Milwaukee, Wis., January 20, 2012: Shopping with coupons has become almost a competitive sport, with cable television shows featuring people who get piles of groceries for little or no cash.
More than 330 billion coupons worth $1.2 billion were issued in 2010 and nearly 3 billion were redeemed, making it the biggest year ever for coupon distribution according to Coupons.com, a firm that aggregates coupons online and monitors couponing trends. Further growth was expected for 2011 and 2012.
The Better Business Bureau (BBB) advises consumers to focus on meeting their own needs and understanding store policies for the best results from coupon shopping. To avoid disappointment in the checkout lane, make sure you check the expiration date before you try to redeem a coupon.
“There’s no reason to buy products simply because you can save money on them,” said Randall Hoth, Wisconsin BBB president/CEO. “If you or your family can’t use the item within a reasonable time, then the products could be a waste of money and use up precious storage space in your home.”
Coupons are available in newspapers, in the mail or online, and anyone who wants to use them should have no trouble finding coupons on items they use regularly. With a little time and organization, most consumers can find ways to save money with coupons.
The BBB advises consumers to:
- Organize coupons in files or envelopes that you can carry with you to the store. Make a list of products you need that have coupons before you go shopping.
- Clip coupons only on products that you use or want to try.
- Be aware of stores’ coupon policies and read a coupon’s requirements before you try to use it. Some stores will double the face value of coupons or allow you to “stack” coupons on an item, which means you can use a manufacturer’s and a store coupon for the same item. There may be limits on the number or value of coupons that are doubled or how many may be stacked.
- Keep records of the prices of items you buy frequently so you can shop when they’re on sale. Remember to compare the cost of the item with the coupon to the cost of other items, such as store brands.
- Ask a store if it will match a competitor’s price on items that you have coupons for, saving you the trouble of visiting several stores.
- With online coupons, check to see if the coupon is being offered directly by the store or by a third party. If it’s from a third party, a store may ask for more information or require that the consumer sign up for additional services to redeem the coupon. If so, the BBB recommends using extreme caution before divulging any personal information.
- Don’t fall for phony coupons from email. Just because a coupon comes from a friend or family member, don’t assume the coupon is legitimate. If a coupon site asks for sensitive financial information, it could be a scam.
- If you end up with more products than you can use, consider donating them to a food pantry or other charity.
Before you do business with a company or charity, check its BBB Business Review
by going to www.bbb.org
or by calling 414-847-6000 (metro Milwaukee), 920-734-4352 (NE Wisconsin), 608-268-2221 (SW Wisconsin) or 800-273-1002 (elsewhere in Wisconsin).