NDSU Extension - Sargent County


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Couponing in 2016 Style



Back in 1895, C.W. Post offered a 1-cent coupon good toward the purchase of his new breakfast cereal. Couponing has been with us ever since as way for consumers to save money in the marketplace.

Looking beyond the option to use paper coupons, peel-off coupons, tear-pad coupons, and coupons that print on the front or back of our receipts, we see a plethora of other choices.  These include online coupons, coupon and rebate apps for smartphones and other mobile devices, and social media marketing.

The first task for the consumer is to be well-informed before they enter today’s couponing world and to decide if the benefits outweigh the risks and/or hassles.  The consumer’s second task is to be firmly committed to resisting the temptation to buy something just because you have a coupon.  

With electronic couponing resources, be sure to evaluate each service thoroughly before using it, read reviews, get recommendations from friends and be very careful with your identity information.

Many companies post coupons online. You can search for them, print them or send them to your smartphone. Search only on reputable sites, or those marked as “safe” by your computer virus protection program.  If the bar code doesn’t print properly, you may need to download a coupon printer program.

Some coupons come to us via e-mail.  The consumer caution here is to consider the consequences of giving the company your e-mail information.  Receiving lots of promotions and messages from the company could quickly fill up your e-mail inbox.  One work-around for this is to set up a separate e-mail account that you only use for couponing offers.   Read the agreement carefully and take note of what it says regarding how you can opt-out of the messages if you change your mind.

Coupons and discounts are also available from some businesses when you text a word or code to the number they provide.  The cautions for couponing via text messaging are the same as they are for couponing via e-mail.

Online coupon databases provide a searchable listing of available coupons.  Customer “loyalty” cards are also quite popular.  Using them does allow the business to track our spending habits and target us with coupons they think we will use, based on their record of our spending habits. 

Many mobile apps can be used with couponing. Consumers are wise to do some investigating to find the ones that will be best for them.  Read reviews and talk with friends.

Some apps allow you to search for coupons you want or browse categories, or trends to find “good deals.”  Coupons that can be saved to the mobile device are then accessed from the device when you are ready to use them at the checkout.  You simply show the clerk your on-screen barcode or Quick Response (QR) codes (it looks like a box).  The clerk scans it and you receive the discount. 

Other apps allow the user to take photos of paper coupons and upload them to the app, which then converts the coupon into a mobile-optimized scannable bar code.  Some retailers authorize the user to share those coupons, but if not, doing so would be considered fraud, which is illegal.

If you ever find yourself with good coupons that have expired, consider sharing them with the Overseas Coupon Program.  Through that program, the coupons will be given to overseas military families who, in most cases, will be allowed to use them for six months beyond their expiration date.  The Overseas Coupon Program organizers ask that coupons be no more than 60 days expired when you mail them because processing can be time-consuming. 

Please contact the Extension Office (724-3355, ext. 5) to request a free fact sheet with more information and tips about consumer couponing. 

PHOTO CREDIT:  https://pixabay.com/en/coupons-promo-codes-shopping-coupon-580420/  (downloaded 1/29/16)

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