Back to school spending is expected to reach $55.12 billion, making it the second biggest consumer spending event for retailers behind the winter holidays.

Spending is expected to increase slightly from 2009 and 2008 levels, according to the National Retail Federation.

But the economy still will play a role – more parents will buy more store-brand or generic products and more will shop online. Nearly 75 percent of parents plan to visit a discount store.

The average family is expected to spend $606.40 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics this year, with clothes taking up the majority of consumer budgets. School-aged kids are expected to spend about $225 on clothes and $181 on electronic or computer related needs.

“Many of today’s shoppers are smarter than any other generation before them, especially when it comes to finding the best price,” said Phil Rist, executive vice president, Strategic Initiatives, BIGresearch. “The affordability of online shopping gives parents an extra edge over the sometimes expensive back-to-school shopping season with price comparison options, free shipping offers and even coupons.”

While spending on school items for K-12 students is expected to increase this year, spending on college-specific items will remain similar to last year.

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“This year, parents will make sure to shop smart, stocking up on necessities like gift cards, apparel and personal care items for their everyday needs,” said NRF President and CEO Matt Shay. “Some families may not have the luxury of providing extra spending cash for their child throughout the year, so preparing ahead of time will at least guarantee their child has the essentials.”

The survey found that just over half (51.8 percent) of college students will live with mom and dad, down from 58.5 percent who lived at home last year when money was tighter and jobs were more scarce. That being said, those planning on living at home encompass more than any other group.

Nearly one-quarter (23.0 percent) will live off campus in an apartment or house, 18.8 percent will live in a dorm room or other college housing and 2.0 percent will go Greek and live in a sorority or fraternity house.