When I was a child in the late 1970s and early '80s I helped my mom clip coupons from the Sunday newspaper inserts every week. She would give me a certain percentage of the coupon savings as pay for the job, and I unwittingly improved my math skills.
Nowadays, coupons seem to be everywhere. The newspaper still offers supplements such as SmartSource and P&G BrandSaver, and countless other savings offers have joined them. At our home over the course of a month, I usually receive TheHomeMag, Foothills Focus, RedPlum, Cactus Coupons, Valpak Savings and Savvy Shopper.
An enormous shift in the coupon world came when Groupon arrived on the scene in 2008 and started emailing one deal each day to its subscribers (for free), offering generous discounts to a wide variety of local businesses. The deal is offered for a short time, usually 24 hours, and if you want it, you buy it.
When Groupon launched in Tucson, its 50th city, in April 2010, I signed up right away. I like scoring a good deal - who doesn't? I also like that I receive just one electronic offer per day. Having a lot to choose from can be great in some situations, like shopping for a car or a pair of shoes, but not when it comes to coupons. I don't want to spend time poring over pages of offers and clipping the ones I might use.
I have been a Groupon subscriber for a year now. I am still a fan, and here's why: The savings are substantial. The discounts are usually 50 percent to 90 percent off. A Brazilian Blowout hair-smoothing treatment deal that I purchased was 60 percent off. Laser hair removal was 66 percent off.
The deals can be a kick in the pants, in a good way. I bought deals to Om and Jasper Food and Mixology, two restaurants my husband and I had talked about trying. Groupon gets me to commit - to fork over the money and use the coupon - versus having a coupon sit in a drawer in case I remember it's there and choose to use it.
Groupon presents deals for a wide variety of products and services. Restaurants and salon and spa services are often featured, and so are deals for kids' summer camp and plants from a nursery.
Groupon isn't the only game in town. LivingSocial and Buddy's Deals are similar websites offering local deals. How many more daily deal sites can businesses and consumers sustain? Will the volume of direct mail decrease, or will it even disappear over time? In the coming years, will people be using coupons and deals for each and every purchase?
Time will tell, but I know one thing for sure: People love to save money.
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E-mail Kelley Helfand at email@example.com