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Clipping coupons: Is it still worth it?

It’s very rare that I go to a grocery store and not hand a coupon to the cashier. That’s why when I came across the latest trends of coupon use over last year, I was a little surprised. TIME magazine reports a new research study found Americans are cutting coupons out of their lives, with a 17% decrease in redemption of coupons in 2012.

Surely the economy hasn’t bounced back to where we want it, and surely it’s not because coupons are extinct.

I wasn’t prepared to take that statistic to heart, just yet.

The research company that did the study, NHC Marketing Services found that about 79.8 % of shoppers regularly used coupons in 2012 compared to 80.6% from the year before, and well above the average 63.6% that reportedly used coupons before the recession hit in 2007.

That means consumers are still clipping away at a steady pace.

What’s changed is how people “redeem” coupons and how companies are marketing their products to convince people to buy.

With digital options booming, such as, printable coupons, loadable coupons and coupons available straight on your phone, you may not need to clip coupons out of the paper anymore. But still, non-printed coupons are still only 1% of the total amount of coupons available, according to that same study.

The NHC study also found the main reason why people who reported using less coupons was simply because the coupons available aren’t for the products they want to buy. It’s true there aren’t many coupon options for meat, produce or natural products. And in order to keep people trying new things and to keep up with competition, manufacturers are constantly changing their brand, and thus, they send out coupons for products that people are unfamiliar with.

For example, if I find a brand of shampoo I really like, I will probably continue to buy it. But if in six months the company that makes it decides to put out a new shampoo, chances are their new coupons will be for the newer item, leaving me out of a coupon for the one I already love. So, I may choose to simply pay full price for the shampoo that works for me.

So, are coupons really worth the hassle of clipping, sorting and planning?

I think so. Yes, expiration dates have shortened, according to the study. Yes, coupons are now worth less than they did before, and yes, more and more coupons have increased the number of items you need to buy in order to use them. But with a little patience, flexibility and some planning, it’s still possible to save.

Allow yourself to try a new item with a new coupon, or venture out to a new brand every once in a while. There’s no reason you should pay full price for anything there’s a coupon for.

Find out here how you can save money at the grocery store.