Has Couponing Changed Since 2011?

Over the years, I have offered a number of views on couponing–the practice of clipping and using a wide variety of coupons to save money, primarily at grocery and drug stores. In 2009, we started off talking about Joyce House, the “coupon diva,” who continued to make waves over the next year with several high-profile appearances and is still helping people coupon today.

The world caught on and shows like TLC’s Extreme Couponing starting taking the practice to the mainstream, and sometimes to the extreme. After starting on the coupon train myself and launching an experiment to see how much I could save, I quickly gave up on coupons, citing many reasons but among them:

  1. Poor payoff for the time invested in using grocery coupons. 
  2. No coupons available for what we were buying.
  3. High use of cash & local farmer’s markets.
  4. My belief in the sustainability of aggressive manufacturer’s coupons.

That was nearly two years ago, and as the economy and our area slowly came out of recession, the “need” for coupons has diminished. However, I have found both sales and coupons to be a very beneficial part of our frugality practices, and so will bring some of those strategies to light here today as we are well into 2013.

Coupons I Use

Here are the coupons I actively used in the last year:

  1. Coupons for random stores. Whenever I shop anywhere online, I’ll check services like Save1.com to see if any coupons are available for that store. Most of the other stores I shop locally already send coupons directly to my mailbox, so I keep those in a safe place and check them before going out to shop.
  2. Warehouse club coupons. We do the bulk of our grocery and household shopping at warehouse clubs, and these tend to have periodic sales on some of their most popular merchandise. Unlike grocery coupons, warehouse club coupons often match with the products we already buy, and it’s not unheard of to save another $50-$100 in a single trip with these discounts at the volume we buy.
  3. Restaurant coupons. Like #1, these come directly to my house or my email, and can sometimes often significant discounts for lunch or dinner out.
  4. Home improvement store coupons. These usually arrive at my doorstep, and come in the form of “$10 off a purchase of $50” or some other deal. Since I’m already shopping at these stores, it doesn’t hurt to get a little extra savings.
  5. Manufacturer’s coupons. Although we no longer get the Sunday paper, it was coming to our house (along with the Wednesday paper) for a little over a year. My wife’s leisure activities on Sundays included thumbing through the coupons section, and we always found at least 4-5 good deals we could use in the next few months.

Between all of these, I would estimate we saved quite a bit of money versus not using coupons, but also didn’t spend a lot of time on it. Perhaps the most time-consuming of this list of five was the search for manufacturer’s coupons in the Sunday paper, and it’s something we no longer do because it had just about the least pay-off for us.

Have you used coupons in the last few years? How has it worked out for you? 

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