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.
The Nielsen Company, a global advertising research firm, found that more affluent households (annual income greater than $70,000) have dominated the coupon trend. According to Nielsen, sales promotions are generally targeted in areas with more affluent consumers because their ability to recognize the value of money makes them better at looking for deals.
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
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 the 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 customers 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 think paying someone to clip coupons seems counter-intuitive, the company's thousands (12,236 to be exact) of Facebook fans seem to think otherwise.
Personalized Financial Plans for an Uncertain Market
In today’s uncertain market, investors are looking for answers to help them grow and protect their savings. So we partnered with Vanguard Advisers -- one of the most trusted names in finance -- to offer you a financial plan built to withstand a variety of market and economic conditions. A Vanguard advisor will craft your customized plan and then manage your savings, giving you more confidence to help you meet your goals. Click here to get started.