coupons

Hi, Jill: I read your couponing tips every week, and since I am a couponer from before you were born, I like seeing if you have any tips I am unaware of. Things have greatly changed from when I first began saving coupons and refunding.

You have advised holding onto a coupon and wait until the item goes on sale. My question: how long to wait?

Just today I clipped a few coupons out for paper products I use, but noticed the expiration date was in three weeks.

I have seen coupons with an expiration date of one week! Is this something new? I remember when I had a box full of coupons for just items I frequently use, but seems those days are over. Could you comment? Thanks for the help you pass on. - Barbara L.

Hi, Jill: Recently the coupon insert in our newspaper has been featuring coupons with less than two weeks' expiration dates on most of the brands that I use often. The inserts one Sunday had most coupons expiring a week and a half later. Also, there are fewer and thinner inserts. I believe the companies are scaling way down and intend to stop using coupons altogether. - Denise A.

Shortened expiration dates are not new, but I agree that we've been seeing them with increased frequency lately. Brands use shortened expiration dates for a variety of reasons.

A brand may want to boost sales on a product within a short period of time. Perhaps it is the end of a promotional period, and the brand is looking to achieve a rapid increase in sales. A brand might be launching a new product, and they want to offer a high-value coupon to quickly spark sales once the item hits the shelves.

Often, though, when a brand offers an extremely short-dated coupon with just a week or two until it reaches its expiration date, the manufacturer is trying to reduce coupon fraud. Unfortunately, coupon resale has grown rampant online, and coupons with shorter expiration dates are less attractive to coupon resellers.

It takes time to clip coupons, take orders and put them in the mail. Two or three days will pass before recipients get them - will they still have enough time to use those coupons in the store? If a coupon has a one-week expiration date, it becomes much less attractive to coupon resellers, as their customers will be upset if they don't receive the coupons with enough time to use them.

I don't think brands intend to get rid of coupons altogether. Over the past 10 years, I've heard lots of rumblings and rumors about couponing transitioning to digital platforms, but paper coupons are still around. New distribution statistics for newspaper insert coupons from Kantar Media show that the number of coupons distributed is down 12% from 2018's first half of the year. You might think that an enormous increase in digital coupons could be making up some of that market share, but the number of coupons distributed digitally is also down significantly from last year's increase. In 2018, Kantar's statistics showed that the total number of coupons distributed digitally increased 25% over 2017's numbers. However, this year, we've only seen about an 8% increase in digital.

So, whether we're talking paper or digital, the total number of coupons being distributed to consumers is down from previous years - but coupons are nowhere near disappearing. Marketers continue to test, try and experiment with different methods, releases and values to see what the most effective way to stimulate sales is.

With regard to short-dated coupons, my strategy is this: I look at how high the coupon's dollar value is. If it's significant (say, $8 or $10 off an over-the-counter medicine) and we also need the product, I'll look through the current sales ads to see which store has the item on sale at the lowest price. If the combination of the coupon and sale drops the item's price by half or better, I'll buy. If it's not an immediate need, I'll wait for the next deal to come around.

CTW Features Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to jill@ctwfeatures.com.

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