I am a chronic coupon clipper. When I spot a coupon in a flyer or online, either for a product I use or might conceivably one day need, I immediately cut or print it out. Unfortunately, I then promptly misplace it.
Tucked into drawers throughout my house are coupons with expiry dates ticking closer. As ubiquitous as they are when I'm tidying up, I can never find them when I'm rushing out the door to buy groceries. I feel guilty when I go shopping, coupon-less, reflecting on all the money I could have saved. But the gap between clipping and using coupons is a common one among my friends.
"I never remember to take my coupons with me to the store," admits one mother of two, who has always enjoyed cutting them out of the weekly flyers. "I buy whatever I need anyway."
Despite the lack of commitment to coupons among my friends, more consumers are using coupons to stretch their budgets, according to U.S. consumer research firm Nielsen. Coupon usage in the U.S. surged in 2009, after declining for three consecutive quarters last year.
"Without question, coupon usage is undergoing a renaissance," says Todd Hale, Senior Vice President, Consumer and Shopping Insights for Nielsen. "More consumers are looking for value and lower prices as retailers and manufacturers are distributing more coupons and making it easier for consumers to leverage technology to access coupons they want with less effort."
Coupon redemptions are being driven most powerfully by avid users, so-called "coupon enthusiasts", who use manufacturers' coupons to purchase over a hundred products a year.
It's time for me to evolve into a true coupon enthusiast. After all, a few dollars here and a couple of cents there add up. We've all heard stories of families who have clipped their way to hundreds of dollars in savings each month.
To give it a go, I need to find more coupons for the products I use most. In addition to the flyers that I find in my mailbox, I'm now looking for coupons online. While there aren't as many coupon sites yet in Canada as there are in the U.S., there are a few popular ones.
Flyerland.ca features grocery store flyers for supermarket chains in cities across Canada. Using the site's localized search feature, I can find out what deals are on at the Real Canadian Superstore closest to my house (Orville Redenbacher's Buttery Popcorn is half-price this week for $1.65 a box).
Redflagdeals.com lists deals and coupons on everything from food to clothing and from electronics to kitchenware (70 per cent off BPA-free sip bottles at Canadian Tire).
At Smartcanucks.ca, I found coupons for Mexx, the GAP, the Shoe Company, and John Frieda's Sheer Blonde hair care products.
I know that even the best coupons will go to waste if I can't find them when I need them. To solve that problem, I can implement one of the several useful methods for organizing coupons recommended at Tipnut.com. I may use the envelope filing system to store my coupons by category, or try a binder to group batches of coupons together by expiry date.
Either way, I'm looking forward to getting the coupons off my shelves and into the store.
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