Coupon Clipping: Extreme Savings, Hording or OCD

I've never been much of a coupon clipper. For one thing, I rarely see coupons for the things I buy. When I do, they either expire before I use them, or -- if I remember having clipped them -- I can't find the coupon when I need it. And more importantly, clipping coupons doesn't seem to be efficient from a cost/benefit perspective -- time searching, clipping, filing and all those things clippers do, divided by real savings. But according to yesterday's WSJ, there's a core group of consumers out there who would vehemently disagree.

The article states that according to "Inmar Inc., a coupon-processing agent ... amid the recession last year, the number of coupons redeemed rose 27%, to 3.3 billion from 2.6 billion in 2008 [and] The year-over-year percentage increase was the largest since Inmar started tracking the statistic more than 20 years ago." Those redeeming these 3.3 billion coupons aren't clipping them the old fashioned way, they're printing them from internet sites. According to The Journal "These discount devotees have formed vast online communities that collectively unearth and swap digital, mobile-phone and paper coupons. The cleverest shoppers combine dozens of coupons and go from store to store buying items in quantity, getting stuff free of charge …[and] Couponers trade deal information and coupons themselves through cellphones, Twitter, Facebook, and message boards on Web sites like Slickdeals.net and TheKrazyCouponLady.com, motivated as much by competitiveness as by frugality ... Proud shoppers [even] post photos of themselves posing with their latest hauls."

It's apparent from the many clippers quoted in the article that this phenomenon has less to do with savings and far more to do with amassing huge quantities of stuff that the clippers perceive as free. The Journal calls them "extreme clippers, ... people who redeem 104 or more coupons over six months, according to an August report by The Nielsen Co., ... [who also] tend to be females under the age of 54 with college degrees and household incomes above $70,000, Nielsen says."

From the clipper who erected "a 6-foot-tall tower featuring the 1,142 packages of Jell-O he had got for nothing" to the one who scored "$5 bags of dog food for nothing ... that her pet wouldn't eat", this increase is about something much more primal than frugality -- and it's not even helping to sell newspapers.

William Busch

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