Economists: Coupon Use Is Up, Expected to Continue Increasing

Whether they are clipped from the Sunday newspaper, downloaded and printed from an Internet site or received on a mobile phone, millions of Americans are reported to utilize coupons weekly to balance their monthly budgets.

That trend will only increase, economists predict, although the gap between what is saved and what could be save is still quite large.

According to recent reports, strong interest in couponing has increased substantially over the past five years as consumers strive to balance their budgets while food costs continue to rise.

Shoppers saved $4.6 billion with coupons use in 2011, an increase of $500 million from the previous year, according to the Annual Topline U.S. Consumer Packaged Goods (CPG) Coupon Facts Report from NCH Marketing Services.

Coupons.org reported that in 2010, some 2.1 billion food coupons were redeemed – and that another 1.2 billion in non-food coupons were used.

Coupon Re-Boom Began in 2007

The change in the U.S. economy beginning with the recession in 2007 fueled the need to cut back and conserve, which is said to have influenced the coupon industry. Then, 2.6 billion coupons worth an average of $1.06 each were redeemed by consumers, totaling nearly $3 billion in money saved.

According to a report released by Simmons/Experian Research and Coupons Inc., by 2008, an estimated 36 million people relied on Internet couponing for savings, nearly four times the number reported three years prior. In addition, nearly 90 percent of consumers are estimated to use coupons at supermarkets to help keep food costs down as the economy continues to recover.

Tough financial times long have influenced coupon redemption rates. In fact, for more than a century, coupon usage has reflected the state of the American economy.

As times get tough, consumers search ways to pinch hard-earned pennies. The creation of coupons not only helped consumers, but it also helped those who market and advertise products.

John Pemberton of Atlanta is credited with distributing the first coupon. In 1887 he gave away coupon cards to people on the street to encourage them to try Coca-Cola at a specific pharmacy.

In 1895, C.W. Post took couponing to the next level when he distributed the first cents-off coupon worth one penny off a new cereal.

Coupons became a way of life during the Depression for people trying to make ends meet.

More Could Be Saved

As people continue to struggle to pay off debt while putting food on the table, the popularity of coupons increased. Yet millions of American consumers are not saving as much as they could.

While $470 billion in coupons were offered to consumers last year, a mere $4.6 billion were redeemed, reported Coupons.com. And consider that in 2010, every person in the United States had an opportunity to save about $1,667 through coupons, yet the average redemption was only around $10.

Coupon enthusiasts boast that the average family could easily save as much as $1,000 per year through couponing, which could add up over time into extra savings or even a vacation.

In as little as 15 minutes per week of clipping ads or printing coupons off the Internet, the average consumer can make a major dent in household expenses.

Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at bfay@debt.org.

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    Sources:

    1. Noguchi, Y. Economic Downturn Fuels Coupon Use. (2008, November 14). Retrieved from: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=94520847
    2. Smith, G. America goes coupon crazy. (2012, February 28). Retrieved from: http://money.msn.com/saving-money-tips/post.aspx?post=46465e0f-165d-4181-b589-94183df9d678
    3. Consumers receive $4.6 Billion Coupon Savings in 2011. (2012, January 26). JPS website. Retrieved from: http://www.santella.com/Trends.htm
    4. History of Coupons. Promotion Marketing Association (PMA) Educational Foundation, Inc. website. Retrieved August 19, 2012 from: http://www.nationalcouponmonth.com/history.aspx