The extreme couponing fad is fading. But that doesn't mean there aren't other ways to save money when you're shopping.
While Americans still redeemed 2.9 billion coupons in 2012, that number is down 17% from the prior year, according to coupon industry heavyweight NCH Marketing.
Are we starting to see "coupon fatigue" among shoppers?
It seems you can't turn on the TV or go to the grocery store without witnessing extreme couponing. Sure, buying $200 worth of groceries for $6 sounds great, right? But most people don't have a part-time job's worth of spare time in which to clip coupons each week.
Nor do they always want what the coupons are offering.
"Saving 80 to 90% on your shopping trip is possible if you want to eat toothpaste for dinner and invest 30-40 hours per week in clipping coupons," says professional coupon blogger Jennie Sanford of BargainBlessings.com.
"[But] if you would rather dine on something a little more wholesome and spend more like 2 hours per week planning your meals and shopping, a savings goal of 40 to 50% is more practical."
That's why more people are turning their backs on extreme couponing and turning toward "practical couponing."
Practical couponing involves spending 2 hours or less clipping coupons online and out of newspapers each week. You still reap the money-saving benefits, but you don't spend all your free time doing it.
Jennie says it's important to find a blog that does the work of collecting info about relevant weekly coupons—especially ones that you can print out online.
If you don't know of a coupon blog near you, visit the DealPro page to get connected with local coupon blogs in nearly two dozen states. (Full disclosure: The parent company that co-owns ClarkHoward.com also owns Savings.com.)
One of the other main criticisms of extreme couponing is that it's difficult to find coupons for healthy foods. That's where the power of e-mail comes in, according to Jennie.
"My favorite way to get coupons from manufacturers of organic and gluten-free products is by sending them a quick e-mail to let them know I like their product, and to inquire if they offer any coupons," she says.
By doing that, Jennie has been able to get free item coupons from organic yogurt maker Stonyfield and other coupons from Applegate Farms, a company that sells organic and natural meats.
Want other ways to save money without going coupon crazy? Don't overlook these options:
- Salvage stores offer cheap food by selling dented cans and food that is near or past expiration date.
- Save money with store brands like those at Trader Joe's that are actually brand names repackaged for half the price—no coupon needed!
- Change where you shop by going to non-traditional channels like warehouse clubs, dollar stores, Aldi, and Walmart for big savings.
- Use a cash-back credit card, particularly the American Express Blue Cash Preffered Card that offers 6% on groceries, up to a max of $6,000 annually.