana Salaverría is making sure she is maximizing as many school supplies from previous years as possible for her two teenagers.

"You're trying to really, really stretch your dollar the most you can," Salaverría said while shopping with her children at Papeterie & Photocopie Zoubris, located in Montreal's Mile End neighbourhood.

"Because it's not only this, it's the uniforms, it's the food, it's everything, the transport, so it just piles up. So parents have to be a little more cautious if we can."

Canada's inflation rate hit a 39-year high last month. As of Monday, Quebecers have to pay at least 3.5 per cent of their credit card balance every month if their card was issued prior to Aug. 1, 2019, with the percentage gradually increasing to five by 2025.

All of this likely complicates matters for parents heading out for the annual school supplies run.

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

Salaverría said the back-to-school shopping lists for her 12- and 14-year-old sons weren't too overwhelming — other than the fact that teachers seemed to be asking for lots and lots of binders — but she's still trying to keep costs as low as possible.

"I use things that I wouldn't [normally] recycle like, let's say, the colouring pencils. Maybe before, I would just throw them away. But now I say, 'Oh, it's still like more than half, I can save it.' Or I would buy maybe a cheaper brand or things that are on sale," she said.

"If I have binders, I would just take out the papers inside and I would just clean it and use it the next year if it's still in good shape."

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

She's far from the only parent doing that, according to the owner of Papeterie & Photocopie Zoubris.

"A lot of parents are coming in saying 'Here's my list but I only need half of the stuff on the list," said Jimmy Zoubris. "Let's not forget that the last few years, a lot of kids have been home. So a lot of the books maybe weren't as used."

Reusing school materials appears to a good idea. Otherwise, parents can expect to pay 15 to 20 per cent more for new supplies compared to last year due to the rising cost of paper, Zoubris said.

Rowan Kennedy/CBC
Rowan Kennedy/CBC

Staff at the Welcome Hall Mission are preparing bags filled with lunch boxes, binders, pencils and other items for its annual backpack drive to help families who have trouble paying for all the items required by schools. The drive takes place on Aug. 16 and 17.

The mission said it is preparing about 1,850 bags, about 400 more than last year, and the cost of each bag has gone from 40$ to 48$.

According to Zoubris, it's best for parents to do their shopping earlier than later, as prices go up during the school year.

"You're going to pay double the price, sometimes triple the price," he said.

Zoubris also recommends that parents try to get high-quality products, even if they're a little more expensive, so that supplies last longer.

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