Grocery Shopping in Tough Economic Times


We have all heard the saying, “Nothing in life is free.” What if you could purchase groceries, toiletries and household goods at deeply discounted prices? Coupon shopping can do that. Anyone can become a great coupon shopper.

In tough economic times, Americans have become frugal while shopping. Concerned about the rising cost of food, high unemployment, and the foreclosure epidemic, consumers are seeking more “bang for the buck.” Consumers are clipping more coupons and saving more dollars.

Coupons are a quick and simple way to save money at the grocery store. According to the Promotion Marketing Association, spending 20 minutes a week clipping coupons can save the average family over $1,100 a year. Over 367 billion coupons were offered in 2010, building upon a record-shattering trend in 2009 when 311 billion coupons were distributed in the marketplace.

A recent study indicates that 89 percent of Americans regularly use coupons when shopping for groceries. In fact, nearly $3 billion was saved by consumers using coupons in 2010.

Coupons come in many varieties, the most common being the manufacturer’s coupon. This coupon provides a discount on a particular product and is distributed by the manufacturer. Stores accept manufacturers’ coupons because they receive reimbursement upon redemption.

The coupon itself dates back to a handwritten one for Coca-Cola in 1886. While retailers continue to allocate about 85 percent of coupons to the free-standing insert cooperative coupon booklet, Internet distribution is growing faster than all other media distribution. Tough times have ignited a desire to save more at the grocery store.

In the last few years, Internet promotional codes have become increasingly popular providing discounts ranging from free shipping to a percentage off the purchase price. The most popular online websites are www.smartsource.com, www.coupons.com, www.valpak.com, www.pgeverydaysolutions.com and www.redplum.com.

A common misconception among non-coupon users is that coupon shoppers have low incomes, are disadvantaged or are struggling financially in a tough economy. Nothing could be further from the truth.

According to the Nielsen Company, the biggest coupons users are college-educated white women under the age of 54 with average incomes of $70,000 annually. In contradicting every preconceived notion, these women have become known as “heavy coupon users.”

Among shoppers not clipping grocery coupons are those who could benefit the most. Of 100 shoppers that make less than $20,000 a year, just 1.6 percent use coupons to their best advantage.

Coupons represent free money and additional income to those who clip. 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 a tough economy where grocery bills exceed 13 percent of an average family budget.

In a category in which I belong, the savings are more dramatic. As a “coupon enthusiast” – I cannot resist the thrill of “stacking” my way to a money-saving deal, occasionally earning money back on the purchase of a BOGO item using a manufacturer’s coupon for each, and coupling with a double-coupon offer. “If it’s free – it’s for me” is quickly making its way into my vocabulary.

Defined as someone who uses 104 or more coupons in a six-month period, coupon enthusiasts accounted for 65 percent of all coupon usage and 18 percent of all purchases in 2009. Avid coupon users purchased nearly 20 percent of everything bought last year with a coupon.

Approximately 22 percent of shoppers are responsible for 83 percent of all coupons redeemed. Coupon enthusiasts love coupons and use them with such frequency that it has become a way of life. Aside from “coupon enthusiasts” and “heavy coupon users,” the remaining 78 percent of shoppers used just 17 percent of all coupons redeemed.

Albertsons, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Publix, Save-a-Lot, Sam’s Club, Sedanos, Sweetbay, Walmart and Winn-Dixie each offer an online section for store discounts and coupons. Shoppers visiting the websites need only direct themselves to the coupon section and print the desired coupons.

We have all heard stories of extreme coupon shoppers reducing a hundred dollar grocery bill to next to nothing using coupons. Although possible, this is not realistic for the average shopper. In withstanding the ridicule of family, friends, fellow shoppers, and the occasional cashier, I am happy with an average savings of 60 percent at my favorite Publix.

To review Bill Lewis’ entire consumer protection series, visit www.williamlewis.us.

William E. Lewis Jr. & Associates is a solutions based professional consulting firm specializing in the discriminating individual, business or governmental entity. To learn more, tune into The Credit Report with Bill Lewis, weekdays at 9 o’clock on AM 1470 WWNN.

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