Early Back-to-School Shopping Tips for Budget-Conscious Families

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- OK, it's only July, and most U.S. families have a few weeks left before school starts -- usually in late August or early September depending which state you live in. But according to the National Retail Federation, 24% of U.S. families started back-to-school shopping two months before school started last year.

That makes sense considering NRF estimates that the average family spent $634.78 on apparel, shoes, supplies and electronics last year in back-to-school spending, down from $688.62 in 2012. Nationwide that was $26.7 billion last year, the NRF reports.

If you're one of those thinking "back to school" already, Regina Novickis, a savings analyst at PromotionalCodes.com, has a few ideas for you:

Also see: Summer Spending on Family Fun Jumps 59% in 2 Years

Check your home inventory first. Novickis says the best deals may come right out of your own closet. "Take inventory of your drawers, cabinets and closets so you know what you already have before shopping," she advises. "You'll most likely find several forgotten items -- it makes no sense to make a double purchase on generic items like paper and pencils."

The trend isn't your friend. Don't go all in on trendy clothing or other gear. It's just too early, Novickis believes. "Kids will want you to buy them what's hot right now, but may change their mind after seeing what other students have," she says. "Trendy gear like lunch boxes and backpacks should be avoided until a month or two into the school year. Then you can make a safe investment knowing your child has what he or she wants."

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