10 Ways in Which Couponing Can Save You

10 Ways in Which Couponing Can Save You
Written by Oana Schneider

Ever since the 2008 recession, the dramatic increase in unemployment rates and the hard economical times we have been living lead to an interesting consequence: coupon clippers have taken over the checkout lines of the big stores in unprecedented numbers. What is even more interesting is that they manage to leave those lines with record savings!

In comparison with the past decades, the age of the average couponer has decreased and their shopping patterns have changes with technology; mobile and internet coupons gained in popularity in such a way that today discounts are a hot hobby for almost everyone, regardless of age or income. But just how much does couponing influence our everyday life? Can clipping coupons be counted among the factors that shape our lifestyle in a decisive way?

Coupons: Facts, Figures, and Myths

Statistics show thatcoupon usage has increased tremendously. In the U.S., about 79.8% of consumers regularly shopped with coupons in 2013, compared to only 63% during pre-crisis 2007. Only last year there were redeemed 3.1 billion coupons distributed for grocery products, but also for non-food items such as medication, personal care, and household products.

The average value of a coupon last year was of $1.55. This may not seem much, but it certainly does so when one finds out that all in all, coupons saved a collective $820 million in discounts for the U.S. consumers. In 2012, in theory, coupon distribution amounted as high as $1, 535 savings potential for each U.S. shopper. Nevertheless, since not all the buyers have the time to collect and actually make use of those coupons, real coupon redemption only amounted to $10.75 per individual.

There are also a good number of myths about coupon usage. The one regarding the average age of the coupon shopper has been busted by a spectacular increase in the coupons’ popularity among young generation. Another widespread myth refers to coupons as being more popular among the poor than among the rich; statistics, however, prove the contrary: families earning more than $100 000 annually are twice more likely to use coupons than households making under $35 000 annually. This is somehow intuitive, considering the fact that medium income employees go shopping more often than poor families.

Trending: Mobile Coupons

Sociologists report that since 2010 the number of mobile coupon users has jumped 20%! Of course, this is easily explained by the smart phone boost that widened people’s access to modern-day technology, and also by the fact that couponing is easier this way. No more paper cuts and binders – simply scan a barcode and you’re one click away from your discount!

This is why studies reveal that mobile coupons are 12 times more likely to be used than paper ones, since about 20 million Americans make use of their mobile coupon apps on at least once a month. Marketing strategies designers that work for the great chain stores have changed their strategies, too, after discovering that buyers are 3 times more likely to scan a bar code than respond to an SMS in order to get a mobile coupon.

The 4 Levels of Couponing

Shopping analysts have discovered there are 4 levels of couponing. To begin with, the casual couponer is the most common type of buyer and usually ends up saving a few bucks off the entire order. Secondly, there are those who do all their shopping solely for generic brands, thus replacing name brands. This helps saving money without clipping a single coupon, but there is significantly less choice available.

Next comes the Coupon Deal Shopper, who only buys a product if it’s on sale or on coupons. At times, he could get name brands even cheaper than generic ones, but this requires a bit of patience and effort. Last but not least, there comes the Extreme Couponer who is using coupons and store deals together to get the best discounts; with some good math, a bit of patience and some trial and error, he/she can walk off with at least 90% in savings. And no, it’s not magic!

What Is Extreme Couponing? 

10 Ways in Which Couponing Can Save You

Clipping coupons

You may have heard about Extreme Couponing, a TV show that popularized tips and tricks on how to make the most out of these very popular tiny discounts. In the meantime, it has become, a lifestyle in itself – there are people who use coupons to pay for almost all their grocery bill, either they do it with smart phones, or in the old fashioned way, browsing carefully through Sunday newspapers, clipping and binding. Extreme couponing is almost like a sport, reaching nerve-racking intensity at the store checkout.

The point is not to waste any coupon and to let them dictate your shopping schedule, in order to benefit from as many discounts as possible. For those who do it to lower their grocery budget it is a very well-motivated shopping behavior; for others, it is just another way of benefitting from the psychological comfort of having saved some money for another use.

Couponing becomes more and more of a lifestyle that, however, does not suit everybody. It takes patience, flexibility, and attention, and of course a few good hours per week dedicated to chasing the ads, hunting for offers, making elaborate price comparisons, and so on – all these in addition to the actual shopping time. Some find it relaxing and turn it into a leisure hobby, others find it incredibly stressful. However, it seems that lately coupons are getting easier to use: 42% of smart phone owners use their devices to redeem mobile coupons in-store.

The Profile of an Extreme Couponer

We have all seen extreme couponers in action; they are easy to recognize after their extremely focused strolls on the store’s couloirs, because they know exactly what they are heading at. An extreme couponer carries along his/hers coupon binder, weekly ads, a list of coupon policies, and, of course, their shopping list.

Some extreme couponers visit all their stores in one day, other do that all throughout the week; but one thing is certain: waste is not a word in their dictionary. It just doesn’t happen, because they have an acquired practice of making the most out of the minimum, not to mention the tremendous attention they pay to coupons’ expiration dates. Of course, almost every extreme couponer has elaborated his/hers own intricate methods of coupon shopping.

But how much money do they save, after all? There are reports that will make shake your head in disbelief: some families saved more than 84% of their monthly expenses before the extreme-couponing age, thus managing to pay around $450 for $2100 worth of products (groceries and toiletries).

Tips and Tricks for Worthy Couponing

Organization is vital to becoming an efficient money-saver and intelligent buyer and this is why the golden rule of couponing would be: Keep your coupons organized! You may do it on your computer, on your apps, or in a old school binder – whichever suits you best. However, keep in mind that specially-designed software will make your job considerably easier.

