Coupons have been around seemingly forever, and are one of the best ways for consumers to find out about new products or save money on the ones they already buy. A new study into the habits of American coupon users, however, shows there may be better ways to get bigger deals. Research conducted by GfK Custom Research and News America Marketing revealed 70 percent of consumers still use paper coupons, even though digital alternatives could save an average of 8 percent more. It may not sound like much, but 8 percent of an annual grocery bill can add up to a significant chunk of change for the typical family.
This is just one way many are missing out on sizeable savings by neglecting to take full advantage of coupons. While there’s no need to get extreme with one’s coupon clipping, there are still many great ways to get good deals on household products and reel in spending.
“Many people still clip paper coupons, but digital deals can save even more.”
As the previously mentioned research showed, nontraditional coupon methods can be used to save even more than what you get from the Sunday paper. In recent years, several websites have appeared that put a unique spin on coupon use. One suggested by U.S. News & World Report is RetailMeNot.com, which posts coupon codes and rebate offers from thousands of popular retailers. RetailMeNot is primarily used for online shopping. Several mobile phone apps also exist to allow shoppers to apply discounts online or at the checkout counter. FatWallet is one that’s recommended by U.S. News. One unique option is Cellfire, which can store all the rewards cards you have active at different stores and automatically apply coupons to them. Another app, Grocery IQ, tailors coupons to your shopping list. Just type in the products you’d like to buy and the app will present you with discount codes.
It’s not a bad idea to check these websites and apps before making a big purchase, since even a 5 percent discount can make for a big cost reduction. It’s important to remember to read the fine print, especially with online offers that may have expired. Some coupons are only applicable in certain circumstances, like when you spend more than a certain amount. Be aware of these limitations before using the coupon.
Do you really need it?
Taking advantage of discounts is an important part of being a savvy shopper. But any discount, not matter how good, is only worthwhile if it’s for something you actually need. Even getting something for free is basically meaningless if you have no use for it. For an extreme example, Time Business examined the case of Christy Rakoczy. A star of the popular show “Extreme Couponers,” Rakoczy explained in a blog post and an NPR interview why she decided to give up the practice: she had too much stuff she didn’t need. While it’s pretty difficult to wind up with an attic full of junk from coupons, even casual discount shoppers can fall prey to the same principle.
One of the most popular discounts is the “buy one get one free” offer, which entices consumers to make a purchase they may not normally make. But this is only worthwhile when the buyer actually needs two of these things. Stores frequently use this discount to sell food that’s about to expire, so if the buyer can’t use all of the product before it spoils, they’ve actually lost money in that transaction.
Making sure it’s legit
With countless coupon services available to consumers now, the likelihood of coupons being expired, faulty or fraudulent could be higher. Some coupons found online are actually for only one use, or have another stipulation that makes them invalid. One way to check if the coupon you found is real is by using a website like the Coupon Information Center. According to their disclaimer, the CIC is a nonprofit “dedicated to enhancing the integrity of the coupon redemption process.” Its website is a large database comprising counterfeit coupons as reported by the manufacturers of many products. Attempting to redeem a counterfeit coupon may be deemed a criminal offense, so it could be worthwhile to use the CIC website to verify any coupons that seem too good to be true.
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