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America goes coupon crazy

Coupon use in the US boomed in 2011, but do you know who uses the most coupons?

By Giselle Smith Feb 28, 2012 4:20PM

As coupons have expanded from something you cut from the newspaper to include printable online deals and easy-to-flash smartphone downloads, do you find you're using them more than in the past? If so, you're not alone.


In fact, coupon redemption in the United States increased 63% in 2011, and Americans saved $3.7 billion as a result, reports. That dollar figure represents 3.3 billion coupons -- 100 million more than were used in 2009. (Post continues below.)

"Across the country, more Americans than ever before are turning to digital coupons to help them save their hard-earned cash," Jeanette Pavini, a savings expert with, said in a news release.


Who uses coupons? recently released its "The Most Frugal U.S. Cities" report, ranking the top 25 couponing cities in America. The five top cities for couponing are:

  1. Atlanta
  2. Tampa, Fla.
  3. St. Louis
  4. Cincinnati
  5. Raleigh, N.C.

Though four Southern cities showed up in the top 10, the Midwest ranks as the country's hottest couponing region, with nine cities in the top 25 and three in Ohio alone (Cleveland and Columbus, as well as Cincinnati). Four Northeast cities -- Pittsburgh (No. 13), Washington, D.C. (No. 16), Boston (No. 17) and Philadelphia (No. 25) -- made the list, but only two cities in the West: Seattle (No. 14) and Phoenix (No. 23).


The demographics of coupon users are also changing, becoming "younger, more affluent and tech-savvy," reports. More than half of 13- to 17-year-olds use coupons and coupon codes, and members of households with incomes of $100,000 or higher are twice as likely to print digital coupons than those in homes earning less than $35,000, the site reports. In addition, people with a college education are twice as likely as those who did not finish high school.


What do people use coupons for?

Of course, there's a difference between clipping a coupon (or accessing one online) and actually using it. When I stumble across a stack of coupons I've set aside for later use, I'm usually disappointed to find that at least half of them have expired.


The coupons that are most frequently used are for food purchases, reports, with 2.1 billion food coupons used in 2010, compared with 1.2 billion non-food coupons redeemed. And food coupon use increases near the end of the year.


The top categories for coupon use in 2009 were cereals, baking ingredients, entertainment, nutrition and diet, and bathroom tissue, the site reported.


Coupons getting more popular

The bulk of redeemed coupons -- 89% -- are still clipped from newspapers, and Internet coupons represent only 1.5% of those used, according to, but that's changing quickly. In 2011, 20% of smartphone users took advantage of mobile coupons, a 117% increase over 2010.


The site predicts that online coupon users will grow from 2.7 million in 2010 to 35 million in 2014 -- an increase of almost 1,300%.


Think it's not worth the bother searching for all those coupons? reports that "an hour of smart couponing is estimated to yield about $100 in savings."


What do you think? If you use coupons, does that sound like an accurate number?


More on MSN Money:

Feb 29, 2012 8:08AM

I have been using coupons for 20 years. The extreme couponing show has ruined it for everyone. Shorter expiration dates on coupons, different store policies & shelf clearing. I do not clear a shelf it is rude. I get about $600 a month of groceries for $350. I NEVER pay more than $1.50 for a box of cereal. If the store brand is cheaper I get that.

The stores "e" coupons are not doubled EVER. So if you load that coupon onto your savings card you get face value no more.

I print a copy of the stores coupon policy & take it with me & it has saved me more than a few times it is amazing how many cashiers DO NOT know their own store's coupon policy.


I also hate the "buy 2 & save 50cent" coupons. So I better be getting a damn good deal to use those. If you combine sale ad's w/coupons you can score.

I also get 10cents off per gallon at Fry's. So I do 99% of my shopping there now.


It can be done. I don't spend hours on this. And to the person whose stores will not accept internet printed coupons. If these are national chains read their policies all national chain stores accept these coupons.

Feb 29, 2012 2:30AM
Last year, 332 billion coupons were offered. Use of digital coupons taken from websites like coupons and Printapons is increasing but only 10% most of the coupons are surprisingly from sunday paper