The second rule would be to always follow the ads, on the internet or in the printed weekly store circulars that flood your mail inbox. Being aware of the regular offers’ update will help you synchronize your coupons with store sales, and at the same time it can provide you with the necessary information in order to minimize the number of shopping trips you have to make. Save money while also saving time!

Last but not least, create a detailed list of what you are going to buy on discount. The list should include not only item name and brand, but also retail price, sale price, coupon amount, final price, and a total. Of course, you should always have it at hand in the store.

Strong Points and Downsides of Coupon Usage

10 Ways in Which Couponing Can Save You

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There are some aspects you should consider before taking up extreme couponing habits, because in one way or another it will definitely have an influence over your lifestyle and spending behavior. The first and foremost advantage of couponing is the obvious one: it helps you save grocery money and thus allows you to purchase more items with the same amount of money. You will notice that your expenses are cut in such a way that you can put a few dollars aside each week.

Of course, the use of coupons won’t help you much with that Caribbean cruise or Rolex watch you secretly long for – unless you do it extensively, for many months in a row. On the other hand, you have to consider all the time dedicated to the intricate pathways of couponing that involve following ads and keeping yourself informed about the terms and conditions of use. At times, the desired discount is not as easy to get as it may seem at a first glance; in fact, a third of all the redeemed coupons require the purchase of two or more products.

If we refer only to food items, this percentage rises up to 45% and because of this you may end up buying more products than you actually need. A good solution is to shop for groceries with your neighbors, friends, or family, so you can find a good use for the extra products, at good prices for everyone.

Keeping track of coupons’ expiration dates is another point which at times can be tricky. Some are valid only during weekdays, some only on weekends, while others work only between certain hours. Their average validity period follows a decreasing trend: the average expiration date was 9.3 weeks in 2012, down from 9.9 weeks the year before. If you think that in the end your efforts will pay off, let the shopping fever begin!

About the author

Oana Schneider

Oana Schneider is a published author located in Chicago, Illinois, who currently works for as a communication specialist and blog editor. She writes about lifestyle, family budget, has a degree in Communications and advocates for women’s rights. Her future plans include getting a Labrador and losing a few pounds.


  • Couponing is fine, especially if you don’t put too much time or effort into it. However, the average person will waste their time and effort, while failing to maximize their potential savings. Only the most dedicated individuals can actually do what extreme couponers claim to do every day. For that reason, it’s not the best solution to rising costs. You’re far better off raising your actual income or scaling back your expenses in most cases.

    • Yes! As the old adage goes, “time is money”. If you’re willing to spend the time to locate coupons to save a few dollars here and there, why not dedicate that time to improving your professional skills so that you can simply earn a higher income and circumvent the entire issue?

      I mean, being frugal is useful and necessary to a point, but at the end of the day you can only stretch a dollar so far. Sometimes, the only logical conclusion is to get more dollars.

  • For those big ticket items like nice watches or vacation tickets patience is key. You’re able to land some amazing deals if you have the ability to just wait until the opportune moment to make your purpose. The only problem is that self-control is rather difficult for some people when it comes to luxury items, so it’s understandable that people end up splurging on those.

    Groceries and other necessities are much more easy to coupon for, both due to the frequency of these purchases as well as the general availability of coupons. I saw a commenter mention in another post that she saves her family HUNDREDS of dollars in groceries each month. Impressive, though I’m somewhat skeptical.

  • I agree, it’s all about how much time you think it’s worth to spend couponing. I usually think in terms of my income. As an example, if I get minimum wage, is it worth it spending 3 hours to save $20? Of course, mobile apps for couponing makes it a lot easier, but unless the deals are for something I need, I tend to not use them.

  • Oh boy, I remember visiting my in-laws and noticing a binder full of coupons. It was all carefully labelled and sorted by section. At first, I thought this was just way too much for me. Later, when I was about to head to the store, I realized I needed deodorant, shampoo, yogurt and a few other things. Sure enough, they had a coupon for everything and ultimately the savings really added up.

    While some of you have mentioned time is money or alike, the truth is you can casually sort out coupons with all that much effort at all. Sure if you tackle 3 weeks at once you’ll be overwhelmed, but an extra 40 seconds a day for a flyer isn’t all that bad.

  • You do have to be very organized to do extreme couponing. The other thing you have to have is room to store the extra stuff you get. I used to do much more with coupons when my children were younger, more out of necessity then anything else. I had help, my sister had young children to so we would work on this together. It has gotten so that stores in this area will not allow you to do extreme couponing, they limit the number of coupons you can use per visit which really cuts into what you can do.

    The other thing I found is that you have to be careful with food brands, some are just not as good as others. What is the since of having five boxes of a cereal that tastes like cardboard? My advice is stick to the things you know you use that will not become out dated. Things like laundry products, cleaning supply and shampoo are great choices. I find many great offers online, I also make sure I check for mail in rebates.

  • Couponing is a great way to save money, I know it takes a bit of time to get organised but if you have that time spare anyway then it seems silly not to take advantage. I agree that it is sensible to stick to the brands that you know and trust – unless the item is free, of course – as it is ultimately a waste to have spent money on things you won’t eat or use.

  • I really have a bone to pick with those people who are just inexplicably skeptical about the effectiveness of coupons. Any measure that allows you to save money on your purchases deserves to be tried out rather than just dismissed. I’ve saved upwards of over a hundred dollars just by clipping coupons. There are also online varieties that are just as effective.

  • Coupons are not used by manufacturers in the UK on a regular basis and, if and when they are used, they are usually something like 50p off a product that costs around £2.50. They generally cannot be used in conjunction with any other discounts and it’s one coupon per customer! So I am incredibly jealous of the sheer amount of money that can be saved on groceries and other household items by shoppers in the USA!

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