Clip this: September is National Coupon Month
That's right, the habit of getting out the scissors on Sunday mornings to clip coupons from the newspaper, or going online to print them from home, is honored with a month of its own.
The mighty coupon is celebrating its 100th anniversary in September, marking the time since the first true coupon appeared in 1909, when grocer C.W. Post offered a penny off his new cereal, Grape-Nuts.
I'm not sure if President Obama or any other officials signed off on this, but the Promotion Marketing Association, or PMA, supports it, of course. Some are promoting it as a way to bring families together to clip coupons, or as a way to teach children math skills.
Those are fine, but I suspect most people simply want to save money by using coupons.
Jill Ferry of Aurora, Ill., is one of them, saving $20 to $30 a week, or more than double the $5.20 to $9.60 per week that the typical family saves using coupons, according to the PMA.
Ferry, 40, is a fan of CouponShack, a Web site I wrote about recently that lets users print coupons from home.
"I'm a stay-at-home mom, so I'm pretty religious when it comes to saving money," Ferry told me in a telephone interview.
The mother of two children said she's been using coupons regularly since college, a habit she learned from her mother. Coupons help her family stay within its budget and prevent impulse buying, she said.
"We'd probably have less money to spend on other stuff" without using coupons, she said.
In fact, when her husband returns home after buying anything, Ferry will quickly ask him where he went, and almost always she has a coupon for what he bought.
With 89% of the population saying they use coupons when shopping for grocery, household and healthcare items at supermarkets, according to the PMA, the Ferry family is within the norm and is probably doing a lot better than most. The PMA found that 97% of primary shoppers use coupons at supermarkets, saving an average of 7% on their grocery bills.
Ferry told me she saves about 10% to 15% on groceries by using coupons. That can add up to quite a bit of money at the end of the year.
At a time when coupons can be sent to your mobile phone so you just have to show the clerk the coupon code, it's nice to see families cutting coupons, even if from their home printers, as a way to save money. C.W. Post would have been proud.
Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area. Reach him at www.AaronCrowe.net