A smart couponer needs a great stash of coupons to score the best deals. Finding them can be a full-time job unless you know where to look and how to be efficient in your searching.
So, where are the coupons? Let’s look at what the statistics say. In February, I reported on the findings of the Valassis coupon report for 2011, which showed how coupon trends had changed from 2010 to 2011.
However, I completely understand you don’t recall anything about those findings. After all, we’ve had storms, St. Patrick’s Day, Spring Break, Masters Week and Easter to contend with. I spent Masters Week at home trying to organize and unpack some of our last few boxes, so my week wasn’t particularly restful.
Here are the main points: The number of coupons released to the public last year decreased slightly and the average value of a coupon remained the same at $1.54, but the average face value of a redeemed coupon jumped from $1.25 to $1.32. That jump is attributed to people redeeming more higher-value coupons, especially in nonfood categories.
The report also tells us where to look for coupons. Freestanding inserts, such as those produced by P&G, Red Plum, General Mills, Pepsi and Smart Source account for 89.4 percent of media coupon distribution.
Other types of media make up about 10.6 percent and include magazines (1.5 percent), “peelies” (1.1 percent), direct mail (2.3 percent) handout/in-store (4.2 percent) and miscellaneous (less than 2 percent).
What this means is that coupon inserts such as the ones found in The Augusta Chronicle are the largest local source for gathering coupons in our area. I maximize my access to coupons by purchasing a Sunday-only multiple subscription in order to collect several copies of the same coupon for stockpiling.
Even though my newspaper subscription is my major source for locating coupons, it is not the only media source that I use.
I also purchase a magazine called All You, which can be found at Walmart or purchased online through Amazon or through another online magazine retailer. All You is filled with coupons.
Each month’s issue has the total coupon value listed on the cover at the top right corner and lists each manufacturer and value on the contents page.
March’s issue contained $78.74 in coupons that included such brands as BIC, Dole, Lysol, Sparkle, Vaseline and Starkist. I purchase two copies of All You each month.
Booklets and store displays are another great source for manufacturer and store coupons.
Remember, you do not have to use a coupon at the store you find it in. You can use store coupons at any store that accepts competitor coupons, such as Publix and Bi-Lo.
Tearpads and “blinkies” (a term for a coupon machine with a blinking red light) usually have much longer expiration dates than traditional paper coupons.
Less than 2 percent of redeemed coupons come from Facebook, manufacturer Web sites or online through coupon Web sites.
However, this area is showing some of the fastest growth. The offers that can be located online through manufacturer Web sites or social media usually have very high value (25 percent to 50 percent of retail value) coupons, free samples and occasionally free product offers. These sample and trial offers are limited and usually given out only until the maximum has been reached.
Internet coupons are the biggest source of coupon fraud. To protect yourself, always know your sources. If you know you are getting coupons from a legitimate source then you can be certain that the coupons are legitimate. My favorite coupon sites are: Coupons.com, Smartsource.com, Redplum.com, Couponnetwork.com and Allyou.com. Manufacturer sites and Facebook pages are also safe places to find coupons.
I do not recommend coupon-clipping services or buying coupons on eBay. There is no way to be certain that the coupons were obtained through legal means.
Remember, the more coupons you can find, the more likely you can match a coupon to a sale. Then the big savings begin.
Until next time, happy shopping!