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Missed Amazon Prime Day? You can still find the best back-to-school deals

Key Points
  • Spending on school supplies for elementary school, middle school and high school will top $26 billion.
  • College shoppers spend the most on electronics, clothing and accessories, and home furnishings.
  • Amazon, Target and Walmart all offer deals for back-to-school shoppers.
Maskot | Getty Images

Americans are going to spend tens of billions of dollars on back-to-school supplies this year. The good news: Shoppers are in a strong position to find deals as retail giants from Amazon to Target and Walmart are in a race to win the orders of school supply buyers.

American families with children in elementary school through high school are expected to spend close to $700 on average this year on back-to-school supplies. That's up nearly $12 from last, according to the National Retail Federation, and will bring total spending to $26.2 billion.

Families with college students spend even more — this year's forecast is for close to $1,000 on average, up from last year's $942.17, and implying a total spend of $54.5. billion. That would represent a slight dip from last year's record-spend, when $55.3 billion was laid out for college students.

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Total combined spending for back-to-school/college should near $81 billion, also slightly below last year's record of $82.2 billion. The decline is likely due to less households with children in elementary through high school.

But the numbers are still big, thanks to a solid economy and confident consumer.

"Consumers are in a strong position given the nation's growing economy, and we see this reflected in what they say they will spend on back-to-class items this year," said NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay.

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College shoppers plan to spend the most on electronics, clothing and accessories, and dorm and apartment furnishings. Shay said college shoppers are expected to spend more at the school store. " College shoppers are really showing their school spirit when it comes to buying collegiate gear this year."

NFR data expects the college student to spend roughly $62 at the college store, up 17% from last year.

Many college students (45%) said they expect to shop online while another 39% anticipate shopping at department stores.

If you are strapped for cash, consider reselling your old textbooks to underclassmen or your university store. Some textbooks may be available online for free in PDFs. However, it is important to note that these books may not be the most current edition.

Deals from Amazon, Target, Walmart

Events like Amazon's Prime Day are a great way for students to get what they need before class starts, but if you are reading this, it's too late for Prime Day, but not too late for great back-to-school deals.

"Back-to-class shoppers still have the bulk of their shopping to do and are waiting to see what the best deals and promotions will be at a variety of different retailers," Prosper Insights executive v.p. of strategy Phil Rist stated in the NFR outlook.

According Katherine Cullen, National Retail Federation director of retail and consumer insights, many consumers plan on taking advantage of sales throughout the season, and "a significant number plan on shopping right before school starts."

Here are some retailers that will be offering sales:

Amazon launched a "Happy School Year" store two weeks before the Prime Day took over the internet for 48 hours. The store will feature supplies for students, parent and educators alike.

Target has its own online back to school store. Aside from offering discounted prices, Target will offer same-day delivery.

Walmart is also getting in on the back to school sales. The retail giant is offering next day delivery in hopes of eating into Amazon's dominance.

CHECK OUT: How going cash-only helped this 23-year-old pay off $20,000 in debt in one year via Grow with Acorns+CNBC.

Disclosure: NBCUniversal and Comcast Ventures are investors in Acorns.

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