Day thirty

I’ve almost made it to the end of Extreme Couponing month.  Tomorrow I will recap my month, talk about all the things I learned, the lessons I will keep with me and those I am glad to be done with.  Today, though, I will give you my finally tally of what I saved over the month.  I’ve tried my best to keep my receipts for all my grocery shops and basically everything I spent money on.  I was not as good at this as I would have liked, so the final tallies below for restaurant visits are estimates, and I also figure I lost a couple receipts along the way for other things (I was doing so well at keeping my coupons organized, I would sometimes forget to keep the receipts just as neat).  Therefore, keep in mind that these aren’t completely scientific figures, but they do represent the kind of money I did save by buying everything with a coupon:

Groceries: Before Coupons $194.61 – Spent $125.47 = Saved $69.14!

Household and beauty supplies: Before Coupons $66.45 – Spent $31.67 = Saved $34.78! (I saved more than I spent!)

Restaurants and Entertainment: Before Coupons $235 – Spent $200 = Saved $35! (these are estimates as after a glass of wine and a good chat with a friend I sometimes lost track of the goal to keep the receipt)

Total Before Coupons: $496.06
Total Spent: $357.14
Total Saved: $138.92!!!!
(This doesn’t include the fact that I used coupons on top of  items already on sale, so I saved money that way as well)

I didn’t buy very many things that I wouldn’t have bought already – I mostly stayed with my organics and healthier food.  I actually bought much less than I normally would and I always had plenty of food to eat (good lesson for future grocery shops).  I still went out and sometimes would treat friends to dinner with my coupons in exchange for them buying theatre tickets, or helping me with the blog.  I must admit, though, that a lot of friends did buy me a beer, etc. or agree to come over to my house for me to cook for them instead of going out, so I thank them for being so supportive.  I couldn’t of done it without you guys!

Day twenty-nine

Lots of exciting things have happened today in my Extreme Couponing world that I’m going to share!  It is both great and a little scary that after a month of couponing I now get really excited when I find a good deal or learn something new about coupons…

Price matching

Today I price matched for the first time.  Many of the larger grocery and superstores (ie. Walmart, Zellers, Canadian Tire) will price match products with other stores, so you can buy the product from their store at the same price as elsewhere.  It was super easy too!  I went into Walmart today on purpose to test out price matching.  They have Raisin Bran for $4.95, but No Frills has a sale for the same box for $2.  I brought the No Frills flyer and the cereal to the checkout, showed them both to the cashier and I got the cereal for $2 – saving myself $2.95!  It’s a great way to get all your groceries in one spot, but get the savings from all the different stores.

Smart Source

Another first – my grandmother gave me my first Smart Source today!  Smart Source is a coupon insert you can find in many newspapers across Canada once or twice a month (in Toronto they are in the National Post, the Toronto Sun and The Toronto Star).  They have great coupons.  Included in this month’s insert: a mail-in rebate for a free Lysol No-Touch hand soap system and buy-one-get-one-free Mars chocolate bar, among other high value coupons!  The next one to come out is April 16, so look out for it.

General Mills

When I wrote about coupon marketing a couple of days ago, I mentioned how most companies keep their coupon strategies to themselves.  Well today I got a phone call from Catherine Jackson from General Mills Canada Corporation who kindly told me a little about how their company uses coupons.  From a marketing perspective, General Mills’ primary goal in issuing coupons is an opportunity for customers to be able to try their new products for a reduced price.  New products are an unknown and a coupon will reduce this risk of testing out new items.  Most often General Mills issues coupons online through the mail-order coupon website save.ca.  According to Ms. Jackson, coupons are a very important program for General Mills.

Although this is not new information, it is nice that someone from one of the larger companies in Canada could comment on their reasons for issuing coupons.

My New Site Design!

Thank you to Regan Neudorf who designed the header/logo and to Will O’Hare for the headshot photography (willoharephotography.carbonmade.com).  You are the best!

Day twenty-eight

A couple of things that I missed this month:

There are a couple of topics that I missed (or I have talked a little bit on comments in other posts but haven’t mentioned in the blogs themselves) that I’d like to touch on for my fourth last day of Extreme Couponing.

  1. Loblaws coupon wall. As suggested by a couple of friends, there is a wall when you enter Loblaws (and some other groceries stores) that has all the tearpad coupons for the store on it.  If you’re shopping in Loblaws, it’s worth stopping by there first to see if there is a coupon for anything you want to buy.  It will save you a little money for hardly any effort.
  2. International couponing.  Although coupons exist in other countries, I can’t find anywhere else that is as coupon crazy as the United States.  As my friend in Australia said “Coupons (as a lifestyle or a sport) are not common in Australia. There is a little bit of couponing, and a few “cash back” offers after you purchase an item, but it is fairly uncommon here.” (I’m sure there is a social significance, but that’s a bigger issue than I have time for here…)
  3. Coupon trains. “A coupon train is a large envelope(envie) full of coupons, and a list of addresses – that shows the order (or who to send the train to next). Each person in turn receives the envelope and removes the coupons they want (and those that have expired) and then adds more coupons. And then the train goes around again.” (frugalshopper.ca) I didn’t have the chance to join a coupon train this month, but they are an important part of couponing culture and needed to be mentioned.
  4. Coupon trading. There are also online lists (like this one at frugalshopper.ca) where you can either post your wish list of coupons you want, or post coupons you have to trade.
  5. Online coupon community. Couponing and saving money have an extensive online community of people who support each other. If you’ve been inspired to become an extreme couponer yourself, they are always happy to have more people join their community of super savers.  Two such sites in Canada are smartcanucks.ca and frugalshopper.ca.
  6. Requesting coupons by mail. Some companies will mail you coupons if you request them by e-mail.  Click here for Mrs January’s list of Canadian companies that will mail you free coupons.  I have tried this with one company, but haven’t received the coupon yet.

