Consumerism on a Budget: Why Americans Proudly Use and Love Coupons

Maybe Americans love of extreme couponing has something to do with their Puritan roots. While the word “frugal” probably wasn’t tossed around when the early settlers set up shop on American shores, making the food stretch and getting through the harsh New England winters certainly required vast amounts of foresight and budgeting. According to statistics compiled by the coupon-and-promo-code site RetailMeNot, which surveyed 10,000 consumers from 11 countries, Americans are the most frugal shoppers and deal hunters in the world. Numbers don’t lie, but what do these statistics say about our society?

Taking Pride in Saving Money

According to RetailMeNot, nearly half (48 percent) of consumers in the United States said that they use coupons as a symbol of their savvy shopping. Now compare that number to Sweden, where only 15 percent of consumers think that looking for opportunities to save money is important. Whether cutting food coupons from the Sunday newspaper or clicking through websites for Black Friday-type sales, in the end, it doesn’t matter if we shop at a brick and mortar store or find it online, we pride ourselves in saving money on products and gravitate towards places with the best deals, discounts and sales. Of course, why Americans spend so much time devoted to finding the best deal is another question; for many shoppers, bargain hunting is a hobby, sport and Grail quest all rolled into one. Our society may be comprised of entrepreneurial money-makers, but it is also a society of getting the most out of our money. Those 17th century Puritans would be proud.

America’s Most Coupon Loving Cities

So if we are a nation of couponers, what cities and regions take the gold medal when it comes to bargain hunting? According to DailyFinance, Midwestern and Southern shoppers love digital coupons, with Atlanta taking the top spot as the city with the most online couponers. Boston, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C. have the most frugal shoppers in the Northeast (notice the exception of New York). In Coupons.com’s Top 25 Most Frugal Cities list, the West Coast is the least frugal region in the nation, with only Seattle making the cut. What, if anything, does this say about Californians?

Couponing as Couture

People have always cut coupons and looked for doorbuster deals at stores. Who doesn’t want to save a couple of bucks, right? Budget shopping, however, gained popular attention following the 2008 recession. It makes sense. If you’re not in a good financial position, you will look to budget and cut costs everywhere you can. Savvy shopping became trendy, a sort of fashion-cum-lifestyle statement.

Just as all fashion fads rise and fall, however, couponing is not as trendy as it once was. According to NCH Marketing Services, manufacturers sent 305 billion coupons into circulation in the U.S. last year. That’s roughly the same total as 2011. However, the number of coupons used by consumers in 2012 measured 2.9 billion, representing a dip of 17 percent compared to the year before. Still, the question remains: are Americans more financially secure today and therefore using less coupons, or is the couponing craze as a trendy lifestyle statement waning? It all depends on whether you ask a budget-shopper or a spendthrift.

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Author: Average Joe

A 16 year veteran of the financial planning and financial media circus. Lover of hamburgers and ice cream.

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2 Comments

  1. Interesting about the demographics of couponing. <spell check says that's not a word. hmm. For me, with the exception of having coupons for things like Target and Kohls's, when it comes to food, most of the stuff I buy is not covered by coupons. Most of it…is kind of junky stuff. I mostly use coupons for grooming and makeup type products.

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  2. I don’t coupon hard core but always look for an online code before check out. It is easy and more often than not you can save a bit for little effort.

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