Donald Trump's campaign is still spending way less than typical candidates

Donald Trump's campaign spending spiked in August, but it still looked frugal compared with recent nominees' spending ahead of the general election.

The Republican presidential nominee reported total disbursements of $29.9 million, up from $18.5 million in July, according to a Federal Election Commission report filed Tuesday. But it still fell well short of the nearly $50 million spent by his Democrat opponent Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Trump's campaign has proven remarkably lean in the free-spending world of American politics, even in the general election. It has spent little on television ads and maintains a thin payroll, even as the November election draws near.

Trump started August in a big polling hole against Clinton and clawed back to nearly a dead heat, even spending much less than Clinton. The consistent free media exposure for his often bizarre campaign likely helps.

Trump's campaign spent only $5.3 million on placed media in August, compared with about $33 million in media buys for Clinton's campaign. It reported payroll expenses of about $643,000, compared with $3.3 million for Clinton's committee. The Trump campaign spent more money on items like hats, signs and T-shirts than payroll.

Trump's biggest spending chunk of $11.1 million went to Giles-Parscale, which handles digital marketing and fundraising efforts.

Even with its spending increase to about $30 million in August, Trump's campaign has spent well below what general election candidates typically spend ahead of the election.

For comparison, President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney's campaigns spent about $84 million and $66 million in August 2012, respectively.

Obama and Sen. John McCain's campaigns reported disbursements of about $56 million and $48 million in August 2008.