I consider myself to be a pretty “savvy” shopper.  I tend to steer toward the sale sections while shopping, and I often compare products based on price and value.  While I appreciate the concept of coupons, I find that the process of actually using them, is often more trouble than the coupon is worth.

For example, I have completely retired the practice of cutting coupons out of paper ads.  Not only is it time-consuming, but it also requires that people remember to take their coupons along with them when they go to the store.  Also, I almost always automatically recycle the ads that I receive at my home.  About ten years ago, I would thumb through different ads in search of coupons, but I always found that they were not of any use to myself or my family.  Perhaps if the ads were more catered toward individuals’ preference of certain products and shops, this practice would become useful to me again.  I would however, prefer online coupons in an effort to be more environmentally conscious.

Within the past year, I have only used two coupons.  Both were found online, and were listed directly on the business’s website.  I felt that this type of coupon was far less complicated, and only required a cell phone screenshot of the coupon for the business’s verification.  Being able to have coupons stored on a cellphone alleviates the risk of forgetting the coupon, since nearly everyone carries their cell phones with them these days.

I really try to utilize local, small businesses when I’m able to do so.  This is another factor that influences my lack of need for coupons.  The coupons that I see online, or receive at my home are usually for use at corporate, big-business chains.  If the coupons were for small businesses within a 5 mile range from my home, I believe I would be more inclined to at least look at them.

Another influential factor of coupon use is the fact that I rarely receive coupons for businesses that I actually patronize.  Perhaps if there were some type of online database that encouraged small, local businesses to provide coupons and information about special sales, the public would become more interested in using coupons again.  Even though I typically do not appreciate “spam” mail, I would actually appreciate receiving notifications about sales and coupons for my favorite shops and businesses.  For example, if this database existed, I could enter the businesses of my interest and sign up for e-mail notifications regarding upcoming events, sales and coupons.

Companies like Groupon and LivingSocial appear to be heading in the right direction, but they are still missing the practicality aspect.  When both companies first came about, I searched their sites for coupons, but after time, I grew frustrated because the products and services were most often, not of interest to me.  This is why I feel that being able to search in one place for coupons from businesses that I actually patronize would be so incredibly beneficial, not only to me, but to the business as well.

The practice of using coupons became too time-consuming, and I am rarely able to find a coupon that I would actually use while shopping for a product or service.  In order for me to return to the practice of using coupons, a few things would have to change.  First, the entire process would have to be relatively effortless and electronic.  The products and services being offered would have to cater to my personal interests and products of usage.  Lastly, it would make all of the difference to me if I were able to select which businesses send me coupons.  If I were able to visit a website and hand-pick the products, services and businesses of my choice, I would be far more inclined to utilize coupons.  This type of database would not only drastically decrease the current headaches involved with using coupons, but it would also hold the potential to save folks a lot of money- while simultaneously increasing the revenue for the participating businesses.

A special note from us at I’m In: Emily talks in her essay about a database of businesses to get coupon alerts.  You can search our store directory and sign up for coupon alerts with us at I’m In!