Feb 29, 2012 2:29AM
I spend about 2-3 hours a week couponing and as a result I save on average $120 a week feeding a family of four.  The trick to use coupons when the item is actually on sale. My favorite store doubles coupons up to .60 (making that up to $1.20 savings).  I can also stack those coupons with e-coupons and store coupons, getting even more savings. My store also has fuel perks which means I save 5 cents a gallon on gas for every $50 of groceries I buy. I have actually paid less than $20 for a full tank of gas. I bought a small freezer so when I find meats at a great price, I can vacuum seal them and stock up. I started couponing last year and saved over $3000 on my family's grocery bill. I will never take couponing for granted again.
Feb 29, 2012 1:30AM
I use coupons ocassionally. Mostly it is for food, cleaning products, and some miscellaneous things (razors, toothpaste, etc.). Sometimes I will get coupons for take out/restaruant places if available.
Feb 29, 2012 1:27AM
Have tried using coupons on and off for a few years.  Usually don find coupons for what I'm buying or for what I need.  If I come across a coupon for something I buy on a regular, 9 times out of 10, the store brand is cheaper WITHOUT using the coupon.  If not, I use the coupon.  In my experience, it has proved more trouble than it's worth.  As for the people that spend hours a week clipping coupons and have dedicated rooms in their home for 195 bottles of ketchup, it's nothing but hoarding at it's worst.
Feb 29, 2012 1:24AM
I've watched that Extreme Couponing show in awe at how much those people save.  But I don't think it is realistic, as I have never been to a store that lets you use that many coupons, or double anything above 50 cents, and sometimes they don't double any coupons unless they are running a double coupon promotion.  The more I watch that show, I see a bunch of people who seem really overweight, with baskets full of disposable razors, shampoo, and frozen pizzas.  I rarely see anything healthy in their baskets.  I do like watching the people who donate everything they get for free.  Some of the others seem like hoarders.  :)  If I could get coupons for the healthy stuff we try to buy, I'd love it.  I don't need a 3 year supply of razors and Tic Tacs.  :)
Feb 29, 2012 12:41AM
I also visit a site that allows me to earn points when I redeem coupons.  These points allow me to earn gift cards to many retailers (Target, Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, etc.) . I figure that I might as well make everything count.  FootballMama, I agree.  It would be nice to get coupons for fruit and veggies. 
Feb 28, 2012 11:31PM
Ive been using coupons for years; however, not a single store in my town will accept internet coupons because too many people (evidently) have figured out a way to counterfeit them ... so doesn't do me a dang bit of good.
Feb 28, 2012 10:33PM
We use coupons extensively and use sites like Printable Coupons And Deals. Their listings are always current and easy to navigate.
Feb 28, 2012 10:24PM
It is really worth it if you take the time to find the deals and use the products. You would work for 15-20 an hour would you not? So, if you save that much cutting coupons for an hour, why not? I really only use the ones for drugstore products only. The Extreme Couponers show is not quite based in reality either. They spend an immense amount of time on it sorting and cutting, the products rarely show meat and veggies (am I missing something?) so that intense couponing is not for everyone. However some clipping is worth it.
Feb 28, 2012 8:59PM
In our household we shop the weekly sales, sometimes using coupons.  We save quite a bit of money in groceries shopping the weekly sales.  Sometimes stocking up on items we use the most.
Feb 28, 2012 7:41PM

It makes me mad that alot of manufacturers are only distributing coupons for products that you have to buy 2 or more. I won't use them unless the product is buy one get one free.

I love coupons. If I was rich, I would still use them LOL

Feb 28, 2012 7:37PM
It's getting to the point where you're paying a premium if you don't have a coupon or buy on a sale.  The "sale" price is the regular price most of the time in most places.

I use cellfire and other online coupon sources as well as the Sunday newspaper ads, and when I go shopping at my favorite supermarket, I expect the line printed on my receipt for "savings on store sales and manufacturers and store coupons" to be 1/2 what I actually paid - in other words, I saved 1/3 the total price.  But I'm probably actually saving about 10%, the rest coming because they keep saying the normal price is a "sale."  The $3.99 bag of chips I like has been on sale for $2.50 for all of 2012.  On the other hand, I stocked up on Oreos today because they were $1.99 instead of $3.99.  You have to know the history of prices to know when you're getting a good price.
Feb 28, 2012 7:10PM

The real reason coupon use is going up like this?  Because the economy really isn't as good as the media is letting on; and cash strapped peeps are having to resort to it more, to survive financially.  I doubt most people enjoy spending hours each day, couponing, though a few well might...


And on the latter, there were people like this person who went into a CVS I worked at, at that time, bought $200 worth of merchandise, and then pulled out a 2 foot stack of coupons, half expired, others for products she didn't even purchase (she tried to use a Crest coupon on Collgate), but I checked each, so had to reject em; but she kept having more and more to try.  In the end, and with customers behind her already beginning to shout at her for wasting their time and taking too long to go through all that; she got it down to 2 cents, and went to pay with a gift card.  2 hours latter, she came back for a refund, but wanted a full CASH REFUND.  Had to get the manager, who she argued with, trying to connvince he should substitute cash for coupons.  In the end, she had to go away satisfied with 2 cents on another gift card, but made the mistake of taking merchandise off the shelf, and taking it out the door with her, while holding the gift card in the other hand, as she was headed out the front door.  Because there was an in store security camera, it got caught all on tape...


Next day, her face was plastered behind the checkout, in the security camera photo, with "beware of coupon lady, she steals....  Do NOT redeem any gift cards from her, call manager if she insists".  I guess some people don't yet realize that if they shop lift, stores now have hidden video cameras....  This was 2008


The other, was someone who went to a resturant, ordered $20 worth of food, and kept making the waitress split up, and recombine the bill.  In the end, the person only paid $5, and "gave" the waitress an 80 cent "tip" for the meal she short changed by $15.  I arrived at that point, to eat myself, where this argument was going on, and the police got called by the resturant.  She tried to eat there another day when I was there eating my own meal, but the manager went to the door and told her "no one will serve you, leave, or we call the cops again".

Feb 28, 2012 5:33PM
I spend about 1-2 hours a week on coupons and save $30-50 while spending and average of $100. I know I could do much better if I had the time and resources, but this is definitely a good start for me.
And I agree, the coupons seem to be getting skimpier lately.

Feb 28, 2012 5:23PM
The coupons are getting skimpier here lately.  Probably due to extreme couponers.

We use coupons to save 40% to 60% off the grocery bill.   We took advantage of some toothpaste sales and have about 25 tubes. It's definitely a job to get the best results from using coupons.
 It's worth it though with prices going up and sizes going down.

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