Q&A with a Coupon Cutting Guru

I have found a new financial hero: Kyle James. He is a coupon god.

Many guys -- as he alludes to on his coupon blog -- still have a 1950s mentality with coupons. They think it's women's work. Although my guess is that with every increasing penny at the gas station pump, men are starting to see coupon clipping for the sport it is.

James, 33, started his California-based business, Rather-Be-Shopping.com, back in 2001 and has turned it into a successful business that supports him, his stay-at-home wife and their three young kids -- in other words, this web site is presumably as good as it looks. In fact, from what I understand, he has 2,500 visitors a day who come to check out coupons from over 500 retailers.

And hoping to be similarly helpful to WalletPoppers, I conducted a mini-interview with Mr. James about coupons.

WalletPop:What type of coupons are people gravitating toward these days?
Kyle James:
Free shipping coupons, big-time, the past couple months. I get more email from shoppers looking for free shipping coupons than anything else. It seems to go across all shopping categories as well. People always bring up the high cost of gas as a big factor. I think consumers are really measuring how much they drive, and see the direct benefit of shopping from home and getting it delivered to their doorstep for free. It's almost as if shoppers feel like they are beating the system if they can find and use a free shipping coupon.

WalletPop: Any coupons that people are staying away from?
Kyle James: From what I have seen on my site, consumers are cutting back on luxury items, especially electronics. I have seen a 35% decrease of users clicking through my electronics category. These are retailers like Best Buy, Circuit City and the Apple Store. I thought this would perhaps change at the time the economic stimulus checks were mailed out in mid-May. From what I saw on my site, it just didn't happen. I think consumers used the money to pay down debt or saved it. Or used it to fill up their big SUV with gas!

WalletPop: And what advice would you give people who want to organize their coupons? I know that in my case, I'll clip coupons, get all excited about what I'm going to save, put them all in a special folder or drawer -- and then I forget all about them until I'm at the checkout line at the store.
Kyle James:
That's funny. I used to do the same thing. But what my wife and I do now is store the coupons that we clip in a clear plastic, accordion style, check holder. We picked ours up at Office Depot for a couple bucks. But when it comes to remembering to use them, here is what I do. Right after you make your grocery shopping list, match up any coupons you have with the items on your list. Then paperclip the coupons you will use directly to your shopping list. This will not only remind you to use them, but also save you a ton of time once you reach the checkout line.

WalletPop: OK, sounds like a good strategy.
Kyle James: As for online coupons, that one is a little trickier. I always tell people to get into the habit of looking for the "Enter Your 'Coupon Code' Here" box when checking out. I would guess that 90% of all online stores offer coupons at one time or another. Once you use a free shipping coupon or one for 20% off your order, the habit will quickly become an addiction to savings. It has become a game for me. When I am making a personal purchase or trying to find a coupon for one of my users, I am not satisfied until I find the best coupon or deal possible."
Although I mentioned coupon clipping, James' site mostly for online shopping, and James is adamant that if you're going to make some purchases on the Internet, this is the place to go. "The difference between my site and many other coupon sites is that I actually verify that the coupon works before I post it and am available to help shoppers find and use coupons," he told me over email. "I make sure anyone that emails me winds up with a coupon to save some money."
And James does have regular coupons for in-store purchases at his site. "I'm always finding printable coupons that you can take into the stores," says James, "so a few months ago, I created a printable coupons page. It's not a big list, but I know people find it helpful."

Geoff Williams is a business journalist and the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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