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A young girl shopping for pencils at a school supply store
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Back-to-school shopping is back — but don’t expect all the sweet deals you’ve been used to in the past.

The pandemic upended school shopping last year, but now that much of the U.S. population is vaccinated, students are headed back to in-person classes in the fall. And they're going to be loaded up with school supplies. Total back-to-school spending in 2021 is expected to reach an all-time high of $37.1 billion, according to a survey from the National Retail Federation (NRF).

It's not just that families are buying more back-to-school supplies this year. Thanks to shortages, shipping costs and more, your shopping cart may be a bit more expensive than you expect. Retailers are also aware of heightened demand from shoppers, so they may be less likely to offer steep discounts on things like crayons and backpacks compared to previous years.

“When costs go up, inevitably they get passed on to consumers,” says Alla Valente, a senior analyst at the research firm Forrester.

Here’s what you can expect as you set out to purchase those notebooks and lunch boxes.