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Coupons R Cool

Recently, I read an article in our local newspaper about a resident of our community who was appearing on the television show named “Extreme Couponing”.  Being one who thought X-sports were restricted to activities like jumping out of a helicopter to ski a pristine mountain or free climbing in Yosemite, I read the article and discovered that couponing, while not nearly as dangerous, is growing in popularity.   Not only is couponing growing in popularity but the nouveau actress mentioned above runs a website on couponing (http://www.thecoupongirlz.com ) and teaches classes to help people learn more about how to coupon.

Many of us can recall our mothers clipping coupons to take to the store, as well as to mail to us when we were younger.  Couponing hit its peak in 1999, with over 4.6 billion coupons being redeemed, and reached its nadir in 2008, when it reduced to 2.6 billion.  Since then, as we have been battling the recession, coupon growth has increased with the largest ever reported increase in redemptions occurring between 2008 and 2009.  Not surprisingly, internet redemption growth has led the way with growth of 263% between the two years.  It is estimated, however, that 83% of the coupons are used by only 22% of households.  While the “crazed coupon clippers” are interested in a good deal, the heaviest users, representing 18% of households and using 65% of the coupons, actually have been found to make 70% more trips to the stores and to spend 80% more, than non-users.  Hence, these results indicate that many people don’t actually spend less.  They actually buy more and spend more time engaged in the activity of shopping.

Many would think that low income households would be the largest category of coupon users.  They are not.  Affluent households are more likely to subscribe and read the newspaper and their greater levels of education help them understand the value of money and the relatively attractiveness of deals.  Thirty-eight percent of “super-heavy” users and 41% of “enthusiasts” households come from American families with incomes greater than $70,000.  It is also interesting that greater coupon use is associated with greater age, larger families, being female, and living in the suburbs.  (Much of the above was from: http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/consumer/the-coupon-comeback/ .)

If you want to enter the coupon-class, here are some tips on coupon use that were gleaned from the internet.  (Most of these were from http://www.couponing101.com/2009/01/a-beginners-guide-to-couponing.html .)

Find your coupons in the newspaper, on the internet, or in the stores.  You may Google “coupons” on the internet and find excellent coupons for national stores and brands.

Organize your coupons in files or envelopes that work for you.  Perhaps, organize them by shopping experience – food, clothing, toys, restaurants, or whatever system works for you.  Perhaps, you just want to stick to coupons for one item, say food, as a place to begin.

You need to be aware of stores’ coupon policies.  Do not attempt to violate them.  Many stores will double the face value of the coupon, with a maximum savings of $1.00, but most will only let you double a maximum of, say, four coupons.  Some stores will allow you to “stack” coupons, where you use both a manufacturer and store coupon for the same item.  Many stores limit the number of coupons per customer, per manufacturer, per day.  Also, to be responsible, read the coupon before you try to use it.

If you really like this process, begin to monitor the prices by keeping a record of prices for commonly purchased items that frequently have coupons.  Then, use the coupons when the item is selling for a reduced price, to maximize your savings.  Don’t spend a lot of time going to many stores to save a few dollars, as the costs in time and transportation could negate any savings.  A good thing to consider is to use your coupons with price matching policies.  Say, for example, your local grocer has a good price on canned vegetables but you are going to Wal-Mart with your coupons.  Take the grocer’s advertisement with you, Wal-Mart will match their sale price and you can still use your coupon.

Finally, I want to offer a couple of words of caution.  While coupon use can save you money, it can take a lot of time and effort to maximize the savings.  You may have better things to do.  Also, beware of buying “stuff” you don’t want or need, simply because you can purchase it at a reduced price.  If you don’t want something, you don’t want it – at any price.  If you do buy too large of a quantity of an item for you to use in a timely manner, give it away.  Unfortunately, shelters and food pantries are getting more business than they can adequately serve.  Share your financial success, to enable others to simply be.