Earlier than ever back-to-school shopping

Jul 14, 2010, 2:51 AM | Updated: Mar 28, 2011, 3:46 pm

SchoolSupplies 004Barely two weeks after the school year ended in Seattle, boxes of unsharpened yellow pencils, stacks of wide-rule paper and bunches of markers were already on display in local stores with huge “back to school” banners above the aisles.

Although I still love the smell of new crayons, my 10-year-old son was totally bummed.

“I just got out of school. It’s so wrong,” he says.

Does it seem like the back-to-school shopping gets underway earlier every year?

Lisa Reynolds, “Mom Saver in Chief” for the online coupon site Red Plum, says retailers are pushing all of their shopping seasons up this year – school, Halloween, and Christmas – to give themselves more weeks to sell merchandise.

“They need to push through the inventory because last year sales didn’t go as quickly as most retailers wanted,” she says.

While retailers are making fewer sales, more shoppers are using coupons. We redeemed about 3.3 billion coupons last year. That’s an increase of 27 percent over the previous year according to NCH Marketing Services, a company that processes coupons. Reynolds says coupon use has grown for the past nine consecutive quarters, with first quarter use up 9.7 percent.

Also growing, is the number of items most parents will have to buy at the start of the school year. As school budgets get tighter, teachers ask students to bring more stuff to the classroom for themselves and to share with the group.

SchoolSupplies 003Instead of ignoring the back-to-school aisles, Reynolds advises moms and dads to check online and store coupons. There are some good deals on now, and the supply isn’t picked over yet.

She also suggests you save your receipts. If you find a better price on an item later in the summer it’s likely the retailer will honor the difference in the purchase and sale price if you take the receipt back.

“The average family can save $1,000 per year by spending just 20 minutes a week seeking coupons and I don’t think that’s any different during the back-to-school time of year,” she says. “You’re going to save a good percentage of money by doing a little upfront planning.”

Public school in Seattle starts exactly eight weeks from today! Oh, did I end that sentence with exclamation point by mistake? 😉

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Earlier than ever back-to-school shopping