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shopping list and couponsCouponing

Adapted from MU Office for Financial Success Finance Tip of the Week blog post by Robert Weagley, Ph.D., Department Chair, Personal Financial Planning, University of Missouri Extension


As indicated by television shows like TLC's Extreme Couponing, coupon use is once again growing in popularity.


Many of us can recall our mothers clipping coupons, or mothers and grandmothers mailing coupons to each other. We now have even more access to coupons through the internet, as well as entire websites devoted to couponing strategies and tips.


Couponing hit its peak in 1999, with over 4.6 billion coupons being redeemed, and reached its lowest point 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%.


It is estimated, however, that 83% of the coupons are used by only 22% of households. The heaviest coupon users, representing 18% of households and using 65% of the coupons, are looking for the best deals, but it has been found that they're actually making 70% more trips to the stores and spending 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 relative attractiveness of deals. Thirty-eight percent of “super-heavy” coupon users and 41% of “enthusiasts” 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.


If you want to delve into the world of couponing, here are some helpful tips:


  • Find your coupons in the newspaper, on the internet or in the stores. Do an online search for “coupons” (make the search as specific or as broad as you want) and you can find excellent coupons for national stores and brands.
  • Organize your coupons in files or envelopes, creating a system that is easy for you to use and access. For example, try organizing them by shopping experience — food, clothing, toys, restaurants. As you begin the process, you may start collecting and organizing coupons for just one category, like food, and then establish a couponing system that works for you.
  • 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, which means using 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. 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 only planning to go to a supercenter store. Take the grocer’s advertisement with you, see if the supercenter will match their sale price (many stores will do this) and then you can use your coupon on top of that.


A few words of caution:


  • While couponing can save you money, it can take a lot of time and effort to maximize the savings. You may have better things to do. Remember, time is money.
  • 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.
  • Beware of buying “stuff” you don’t want or need simply because you can purchase it at a reduced price. If you don’t need something, you don’t need it — at any price.
  • Also beware of buying too large of a quantity of an item for you to use in a timely manner. If you do find yourself in this predicament, then donate the item. Shelters and food pantries have seen a surge in those they serve and many are struggling to meet the higher demands — share your financial success.




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Last update: Tuesday, November 08, 2011