Extreme Coupon Shopping 101


Coupon distribution and use have substantially increased the last two years.  A recent study shows that almost 89 percent of Americans admitted using coupons when shopping in 2010.  With over 175 billion coupons offered by retailers in the first half of 2011, this growth builds upon the record-breaking trends of 2009 and 2010 when 311 billion and 330 billion coupons were distributed, respectively.

Halfway through this 14th annual National Coupon Month, we are reminded that clipping coupons is an easy and fun way to save money at the supermarket.  Whether you shop at Albertsons, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Food Lion, Kroger, Piggly Wiggley, Publix, Safeway, Save-a-Lot, Sam’s Club, Sedanos, Sweetbay, Walmart, Western Beef, Whole Foods Market, or Winn-Dixie, shoppers have become more frugal in tough economic times.

Coupons are a quick and easy way to save money at the supermarket.  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.

Many of my friends, co-workers and social networking acquaintances wonder how I save between 60 and 70 percent at Publix.  Although I accumulate printable coupons from the Internet, the Sunday newspaper remains my favorite.  In accumulating coupons from multiple papers – including the Spanish version as the coupons are generally different – I have several for use when an item goes on sale or becomes a “BOGO” free.

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 directly by the manufacturer. Grocery stores accept manufacturers’ coupons because they receive reimbursement upon redemption.

Most people use the Sunday newspaper as their main source of coupons. While grocery retailers allocate about 85% of their coupon distribution to a free-standing insert, Internet distribution has grown faster than all other sources combined.  The most popular online printable 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 incentives ranging from free shipping to a percentage off discount.  According to eMarketer, digital coupons have become so popular that 88.2 million shoppers were expected to use them in 2011.

Stores and manufacturers also send coupons to shoppers who personally request them.  Obtaining coupons from these sources is as simple as searching the Internet 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 companies have a separate section for coupons or special discounts.  Thereafter, it is simply a matter of printing the coupon for redemption at the retailer.

Whether you shop at Albertsons (www.albertsonsmarket.com), BJ’s Wholesale Club (www.bjs.com), Food Lion (www.foodlion.com), Kroger (www.kroger.com), Piggly Wiggly (www.pigglywiggley.com), Publix (www.publix.com), Safeway (www.safeway.com), Save-a-Lot (www.save-a-lot.com), Sam’s Club (www.samsclub.com), Sedanos (www.sedanos.com), Sweetbay (www.sweetbaysupermarket.com), Walmart (www.walmart.com), Western Beef (www.westernbeef.com), Whole Foods Market (www.wholefoodsmarket.com), or Winn-Dixie (www.winndixie.com), each of these retailers offer an online section for coupon savings and store discounts.  Shoppers visiting a store website need only direct themselves to the coupon section then click and print desired grocery coupons.

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 18,000 restaurants on the program nationally and more than 35,000 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.

In celebration of National Coupon Month, www.ilovecouponmonth.com – an online resource for coupon information, statistics, and savings tips created by www.couponsherpa.com – has provided 30 tried and true methods to maximize your shopping experience.

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.

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.

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 savings.  The savvy coupon shopper pays attention to normal product prices and only uses coupons on “stacked” specials resulting in huge savings.

To learn more about National Coupon Month, please visit http://www.nationalcouponmonth.com

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

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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,” a daily forum for business and financial news, politics, economic trends, and cutting edge issues on AM 1470 WWNN.

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