A look into more convenient coupons

University+of+Kentucky+student+Shannon+Frazer%2C+pictured+in+the+Kernel+office+on+10%2F14%2F09.+Photo+by+Ed+Matthews

University of Kentucky student Shannon Frazer, pictured in the Kernel office on 10/14/09. Photo by Ed Matthews

Column by Shannon Frazer. E-mail at [email protected]

I’m a bargain shopper. I rarely go shopping without a coupon in hand or store circular that highlights what’s on sale.

Maybe it’s my cheap college student mentality. Others embrace this mentality too, though.

Money-strapped college students often try to find ways to cut down on expenses whenever and wherever possible.

One of the most traditional methods, coupon-clipping, has become an antiquated practice, at least in the traditional sense.

But thanks to retailers like Target, JCPenney and various grocery manufacturers and restaurants, more discounts are now available online.

An Aug. 14 CNN Saturday Morning report revealed that more people are bypassing the paper version of coupons in favor of their online counterparts.

In the CNN report, financial analyst Clyde Anderson said the changing times have meant Sunday newspapers are not offering the coupons in the numbers they used to, as more merchants have elected to move discounts online, a sign that the Coupon 2.0 era has begun.

This change has even prompted the institution of coupon-clipping classes to teach people the art of searching for and selecting online coupons. The classes, which are available online or at physical locations, range from free to $25 in cost. These services have even begun to show up in Facebook ads, which direct people to the appropriate websites to sign up.

Shoppers also now have the ability to get coupons straight from their mobile devices.

The California-based KFSN news station reported in May that cell phones equipped with Internet can access mobile coupons. All customers have to do is show the phone coupon to cashiers at the register.

Customers just go to a retailer’s website or a mobile coupon aggregate site, enter their cell phone number and then select what offers they want to receive. The offers then arrive in a text message and are ready to redeem whenever customers choose to use them.

Blackberrys and iPhones have hundreds of downloadable mobile coupon applications.

According to the KFSN report, mobile coupons have a higher rate of redemption: 5 to 20 percent, as opposed to 1 percent from traditionally-printed coupons.

Manufacturers approve of this move to the Internet, because it’s cheaper and provides a way to track customer spending trends. And consumers are equally as thrilled to have discounts at the click of a button, rather than have to go through and clip out the coupons, thereby saving paper and largely increasing convenience.

Coupons no longer have to be outdated little pieces of paper that arrive in circulars each week. Rather, they can continue to be practical ways for consumers, particularly college students, to save money in this penny-pinching economy.

I’m not sure I’ll be as apt as other customers to give up my paper coupons right away, but the convenience and environmental impact are definitely things to consider.