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By Madeline Will
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. students and their parents are expected to spend almost 8 percent less this year than they did during last year's historically high back-to-school season, according to a survey by the National Retail Federation.
Because of economic constraints, families will spend an average of $634.78 on school supplies, electronics and clothes, down from $688.62 last year, the survey found.
Total spending on back-to-school will reach $26.7 billion this year - and combined with back-to-college spending, it will reach $72.5 billion.
"There's no question that the economy still has a tight grip on spending decisions for all Americans, particularly those that are participating in the back-to-school season," said Matthew Shay, NRF president and CEO.
Many students are keeping school supplies from last year and more consumers are comparison shopping online, Shay said.
"While people are finding ways to get by, they're really trying to find ways to spend more practically. They're not making as (many) big-ticket purchases."
The survey found that almost 24 percent of families are already shopping for school supplies - the highest amount in the survey's 11-year history.
(Reporting By Madeline Will; Editing by Nick Zieminski)