Couponing was once a straightforward exercise that required only a pair of scissors, but it's no longer just about clipping from magazines and newspaper circulars. Mobile apps, websites, and even a TV show have made couponing a cottage industry, with experts sharing tips on how to maximize the savings. Think you know coupons? In honor of National Coupon Month in September, here are some of the most noteworthy stats and history behind this money-saving tool.
23 Fascinating Facts About Coupons
The first coupon dates to 1886, when John Pemberton, the inventor of Coca-Cola, gave out free cards to people on the street to get them to try the fizzy drink. Businessman Asa Candler bought the drink's rights two years later and had the vouchers inserted into magazines to reach a wider audience.
About 96 percent of shoppers claim to be coupon users, according to a 2014 survey by the coupon site RetailMeNot.
Although mobile apps can now call up coupons with the tap of a finger, about 85 percent of coupon users look for coupons for their store of choice before heading out shopping, according to the RetailMeNot and Placed survey.
Between traditional paper coupons and digital offers, about 329 billion coupons for consumer packaged goods such as food and cleaning products made their way to American consumers in 2013, according to a report by Inmar Analytics. That's more than 2,500 coupons per household.
Despite having to look no further than their mailbox or inbox for bargains, many consumers don't make the effort. The total value of the coupons in the Inmar report was $513 billion, or about $1,600 in annual savings for every person in the country. But consumers redeemed only $3.7 billion, or $11.60 a person.
People aren't just using their smartphones to play Pokémon Go. By 2019, mobile coupon usage could reach more than 1 billion consumers, according to Juniper Research, up from fewer than 560 million in 2014.
Coupon use tends to increase with age, but even younger consumers prefer to clip coupons the old-fashioned way. A 2015 survey commissioned by CreditCards.com shows that bargain hunters between 18 and 24 opt to clip paper coupons twice as often as they use other methods.
With just 2.5 billion coupons redeemed out of 321 billion distributed in 2015, according to Inmar's annual Promotion Industry Analysis, coupon use was down 13 percent from the previous year. It has continued to decline this year, down 4.4 percent from the first half of 2015.
When it comes to buying groceries, especially, consumers aren't likely to hop around the web for a bargain. Nielsen reported earlier this year that just 30 percent of grocery store shoppers had looked for coupons, deals, or promotions online in the previous six months.
Orlando, Florida, was named America's most frugal city by Coupons.com, which looked at the number of digital coupons clipped and the total dollar amount saved in 2015, accounting for population. Tampa, Florida, came in seventh.
According to RetailMeNot's analysis of click behavior, New York, Boston, and Philadelphia have the most active couponers relative to their total population.
Believe it or not, people who live in different areas of the country have different coupon preferences. RetailMeNot finds that coupon users in the Northeast are more likely to respond to a specific percentage off a purchase price, while Southern states prefer buy-one-get-one-free, or "BOGO," offers.
In a 2014 survey by ShopSmart magazine, 28 percent of women said they find coupons bothersome. Still, some women are willing to put up with them anyway: 15 percent consider coupons a "necessary evil."
While store brands are usually cheaper than name brands, the right coupon can be a game changer, according to The Krazy Coupon Lady. Often, combining a store promotion with a coupon snares the lowest price.
When the holiday crunch is on, retailers know it helps to give consumers a little extra incentive to open their wallets. About 90 percent of retail email campaigns during the 2014 holiday season featured some sort of offer, according to a study by Experian Marketing Services.
If Big Brother knows where shoppers are at all times, they might as well get a bargain out of it. Nearly half of consumers surveyed by the digital measurement and analytics firm ComScore in 2013 said they want retailers to send coupons to their phones when they are in or near a store.
Coupons that have multiple purchase requirements are on the decline, according to a 2015 Kantar Media analysis of coupon circulars -- good news for shoppers who may feel forced to buy more than they want to get a deal.
Coupon fraud is prompting companies to shorten the buying window before their coupons expire. Kantar Media reports that the average length is down to just over six weeks, and less for non-food products. High-value coupons often expire within a week, which makes it more difficult for scammers to sell, share, or steal coupons.