Couponing has become increasingly popular and “cool” over the years. According to Inmar, more than 311 billion coupons were distributed in the U.S. in 2011, with 3.5 billion of those redeemed. In addition to reality shows like TLC’s Extreme Couponing, there are several trends and technologies that have helped shift Americans perception and acceptance of couponing including:
- Groupon and LivingSocial – In 2007 and 2008, LivingSocial and Groupon respectively began sending coupons to email inboxes offering discounts on goods or services.
- Social Sharing – To motivate people to seek discounts, “Get three friends to buy the same deal, and yours is free,” deals are now enabled and encouraged to be shared not only via email but socially, via Facebook and Twitter.
- Mobile – With the advancement of mobile technology, digital coupons have gained popularity. Inmar reports that through 2011, 17 million digital coupons were processed.
- The Recession – With so much gloom and talk about the economy, believe it or not, it does resonate with people. People are looking for savings more and more.
When done strategically, couponing can save you thousands of dollars each year. But, couponing is strategic and takes practice, skill, and smarts. You wouldn’t believe the savings that we don’t take advantage of! Here are six important couponing tips to get you started:
- Get coupons! There are two primary ways to get coupons – the Sunday paper and internet coupons. For the Sunday paper, essentially you want to review and cut out the coupons that are appealing to you. Also, there are many coupon websites you can visit to begin collecting internet coupons. So far, coupon.com, crazycouponlady.com and couponmom.com are my favorites but as I said, there are many. Hold on to your coupons and use them when you need them. Keep in mind that some coupons may expire in 30 days or less, some in a year.
- Get as many coupons as you can! Explore all ways to secure coupons; don’t just look for coupons in the newspaper, also look for coupons from your local grocery store, mobile apps, websites etc. For printable coupons, you can usually only get two coupons per computer so if you want more, you’ll have to ask friends to print them for you or get access to another computer.
- Get organized. Experts recommend using baseball card holders or sheet protectors in a binder to hold your coupons. It’s a flexible solution that can help you keep tabs on which products should be added to your shopping list, and you can take it with you each time you go to the grocery store. You can organize your collection any number of ways, such as by expiration date or by product category.
- Buy in bulk! Couponers don’t buy an item when they need it — they buy it when they can get it at the lowest price. They stock up when the price is right so they save money in the long run. Obviously, only buy what you can fit in your pantry, closet or garage.
- Understand coupon policies at stores. Every store will likely have a different coupon policy and it’s important to understand what those policies are so you can take advantage of all of the great deals. The general rule is that you can use one store coupon and one manufacturer’s coupon per item. If you try to use more than that, chances are you are violating store policy or the terms of the coupon.
- Start slow and have fun! Easing in to couponing is probably the best way to get started. Start with a single store while you’re getting your feet wet; you can add multiple stores later as you get used to bargain pricing and coupon policies. The best time to shop with coupons are during off-peak hours so your experience will go as smoothly as possible.