Affluent Consumers Clip Coupons. Poor People? Not So Much

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Some 1.6 billion coupons were redeemed in the U.S. in the first half of 2009. That’s up 23 percent compared to last year. Who is turning all those coupons in to save on purchases? Odds are it’s a suburbanite who is fairly well off.

The Nielsen Company just released some new research about who uses coupons, and how consumers use them. The findings include:

* More affluent consumers ($70k+) are considered super heavy coupon2 users (39 percent compared to 35 percent for total U.S. households) and coupon enthusiasts (42 percent compared to 35 percent for total U.S. households.)

* Other serious coupon users include those from large households, those households with female heads age 54 and younger, as well as consumers living in affluent suburban3 and comfortable country4 spreads.

* Those likely to be low or non-coupon users: low-income, 1-member households, male-only head of households, African-Americans and Hispanic consumers, residents in rural and struggling urban areas.

So the people who could benefit most by using coupons (poor people) are very unlikely to actually use coupons. Why? If you’re interested, there are plenty of comments—some informed, some less so—about the topic at Consumerist and Consuming Interest.

Certainly, I agree with the theory that using coupons well is not easy. To do it right and take advantage of the potential savings, you need time, patience, and organization. You need to sift through papers and websites and go to multiple stores. This can be difficult for anybody, let alone a family that’s just scraping by.

On the other hand, the stats from Nielsen show that a significant chunk of people who earn decent money are big-time coupon users. If you can use them and you don’t, you’re basically throwing money away unnecessarily.

For advice on how to use coupons wisely, check out a Q&A with the Consumer Queen. Also interesting: The rise of coupons you don’t clip out of newspapers. You show them on your cell phone instead.