August 9, 2011 § 2 Comments
Enjoy this post from Katie Dunham, newly christened twenty-something coupon queen.
Like every other American woman in our recession-laden times, I need (and like) to save money. And like every other person with basic cable, I’m fascinated by the TLC program “Extreme Couponing.”
For the uninitiated, “Extreme Couponing” is an addictive reality show following people who coupon like it’s a full-time job. Viewers follow along as these mega-bargain shoppers proceed to save hundreds upon hundreds of dollars at their local grocery stores, often without spending a dime in a single transaction. It’s riveting.
Sure, many of these people could also easily be classified as grocery hoarders, but the initiative they take towards saving money is inspiring and has gotten me thinking recently. Sure, I don’t need 75 bottles of barbecue sauce or 100 packets of noodles, but if those people can save that much, I can certainly shave down my two-digit weekly grocery budget, right? Right. Not to mention, that according to the NCH Resource Center, consumers saved $2 billion with coupons in the first half of 2011. If everyone else in America can coupon, so can I.
But as I begin life as a newly christened coupon queen, I’ve had a few things to think about:
1. Couponing takes time, something which I and my fellow millennials are even more stingy about than money. Where the extreme couponers often spend upwards of 40 hours a week clipping coupons, cross-referencing grocery store circulars, or scouting multiple supermarkets, I’m lucky if I can spend half an hour on Sunday nights figuring out my shopping for the week, much less searching for a newspaper full of coupons. (But that’s a conversation for another day.)
2. Couponing still seems to hold a bit of stigma among my generation. Even among the young professionals, and “creative underclass” here in Los Angeles, who are forever living beyond our means, couponing is something our others and grandmothers do. No offense. And often the products featured in coupons aren’t really stuff we would usually buy. Give me the cereal, hair product, and ice cream coupons; I’ll leave the kiddie snacks, frozen breakfast bowls, and Metamucil for someone else.
3. Trader Joe’s doesn’t take coupons. Let’s be honest, that’s a big deal. Soft cheeses and coconut water can cost twice as much at major retailers.
So, what’s the solution for someone like me? Loyalty programs and daily deal coupons! Online discounts are great too. According to Coupons.com, digital coupons were up 100% from June 2010 to June 2011, while newspaper coupons only grew by 8.4%. Of the more than $1 billion digital coupon savings reported by Coupons.com, many of those coupons were uploaded to a store loyalty card.
In the latest Online Shopper Intelligence survey, about one-third of online shoppers said they use online coupon sites, with 35 million people visiting coupon sites in April 2010. More than half of shoppers who used an online coupon code said that if not for the discount, they would not have made the purchase. Looks like coupons might just drive sales too!
This all rings true in my own coupon quest. As I’ve made a concerted effort to be a smarter shopper over the past few months, my real go-tos have become CVS and Ulta, for their amazingly user-friendly rewards programs. For every few transactions at CVS, I’ll get a few dollars back and a bevy of new coupons tailored to my shopping patterns. And if I plan my toiletry and cosmetic purchases around trips to Ulta, I can make good use of their fantastic coupons ($3.50 off $10; $20% off) and rack up the rewards points. True confession: Because of my Ulta rewards points, I haven’t paid for perfume in about a year.
And don’t even get me started on daily deal coupons. I’m sitting on about a dozen right now, and I’m talking about coupons I’ll actually use! The proliferation of daily deal sites and e-mails seems tailor-made for myself and my friends. We can now live like we want to but at half the price, frequenting our favorite gourmet burger places, pricey Korean spas, and fancy new yoga studios.
And one last thing, a recent article in the Wall Street Journal reported that retailers are now introducing smaller package sizes, a real help for those of us not shopping for families or large households (or going out instead of cooking every night).
I guess the conclusion to be drawn here is that there’s a coupon out there for everyone. And, in the midst of the recession, retailers have been creative enough to get us too-cool twenty-somethings to do a little extreme couponing of our own.