Day twenty-seven

Group-buying coupon sites – are they really a good marketing tool?

Yesterday I talked a bit about why manufacturers issue coupons.  In our internet age, though, things are changing rapidly and every week I get an invite to a new group-buying coupon website or another place to find coupons online, which are very different from the traditional coupons.  With huge discounts off products and services (sometimes hundreds of dollars off), they are in a completely different league than the $1 off Ocean Spray coupon I used a couple of days ago.  And with the group-buying companies usually taking an extra 50% of the revenue from the coupons bought, what are the businesses left with in the end?

The Globe and Mail are in the midst of publishing a really interesting four-part series on the group-buying landscape that I would recommend reading to anyone interested in the topic (the fourth part is to appear online tomorrow).  From what I understand, signing up a business to issue coupons on sites like Groupon.com and Teambuy.ca means advertising and getting new customers in the door.  Even if the businesses aren’t making very much money off the product or service, they are gaining a lot by getting their name out there.  Groupon has over 550,000 subscribers in the Toronto area – so that’s 550,000 potential customers seeing your company name.  That doesn’t include the word-of-mouth advertising that could come next.

Unfortunately, I’m not entirely convinced that these sites will bring repeat customers.  From my experience, the coupons I’ve bought from group-buying sites are for places I already regularly attend (ie. restaurants, theatre), places I was going to try anyways without a coupon (although it did speed up the process of me actually going), or things I only bought because it was such a high discount and I’m not sure I would buy again for full price – even if my experience was great (organic food delivery).  A restaurant I used to work at never offered discounts because they said “discount prices bring discount guests”.  I’m wondering whether that is true.  Although these group-buying coupons get customers through the door once, will they actually come back for a second or third time and pay full price, or will they shop at a competitor/wait for the next deal?

Chairman of an Atlanta-based marketing firm, Al Ries – who wrote a very interesting blog post on Ad Age – doesn’t think so.  He believes that those group-buying shoppers will just return to Groupon (or whichever sites they are using) to wait for the next bargain.  He worries that, although effective in the short-term, coupons in general might not be the best long-term strategy:

It’s easy for a company to check sales and redeemed coupons to decide if its couponing program is financially successful or not. But what happens in the long term? How many customers will a company lose tomorrow because they stocked up on sale products today?

Or how many customers that regularly buy with coupons (or Groupons) will buy full price?  As Mrs. January, a hardcore couponer and money saver, said on Day thirteen, “I will buy whatever brand I can get the cheapest.”  So although the coupon (or sale) might encourage a customer away from a competitor once, does it really make them a loyal follower?  If not, does once really make up for the potential loss of revenue that comes from people using the hugely-discounted coupon?

Day twenty-six

Why do companies issue coupons?

Each company has it’s own internal marketing strategy to do with coupons (which I found out by trying to get quotes from big brand companies about the reasons they issue coupons – top secret information, apparently).  Although complicated and company specific, here are some basic ideas of why coupons are issued:

  1. A new product launch
  2. A “pull strategy” – customers pull the product off the shelves and ask the stores for more because they have a coupon
  3. To increase sales to hit a target
  4. To gather information about consumers, ie. when you get a coupon online and they ask you for your info
  5. To get rid of a product’s inventory to bring in a new size, package or product.
  6. To attract new customers, in hopes they continue to buy the product
  7. To bring back previous customers that were lured away by competitors
  8. To increase awareness of a product
  9. To soften price increases
  10. To develop the support of retail stores

A study published in the RAND Journal of Economics in the Summer of 2002 (“Why Do Manufacturers Issue Coupons? An Empirical Analysis of Breakfast Cereals”) concluded that:

coupons are driven by some combination of (1) strategic interactions between manufacturers, (2) incentives given to the people within firms who make decisions about coupons, and (3) the effects of coupons on repeat purchases. We are less convinced that explanations based on the vertical relationship between cereal manufacturers and retailers are important.

They also state that many manufacturers tend to dislike coupons and although there was a period of time in the mid-1990s when a number of manufacturers tried to stop coupons, the revolt from the public was so severe that they all started issuing them again.  In 1996, there were even boycotts on Procter & Gamble products after their attempt to stop issuing coupons, which led to local politicians becoming involved and P&G paying out $4.2 million to settle charges.  The crazy couponers have been around for awhile!

Sources:

Most of my information came from a few people who are experts in marketing or work in marketing who would rather not have their names online – so I won’t be citing them, but trust that they are trustworthy sources.

Some other sources I used:

Nevo, Aviv and Catherine Wolfram. “Why Do Manufacturers Issue Coupons? An Empirical Analysis of Breakfast Cereals.” The RAND Journal of Economics, Vol. 33, No. 2, (Summer, 2002), pp. 319-339

“Couponing as a Marketing Strategy.”  <http://www.santella.com/coupon.htm#COUPONING%20AS%20A%20MARKETING%20STRATEGY>

Reece, Thom.  “How To Put The Profit-Producing Power of Couponing To Work For You.” Business Know-How, 2005. < http://www.businessknowhow.com/marketing/couponing.htm >