Last year, consumers redeemed $3.3 billion in coupons. Translating to more than $2 billion in savings, these numbers offered a welcome relief for families wrestling with stretched wallets or worse, hungry teenage boys.
This year's numbers are shaping up to be just as impressive. According to Nielsen Wire, As of September 30, shoppers were on a roll, redeeming almost $2.5 billion in savings. It's enough to make non-coupon users wonder whether these people are a bunch of scissor-waving, obsessive-compulsives in need of a new hobby.
Sorry to disappoint, but no.
So who's doing all this saving?
While the majority of people still consider coupon clipping as the realm of a middle-class mom, that perception is false. Those most likely to benefit from coupons are actually the least likely to participate.
Brad Tuttle, a writer for Time, also suggests that many lower-income households simply don't have the time to use coupons efficiently. "To do it right and take advantage of the potential savings, you need time, patience, and organization. You need to sift through papers and websites and go to multiple stores. This can be difficult for anybody, let alone a family that's just scraping by."
Difficult, yes, but thanks to the many advances in web-based technology, not impossible.
The Best Ways for You to Take Advantage of "Smart Coupons"
Earlier this year, Nielsen reported that while traditional inserts and direct mail still generate the majority of coupons, a growing number of redemptions now come from online sources, including printable coupons, smartphone applications, and discounts linked to frequent shopper cards.
Coupons are now so sophisticated that one online review found it easier to organize the 40 best coupon websites into specific sectors, such as Brick & Mortar, Coupon Aggregators, Online Shopping, and Social Coupons.
Here are a few of our favorite ways to save:
Customer Loyalty Cards and Key Rings
Wading into the world of the high-tech coupon can be confusing. However, the fastest way to get started is through a customer loyalty card or key ring. Offered by a number of stores such as PetCo, Albertsons, Safeway, RiteAid, or CVS, these cards eliminate the need for paper coupons by automatically deducting discounts when the card is swiped at checkout.
Best Printable Coupon Website
Best Savings-Related Smartphone App
#-ad_banner_2-#According to the National Retail Federation, "by 2015, shoppers around the world are expected to use their mobile phones to purchase goods and services worth close to $120 billion. That amount represents about 8% of the total e-commerce market. In addition, payment for goods or services and money transfers initiated from a mobile phone will reach almost $630 billion by 2014, up from $170 billion this year."
There's a tie for this category. While Cellfire Mobile Coupons downloads actual savings directly to shoppers' store loyalty cards, we love the creativity behind ShopSavvy's barcode scan technology.
ShopSavvy (Available for both the iPhone and Android) -- With just the simple swipe of a barcode, this smartphone application will find the cheapest local or online price (complete with map directions, website and store phone numbers).
Cellfire Mobile Coupons (Available for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry) -- This app can download savings from thousands of grocery locations directly to a shopper’s store loyalty card. Savings are automatically deducted when card is scanned at checkout, eliminating clipping and printing altogether.
Best All Around Coupon Website
Coupons.com -- This free, aggregated coupon site has it all -- not only can customer search for deals by zip code, but coupons can either be printed or downloaded to a mobile device or customer loyalty card. The site offers savings in sixteen categories, but the majority of daily coupons typically fall within Food, Healthcare, Household Goods, and Personal Care.
Coupon.com is certainly the popular kid on the block. Last month, the company announced subscribers had printed out over $1 billion in coupons.
And if after all that, you still don't think you have time for coupon-clipping, check out The Coupon Clippers. At this website, grocery shoppers can order coupons from over one million national grocery brands. The coupons are free but the company does charge a handling fee for the time spent clipping and shipping. And while some might thing paying someone to clip coupons seems counter-intuitive, the company's thousands (12,236 to be exact) of Facebook fans seem to think otherwise.