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After 125 Years, Paper Coupons Thrive Digitally

Laura Harders says using coupons can cut her grocery bill in half. (A. Greenbaum/VOA)

Money-saving vouchers can cut grocery bill in half

When Laura Harders does her family’s grocery shopping each Friday, she comes armed with a shopping list and coupons.

Harders started using coupons about six years ago, when she was expecting her first baby. She was planning to quit her job and needed to find a way the family could live on one income.

“So instead of having to go back to work, I was able to stay at home and almost bring an income just by what I’m able to save,” she says.

By using coupons, Harders usually cuts her grocery bill in half. On this day, she saved even more.

“Before the sale price, before coupons, my total went up to $80," she says. "After coupons and the sale items, I brought it down to $20.”

She collects coupons from different places.

“Most of my coupons I get from Sunday newspaper inserts," Harders says. "I also get a lot of coupons online. There are incredible sites such as and others as well as manufacturers' websites.”

But not all shoppers use coupons. Mariam Sindy doesn’t even like the idea. “I really think it’s really time consuming. And a lot of times I find that if I do find a coupon, for example if it comes with a cereal box, I leave it there, I forget it and when I remember, it’s expired.”

But clipping coupons doesn’t have to be time consuming, as Harders explains in workshops she leads on coupon shopping.

The first coupons were given out in 1887 in Atlanta, Georgia, by a man who wanted to build excitement about a new beverage, Coca-Cola.

One hundred-twenty-five years later, that’s still why businesses issue coupons. What has changed is the way they’re issued.

“More young people are actually using coupons because it goes directly to their cell phones," says marketing consultant Ferris Kaplan. "Then, when they go to the store of their choice, they walk into the store, they automatically use it while right there, without a printer, without paper, without having to look at a newspaper.”

The website Certifikid creates digital coupons for more than 1,000 businesses, and e-mails them to about 55,000 customers. Certifikid also profiles one of the businesses each day.

“You’re the star of that one day in these people’s e-mails," says founder Jamie Ratner. "So they’re reading about you, learning about your business, and then having the opportunity to purchase the coupon.”

With more young people going online to find deals and save money in this tough economy, Ratner expects digital coupon services to expand and thrive in the future.