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Consumers looking for bargains are increasingly clipping coupons. (Deborah Baic, The Globe and Mail)
Consumers looking for bargains are increasingly clipping coupons. (Deborah Baic, The Globe and Mail)

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Celebrating the coupon clipper Add to ...

It has been a banner year for coupon usage, as the recession brought out the frugalista in all of us.

In the first half of 2010 in the U.S., the number of coupons distributed rose 11.4 per cent and coupon redemption increased 7.9 per cent from a year ago, according to a recent NCH Marketing Services report. The growth so far this year builds on record-breaking trends in 2009 when 311 billion coupons were distributed in the U.S. market and coupon redemption increased 23 per cent. Market researchers suggest that a similar trend is at work in Canada as well.

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Coupons are no longer just the domain of the blue-rinse set - they have become a staple of the modern family budget.

The coupon clipper of yesteryear has evolved and now may prefer to download a coupon code on a mobile device than carefully snip one out of a weekly flyer.

The categories have also expanded, from grocery to restaurants, clothing, home improvement and all kinds of personal services. As September is officially national coupon month in the U.S., as declared by the non-profit Promotion Marketing Association, here are some fun coupon facts and some of my favourite coupon sites.

Things you may not know about coupons:

• The first known coupon was conceived in 1886. John Pemberton, a pharmacist from Atlanta, creates the recipe for the syrup used to make Coca-Cola and distributes free drink cards to people on the street encouraging them to try the new drink at a specific pharmacy.

• Consumers in the U.S. saved nearly $3.5 billion (U.S.) with coupons in 2009, an increase of $800 million or nearly 30 per cent more than the prior year.

• There were 367 billion coupons issued in 2009 in the U.S., at an average face value of $1.44

• 38 per cent of "super heavy" coupon users and 41 per cent of "enthusiasts" come from households with incomes greater than $70,000.

• Households with income of $100,000 and up were the primary drivers of coupon growth in 2009.

• 91 per cent of shoppers would walk away from the "perfect sweater" if it wasn't on sale, according to a recent Redplum.com Savings Style Survey. 73 per cent would come back later during a sale with a store coupon and 19 per cent would go to the sale racks instead.

• In 2009, Google searches for "Printable Coupons" and "Online Printable Coupons" doubled.

• Internet distribution of coupons was up 92 per cent and consumer redemption of these coupons up over 360 per cent in 2009 in the U.S., but still only 1.5 per cent of total coupons redeemed are Internet coupons.

Here are some coupon sites to check out:

Flyerland.ca: The folks at Flyerland.ca have a passion for promotions and their robust site lets you search by city for flyers and coupons at big brand stores and local haunts.

RedFlagDeals.com: RedFlagDeals features the latest deals and promotions at major stores across Canada. The site is set up so that you can search easily by product category as well as by seasonal category. This month, you can find a feature on back-to-school deals.

Groupon: The latest concept in coupons gives you access to a great deal, provided enough like-minded savers sign on and commit to buy the product or service. For example, at Groupon.ca today, you can find a salon in Toronto offering $170 worth of salon services for $60 as long as 30 people buy in.

Smartcanucks.ca: With an active community of coupon aficionados contributing coupon links and tips, this site always has a broad and current selection of coupons for stores across the country. If you don't see a coupon you need, you can check out the trading forum and arrange a swap with another member.

For ideas on how to get the most out of coupons during National Coupon Month, head to I Love Coupon Month, which features 30 days of savings tips.



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