SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

September 18, 2010

Is there a stigma to using coupons?

Tips from the Coupon Queen

JILL CATALDO
CTW Features

— Last week, we took a look at the demographics of a typical coupon user. Did you know that the heaviest users of coupons make more than $70,000 per year? According to studies by Nielsen Co., those who use coupons the least earn less than $20,000 per year.

Why don’t lower-income people use coupons? Is there a stigma to using coupons that prevents some people from using them?

Actually, there is. There’s a widespread belief among the non-coupon set that “only poor people use coupons.” Of course, according to Nielsen studies, the opposite is true. Some people, though, are genuinely afraid of appearing “poor” in the checkout lane. They don’t want someone to think they must be enduring financial hardship.

In Super-Couponing workshops, I often hear stories from readers who say they have been “shamed” in the checkout lane of a grocery store. One woman was watching the cashier scan her large pile of coupons and the couple standing behind her turned to each other and said, “Remember when we had to use coupons a few years ago?” As if having to use coupons is somehow embarrassing! Another shopper, a father with a baby, stood in the lane handing coupons to the cashier and heard a woman behind him comment, “I know how much you must be struggling, having to use all those coupons.” She handed him a $20 bill and patted him on the shoulder!

Fortunately, both shoppers took the patronizing comments in stride – and made sure to point out that they were choosing to use coupons, not forced to. But stories like these suggest that some people perceive coupon shoppers as needy. And the idea that someone, anyone, may assume you’re poor if you use coupons is enough to deter some people from even considering picking up a pair of scissors. Now, that’s the real shame!

Cultural attitudes may play a part, too. After teaching a coupon workshop in Spanish to a Spanish-speaking audience, I learned from the people in the class that there are strong, preconceived notions about coupons within some Hispanic communities. One twenty-something college student told me that her mother equated coupon use to food stamps: “Mama was so mad that I was going to a coupon class!” Manufacturers are working to break down some of these notions and attract Spanish-speaking audiences. SmartSource has issued its newspaper coupon insert in both Spanish and English and General Mills publishes a free, quarterly Spanish magazine called “Que Rica Vida” filled with recipes and coupons.

Lack of Internet access is another barrier to couponing. While anyone can clip coupons, the heaviest users turn to the Internet to maximize savings. They utilize printable coupons and electronic coupons that can be loaded online to shoppers’ cards. They rely on grocery list “match-up” websites that offer the easy ways to plan a shopping trip and craft a grocery list reflecting the best deals of the week and which coupons to use to get the lowest prices. If you’re looking for more information on any of these tools, visit www.supercouponing.com and click “Getting Started” for links to many popular printable coupon, electronic coupon and match-up sites.

The coupon enthusiasts I know are savvy shoppers who know the very best prices for the products they buy. They’re experts at spotting a deal and they’re not put off by any so-called “stigma” about using coupons. And, they realize that using coupons is a smart, even fun way to keep more of the money they earn in their wallets.

 

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