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Saving money is no passing fashion, and now social media is giving spend-thrifty consumers in Terrace yet another avenue to save a buck — or hundreds.
What’s happening is a combination of old-fashioned coupon clipping with social media such as one Terrace Facebook group dedicated to tips and trading.
The group now has more than 50 members and its postings offer tips, suggestions and advice.
Local mother of two Denise Beaudette, who has saved about $1,000 over two months by clipping coupons, joined the Terrace & Area Coupon Trading Facebook group recently.
To her, clipping coupons is more than just a way to save money, it’s a hobby. Part of this hobby is meeting with others in the group to swap deals.
“If we just have an abundance of coupons that we’re not going to use, we’ll get together,” Beaudette said.
She looks for coupons on products like diapers and also health and hygiene products, and will trade coupons for products she won’t buy for those she will.
She’ll try to use as many coupons as possible per transaction, and her main money-saving trick is to use coupons on items already on sale.
“My best one so far was $230 [before discounts] and I paid $17 for it,” Beaudette said, explaining than in order to maximize savings it’s important to hold your ground at the till.
There’s a difference between a sale and a transaction, she said. A sale means one item purchased and a transaction means a group of items, she continued. This means that if a coupon says only one can be used per sale, multiple coupons can be used per transaction.
It’s about reading the fine print on a coupon, she said, and knowing a store’s policy.
“Have the policy with you when you get to the cash,” Beaudette advised, saying that it can help clear up misunderstandings about what’s acceptable where and lead to bigger savings.
Many store coupon policies can be found online, either on a store’s website or through an online coupon forum like the Terrace and Area Coupon Trading group.
Going online is good for more than just coupon and store policy tips — printable coupons can be found there, too.
Beaudette said she spends about five to six hours every week finding coupons and that she orders many online.
“You can go to a product website and see if they have a coupon,” she said, adding she has family down south who mail her printed coupons she can’t get here.
Between reading coupon blogs, the coupon trading Facebook group and store and product websites, Beaudette said she’s always learning new ways to stretch a dollar.
While social media provides a new meeting place for coupon users, UBC professor Tim Silk, an expert in consumer behaviour, rebates and incentives, said there’s nothing new about coupons, or the motive driving those who use them.
“Couponing has always been a pretty effective tool,” said Silk.
“It’s just a simple price promotion.”
What it comes down to, he continued, is that everybody has a price. What one product is worth to one person may be more or less than the next. So by using coupons, a company gains a sale, makes some profit, but doesn’t have to lower a product’s price to everyone, just to those willing to put in the effort.
“It’s really an issue of...motivation to save and time available,” Silk said in response to being asked why consumers clip coupons.
While an economic downturn can act as an incentive to save more for many consumers, those who are financially well off use coupons, too.
“A lot of us are socialized [and saving money] becomes a norm,” said Silk. “Sometimes frugalism is ingrained in you no matter where your life leads you... some people have these kind of rules that they use to govern their behaviour.
“There’s a lot of people that take merits of pride in their savvyness.”
Understanding the consumer behaviour behind incentive-based purchasing is all part of marketing, Silk continued, but in the case of extreme couponing, this kind of shopper has somewhat circumvented the system.
“It’s a term that’s called a market maven,” said Silk. “That’s what the term the industry gives to these coupon or saving savvy people.”
Much of the purpose of providing a coupon is to encourage product trial, Silk continued.
The hope is that if the consumer likes that product, they will continue to buy and sales will be gained.
Sometimes a coupon will be priced below a product’s cost to encourage this, he said.
But there’s something market mavens don’t always have that companies want — brand loyalty.
“They’re not attractive to a retailer or manufacturer,” said Silk.
“These people that are extremely savvy in using their coupons...and not loyal to brands.
“They’ll buy whatever is on discount,” he said. “There’s no point in having the incremental sale if you’re not making profit from that buyer.”