As Angie Kocher shopped for school supplies with her three daughters and the son of a family friend, she looked carefully at the orange box on the price label.
"I try to be thrifty, but it still adds up," Kocher said.
The National Retail Foundation's 2012 back-to-school spending survey found that parents are expected to spend more on their children this year. The Kocher family will contribute to an expected $30.3 billion in spending this season.
Kocher's daughters attend the Frederick Area School and each daughter has different needs due to their variances in age. She said she takes an inventory at the end of every school year and tries to salvage supplies and keep track of closets to identify needs.
The one item she allows her daughters to be a little more extravagant with is their backpack.
"That's one of the biggest expenses because no matter how thrifty or careful you are with them, you always need a new backpack each year," Kocher said. "I let them splurge because they wear it every day, and it can express their style more than other supplies."
Brianna Kocher, 13, who will be an eighth-grader this fall, opted for a pink leopard-print backpack. Michaela Kocher, 16, will be a high school sophomore this fall and needed a book bag with plenty of storage for the four to five subjects of homework she brings home every day.
Emily Kocher, 7, is going into the second grade. She is at an age where she outgrows shoes and clothes very quickly, her mother said.
During her Wal-Mart outing, Kocher included two pairs of tennis shoes required by the school on her supply list. Students cannot use the shoes they wear outside to recess for indoor gym, Kocher said.
Emily is a little girl who loves pink, purple and princesses. She was excited to get a pair of Hello Kitty sneakers along with matching socks after her mother nixed getting a pink mesh Hello Kitty backpack that wouldn't have been practical.
Kocher, like shoppers who participated in the National Retail Foundation's survey, is becoming more savvy. Her shopping habits are much like the increasing number of respondents who are looking for sales, comparison shopping online and going to consignment stores for better deals on clothing.
Kocher plans to take Brianna to consignment stores in Aberdeen for the jeans she needs.
A plea from Emily for a pack of Disney fairy pencils was turned down for a more sensibly priced box of pencils for all the girls to use.
"I think that it's a little harder with girls, because they want to be stylish and have the latest fashions," Kocher said.
She said she tries to teach her girls how to comparison shop.
As her daughters presented each item to her before throwing it into the shopping cart, she reminded them to check the prices.
Notebooks going for 17 cents were bought in bulk.
"We'll go through this whole thing in a year," said Kocher of the box of 23 notebooks.
Parents might have no choice but to pay larger amounts for some required supplies.