Moving into the final week of National Coupon Month, I have concluded that the 13th annual marketing campaign of the Promotion Marketing Association has been most successful of all. With 89 percent of Americans admitting the regular use of coupons, a tough economy has turned even the most frugal shopper into a coupon enthusiast.
Coupons are a quick and easy way to save money at the grocery store. According to the Promotion Marketing Association, spending as little as 20 minutes a week clipping coupons can save the average family a $1,000 a year. Over 164 billion coupons were offered in the first half of 2010, building upon a record-breaking trend in 2009 when 311 billion coupons were distributed in the marketplace.
Coupons come in many varieties, the most common being the manufacturer’s coupon. Said coupon provides a discount on a particular product and is distributed directly by the manufacturer. Most stores accept manufacturers’ coupons because they will receive reimbursement upon redemption.
Most people use the Sunday newspaper as their main source of coupons. While grocery retailers currently allocate about 85 percent of their coupon distribution to a free-standing insert, Internet distribution continues to grow faster than all other media sources. Among the most popular Internet coupon sites are www.smartsource.com, www.coupons.com, www.valpak.com, www.pgeverydaysolutions.com and www.redplum.com. In the last few years, online promotional codes have become increasingly popular providing discounts that range from free shipping to a percentage off your purchase price.
Stores and manufacturers also send coupons to shoppers who specifically request them. Obtaining coupons from these companies is as simple as searching online for your favorite brand or store and typing the term “coupon” into your browser. (For instance, typing the term “Starbucks” and “coupon” yields approximately 641,000 results.) Most stores have a separate section for coupons or special discounts. Thereafter, it is simply a matter of printing the coupon for redemption at the retailer.
Thousands of websites exist that allow coupon users to buy, sell, and/or trade coupons. Although illegal and frowned upon by eBay, this popular auction site has become number one in coupon sales. Some of my personal favorites are www.supercouponing.com, www.retailmenot.com, www.coupondad.net, www.couponcabin.com, www.couponmom.com, and www.fatwallet.com.
When it comes to “deal-of-the-day” discounts, www.groupon.com is fast becoming a leader while www.restaurant.com is my pick for restaurant gift certificates. With more than 15,000 restaurants on the program nationally and more than 33,000 daily gift certificate options, Restaurant.com customers have saved more than $500 million through the gift certificate program. Restaurant.com also offers deeply discounted promotional codes for loyal e-mail subscribers or Facebook friends.
While finding the right coupon for specific products is easy, using them to their full potential can be more difficult. While coupons used on a regularly priced product might save a few cents, combining them with sales or BOGO’s can substantially increase your total savings. The savvy coupon shopper pays attention to normal product prices and only uses coupons on “stacked” specials resulting in huge savings.
A common misconception among non-coupon users is that coupon shoppers have low incomes, are disadvantaged or are struggling financially in these tough economic times. According to the Nielsen Company, a global leader in measurement and information, the biggest coupons users are college educated Caucasian women under the age of 54 with incomes in excess of $70,000 a year. In contradicting every preconceived notion, these women are among what has become known as “heavy coupon users.”
Coupons represent free money and additional income to those who indulge. Quoting from Nielsen’s report, “the better educated and more affluent consumers are much better at looking for deals, as they recognize the value of money.” Nothing can be further from the truth in these tough economic times where grocery bills account for nearly 11 percent of the average family budget.
Whether you shop at Albertsons, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Food Lion, Publix, Save-a-Lot, Sam’s Club, Sedanos, Sweetbay, Walmart or Winn-Dixie, each of these stores offer an online section for coupon savings and store discounts. Shoppers visiting the respective websites need only direct themselves to the coupon section then click and print desired grocery coupons.
Source: The Credit Report with Bill Lewis – Highlands Today, an edition of the Tampa Tribune (Media General Group) – http://www2.highlandstoday.com/content/2010/sep/26/lc-a-new-way-of-life-in-tough-economic-times
William E. Lewis Jr., is a credit repair expert with Credit Restoration Consultants and host of “The Credit Report with Bill Lewis” on AM 1470 WWNN, a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues.