SPOKANE, Wash. -

It's late July, and that means stores and families are already thinking about back-to-school, ready or not. And families are expected to spend more on their children this year.

Retailers are estimating families with grade-school children will spend an average of just over $669 this year on back-to-school expenses. That's a total of $26.5 billion, according to an annual survey by the National Retail Federation.

Spending has increased five percent per household from a year ago. 

There's also an increase as school districts are asking families to provide more of their own classroom supplies, with spending on those items increasing 12 percent.

As you can imagine, students will spend the most on the necessary electronics. Likely, families will spend more than $212 on average on needed electronic items. 

And this year, shoppers are hitting stores early.

Two thirds of those surveyed said they'll start at least three weeks early, some saying they're getting a two-month head start. And families say they're hitting the stores early, hoping to get the best deals. 

If you're looking to save some money this year, consider doing more comparative shopping than in the past. Especially look at both print and online ads. 

Also, consider using supplies from last year that still function well. 

Plus, in many families this year, students will be helping with the cost of their supplies. Teens are expected to cover an estimated $913 million of their own costs, while middle schoolers are expected to add $544 million to purchase their back-to-school haul.