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Military families holding the line on back-to-school shopping

August 18th, 2016

FORT WORTH, Texas — America’s career military families are planning on another year of back-to-school frugality, with many shoppers committing to discount strategies for the new school year, according to the latest findings of the First Command Financial Behaviors Index®.

First Command's annual back-to-school shopping survey reveals that 70 percent of middle-class military families (commissioned officers and senior NCOs in pay grades E-5 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000) who plan to shop for school clothes and supplies expect to spend the same or less than they did last year. That’s up from 59 percent in 2015. Eighty-six percent of surveyed families are in the back-to-school shopping market.

Back-to-school frugality is also strong among the broader middle class, where 86 percent of families plan on spending the same or less than last year. That’s virtually unchanged from 90 percent in 2015.

Military shoppers are holding the line on spending through a variety of belt-tightening strategies. The top cost- saving methods reported by this year's survey respondents are: 

  • Shopping at discount stores (56 percent)
  • Shopping for less expensive supplies (39 percent)
  • Using supplies from past years (39 percent)
  • Spending less on back-to-school clothes (34 percent)
  • Not buying new electronics (29 percent)
  • Buying items in bulk (29 percent)
  • Using hand-me-down clothes (29 percent)
  • Buying fewer school supplies (15 percent)
  • Sharing supplies with other people (12 percent)
  • Fewer items for dorm rooms (7 percent)
  • College children living at home (5 percent)

"The majority of America’s career military families are not new to implementing cost-cutting measures in their household budgets," said Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services, Inc. "Frugality has been a typical strategy for service members and their families in recent years as they have dealt with the uncertainties of sequestration and Department of Defense budget cuts. Half of middle-class military families are cutting back on everyday spending as a way to address the impact of defense cuts in their lives. They are ready to send their children back to school with needed supplies, but are taking steps to save money along the way."

About First Command Financial Behaviors Index®

Compiled by Sentient Decision Science, Inc., the First Command Financial Behaviors Index® assesses trends among the American public’s financial behaviors, attitudes and intentions through a monthly survey of approximately 530 U.S. consumers aged 25 to 70 with annual household incomes of at least $50,000. Results are reported quarterly. The margin of error is +/- 4.3 percent with a 95 percent level of confidence. Financial Behaviors Index

About Sentient Decision Science, Inc.

Sentient Decision Science was commissioned by First Command to compile the Financial Behaviors Index®. SDS is a behavioral science and consumer psychology consulting firm with special vertical expertise within the financial services industry. SDS specializes in advanced research methods and statistical analysis of behavioral and attitudinal data.

About First Command

First Command Financial Services and its subsidiaries, including First Command Bank and First Command Financial Planning, assist American families in their efforts to build wealth, reduce debt and pursue their lifetime financial goals and dreams—focusing on consumer behavior as the first and most powerful determinant of results. Through knowledgeable advice and coaching of the financial behaviors conducive to success, First Command Financial Advisors have built trustworthy, lasting relationships with hundreds of thousands of client families since 1958.

Contact: Mark Leach
Media Relations

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