If you have seen considerably fewer coupons in the past few years compared to the previous decade, you are not imagining it.
Stores have been decreasing the number of coupons they print and offer, and soon we can expect the practice to disappear entirely.
In the rest of the article, we are going to look at how print coupons have been affected by the decline in newspaper distribution and the appearance of COVID-19, as well as explore alternatives to coupons and what you can do instead to make up the difference in your savings.
How Has Newspaper Distribution Affected Coupons?
The distribution of print coupons has been linked to newspapers throughout the former’s history. Unfortunately for coupons, newspaper distribution in the United States reached an almost all-time low in 2018, dropping to levels not seen since 1940.
To make the situation more dire, these numbers represent total circulation, not per capita, so if you take population growth into account, newspapers have become almost irrelevant.
The declines of newspapers and coupons create a vicious cycle where coupons depend on newspapers for distribution, but newspapers get a lot of their revenue from coupon inserts. Each decline causes the other to worsen, which then causes the first to decline further, and so on ad infinitum.
How Has COVID Affected Coupons?
When COVID was at its peak, we were made aware of how easily it can spread through touching of common items, so a lot of stores announced that they would temporarily stop accepting paper coupons to limit the spread of the disease. Like so many temporary things, a lot of these practices have persisted even as the impact of COVID has lessened.
Another way in which COVID has affected coupons is that a lot of people have gotten comfortable with ordering their groceries online and then either picking them up all prepared or getting them delivered to their homes. Because many traditional print coupons require scanning and collection in store, this automatically excludes them from practical use in situations where online orders are placed.
Are There Alternatives to Print Coupons?
Although print coupons are dying and will likely be completely gone soon, this is not to say that the practice of couponing is going to disappear completely.
We have seen digital coupons posted all over the internet, and these can work in much the same way, including having QR codes or barcodes that you can pull up on your smartphone to be scanned at the store just as if it was a paper coupon.
A lot of stores will also have contacts with their customers and potential customers in some way, be it a mailing list or an app. Through these media, the stores will often offer digital coupons to customers based on their individual shopping patterns and locations, creating a situation that is beneficial for both parties. Many people even consider this a step up from the old model of couponing.
How Do You Keep Costs Low Without Coupons?
If you have been shopping for a long time, you may be used to integrating coupons into your monthly budget. If this has been an essential part of your planning as far as home finances go, you might have found it a bit jarring how quickly coupons have dwindled.
The good news for you is that there are a lot of ways to make up for the difference in savings and get back to your old spending habits. Let’s look at five of these below.
In richer times, brand awareness used to mean buying the brands that had a prestigious reputation, either for quality or just renown. These used to and continue to be more expensive variants.
What a lot of people do not realize is that even though store brands may not have the renown of those famous logos everyone grew up with, the quality they offer is often on par with the name brands.
The much more important difference is that store brands have significantly lower costs than their shiny competitors. Switching over to store brands, if you have not already, can save you more money on your regular grocery shop than even the coupons used to when they were at their peak.
Buying a lot of perishables wholesale may not be practical, but by contrast, there is a huge number of regular groceries that last long enough to make wholesale purchases a viable option.
By taking this route, you can take advantage of a lot of the lower prices that retailers themselves benefit from when they stock the very items that they would otherwise be resold to you at a higher price.
Keeping an Eye Out for Sales
Even though print coupons are fading away, the concept of discounts is never going to disappear, continuing in one form or another.
- One of the most common forms in which discounts appear is in the sales. Sometimes it is a store-wide discount and other times it will be just for a subset of products.
- By keeping an eye on what is discounted and when, you can time your shopping in such a way that over the month, you buy the same items as you otherwise would, but because you took advantage of as many specific sales as you could, you would have paid less money for them in the long run.
- Although less convenient and a bit more time-consuming, this method can often net you greater savings compared to back when you were using traditional coupons.
We learned earlier about digital coupons. If you have not yet downloaded your local grocery stores’ apps, now is the time. Once you do this, you can start receiving digital coupons directly to your phone, which can be a nice alternative to print coupons in the newspaper.
You can also try hunting for digital coupons online. A lot of local groups will keep track of them and share the ones that are not created just for one specific buyer. Because digital coupons can be replicated infinitely, there is no downside to sharing them, so this practice is regularly enough encountered.
Earning Cash Back
A lot of stores, apps, and third parties offer some sort of rebate program. If you find one that works with how you do your shopping, this can feel like getting free money which can effectively be the same as saving in the first place as long as you have got the money buffer.
Although coupons are dying, this does not mean that savings have to as well. We have learned about why this is happening, but more importantly, looked at five ways to make up for it, so you are now ready to go out and shop again without breaking the bank.
Guest Author Bio
Steve Costello is a freelance writer with more than 10 years of experience writing about travel, personal finance, and technology.