Extreme Couponing: Does it really pay?

By David Seeger, WNWO Today Money Monday financial expert

Coupons were first introduced in the United States in 1887 by the Coca Cola Company where an aggressive marketing department decided to try a new way of marketing to their potential customers. It was then the coupon was born in the U.S. and followed later by CW Post to sell cereal. Coupons have been part of the American shopping tradition ever since.

It is estimated by NCH Marketing Services, Inc. that U.S. consumers saved in the vicinity of $4 billion dollars in 2011 just by using coupons when they shopped! But it's important to remember that coupons are an attempt by advertisers to modify behavior.

Take the case of JC Penny. The new CEO did away with coupons and the discount-type sales promotions. When he did this, sales slumped to the point of crisis at the company and they have brought back the old CEO to replace him. The consumer has been so conditioned to buy when it is a â??perceivedâ?? deal and a deal is often times accompanied via a â??couponâ?? of some sort. Qâ??s are a way of life in our consumer behavior.

As in life in general, there are always pros and cons to everything. First, the cons as described by

1. You often have to buy something, newspaper, product, etc., just to get the coupon.

2. Coupons are marketing tools designed to modify behavior

3. Coupons encourage overbuying.

4. The savings versus time investment is low with coupons.

5. Coupons typically push prepackaged, processed foods.

Yet with the popularity of the TV show Extreme Couponing, a lot of people do engage in this couponing activity and have come up with ways to get make it â??time and cost effectiveâ?? in their opinion. They refer to this as â??Strategic Shopping.â?? Here are the pros and approaches discussed on the reality show and other type sources:

1. Buy the Sunday paper at the dollar store for the coupons

2. Ask friend/family to save unwanted coupon inserts

3. Visit coffeehouses, fast-food joints and anywhere else Sunday papers are read and tossed aside.

4. They even suggest pulling coupon sections from recycle bins.

5. Engage in networking groups to trade coupons.

6. Go to sites such as and to help being selective on the type of coupons you desire to make a purchase with. The site is managed by Stephanie Nelson that wrote the book The Coupon Momâ??s Guide to Cutting Your Food Bill.â?? She is a huge advocate of couponing to save money for the family and has become more like a vocation for her. Any talk of couponing that is a waste of time has been squelched in her estimation by what she has done.

After all said and done, there still is a huge time factor involved with couponing. So, to minimize your time involved and maximize your return on your effort, only use coupons when they are associated with a sale to insure there is a true value associated with the effort, according to Laura Harder, who has a blog called Beltway Bargain Mom. She feels in doing this, it will maximize your time effort and will help you avoid the need to buy at full price until the next sale comes along.

If you choose to go organic, there is a website where you can go for coupons for said products at

And of course, there are several apps for the couponing efforts as well eliminating the cutting the coupon from a newspaper or magazine:

1. Target app â?? you can shop online and use their online coupons, discounts, etc.

2. Walgreen app â?? this app allows you to scan the barcode to see if there is a coupon available while you are in the store.

3. Shopkick app â?? this app gives you points that are redeemable at major retail stores just for walking into the store. IT detects your phone is there and credits you with points that can be redeem for purchases from those stores at some discount.

4. The Coupon App â?? app provides a coupon widget that gives you daily deals. It comprises a larger data base of coupons.

5. SnipSnap app - Allows you to take a picture of coupons with your smartphone. The app not only captures the image of the coupon, but stores them by expiration date and provides in-store reminders. Also, you can connect to friends and share coupons digitally.

6. Yowza app â?? Alerts you to coupons and deals in your geographic area. You can have the cashier in the store scan the coupons right from your phoneâ?¦.thereby working like traditional paper coupons.