Study: Skipping Online Coupons Could Cost You $1,465 Per Year

What could you do with an extra $122 per month? You could find out simply by using online coupon codes. That $122 is the monthly savings an average American can expect from using online and mobile coupon codes, reveals a new spending and savings analysis from CouponFollow.

CouponFollow took a look at anonymized data from its browser extension, Cently, which automatically finds coupon codes at checkout. We analyzed data from over 435,000 successful coupon code uses to figure out how often and how much shoppers save when using online coupons. Lastly, we compared these savings rates to the average household’s spending, as reported in the Consumer Expenditure Survey for 2016-17.

In all, our study finds that the average American household could save as much as $1,465 per year — simply by taking advantage of online and mobile coupon codes.

Our online coupon code study highlights

  • We applied typical consumer usage to $23,016 in average consumer spending, and found that the average U.S. household could save $1,465 per year using coupons. That would lower household costs by 6.4%.
  • Shoppers could save the most per year by using online coupons for grocery and at-home food, which nets $316 in savings. This is followed by household items, for which coupon use can save $272 per year.
  • 40% of online purchases are successfully matched with a coupon.
  • For purchases matched with an online coupon, the average savings is $30 off at checkout. The average discount is 17.2% of the purchase total.
  • The highest dollar discounts per purchase are found in the travel category. Using online coupons saves $41 per purchase, which reflects both the coupon discount and the big-ticket nature of many travel expenses.
  • Shoppers are likely to get the largest discounts when using coupons for personal care and beauty purchases, with average savings at 19.4%.

Online coupon codes can save shoppers $1,465 per year

Most shoppers already use coupons at the online checkout; 78% of millennials say they’re likely to search for coupons or sales when shopping on the internet.

But shoppers don’t always remember or have the time to check for and use coupons or coupon codes. Skipping coupons can mean losing out on savings, but by how much?

We set out to identify exactly how much would the average household really save by always checking for coupon codes. To do so, we compared anonymized Cently coupon data with the most recent average spending figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES).

We paired over 400,000 datapoints from successful coupon code uses on Cently with corresponding CES spending categories. The total average household spending across all these categories we surveyed was $23,016, per CES figures.

Then, we applied typical coupon savings amounts to average spending in each CES expenditure category. This calculated how much a consumer would save by regularly checking for coupon codes for that purchase.

The data show that the average American can save $1,465 per year by checking for online coupon codes with a browser extension tool such as Cently. That’s an average savings of 6.4% off of the average total household spending of $23,016.

Typical households save most on food at home and household items with online coupon codes

Savings netted by coupon code use can vary widely by spending category. Here’s a full breakdown of the savings offered by spending category:

Americans would see the biggest savings if they used online coupons for groceries and food at home, at $316 saved. They’d also get big savings on household items ($272) and eating out ($264).

The amount of savings a typical household could expect each type of purchase is affected by several factors.

There is more room to save, for example, in the categories on which the typical U.S. household spend more. While coupon codes on food at home doesn’t offer the largest discounts of the categories we surveyed, Americans spend $4,363 on this per year, representing a big opportunity to save.

Savings were also impacted by our coupon data. Specifically, the probability a shopper with successfully find an online coupon, and the average discount they can expect to net from that discount.

The availability and savings offered by coupon codes varies quite a bit between spending categories and affect how much shoppers save.

In fact, personal care and beauty items offered the biggest savings as a percentage of the spending in that category, with $65.78 savings on $762 annual spending here — a discount of 8.6%.

Compare that to Travel, which had a lower savings of $37 despite $1,494 annual spending on this category, for a net savings of just 2.2%.

40% of purchases are matched with an online coupon, which save $30 on average at checkout

Sleeping on online and mobile coupons will cost you the chance to save hundreds of dollars, however. Here are the average savings metrics of online coupons found with Cently:

  • 39.9% of purchases are successfully matched with a valid coupon code
  • $30 per purchase is the average dollar amount saved with an online coupon
  • 17.2% is the average discount saved with a coupon, as a percentage of the total purchase amount

With 2 in 5 purchases matched with a coupon and the average savings at $30 at checkout, the potential for savings is promising.

Travel coupons save the most per purchase, personal care and beauty coupons offer the biggest discounts

On closer look at our data, however, we found that these metrics can vary significantly between purchase categories.

Here’s an overview of average online coupon outcomes for each of the shopping categories analyzed in this survey.

Overall, shoppers are most likely to save with online coupons when shopping for alcohol, while they’re least likely to save shopping for books and other reading materials.

Shoppers save the most per purchase when using coupons when making automotive ($41), household ($39), or alcohol purchase ($37) online. But they tend to spend less on these items overall.

Coupons are most commonly found for smoking and tobacco products (56.6% success rate), alcohol, and at-home food. Coupons are less likely to be found for travel purchases and personal care or beauty products.

Online shoppers get the biggest discounts when they use coupons for eating (20.3%), purchasing personal or beauty products (19.4%) or buying apparel or accessories (18.8%).

5 Ways to shop smarter with coupon codes

Our study proves it: the savings offered by online coupons are well worth the effort. Based on our findings, here are some shopping tips to get the most out of online coupons and deals — and get a piece of that $1,465 average savings.

Shop with seasonal retail trends. There are the most coupons available in October, according to our study, followed by April and May. But you’ll get the biggest discounts by far in November, thanks to Black Friday and winter holiday shopping season ramping up. October also offers big coupon savings as measured by dollars off the final purchase amount, while December offers solid discounts as percentages taken off the total purchase amount.

Here’s a graph showing when coupon codes are easiest to find and offering the biggest discounts, by month.

Use apps and extensions to your advantage. With the help of technology, you don’t have to spend extra time or effort chasing down coupon codes or deals. CouponFollow’s Cently browser extension, for example, can automatically check for coupon codes for the site you’re using and match your purchase with current deals.

Know when you should always check for coupons. Some shopping categories are more likely than others to offer easy savings with online coupons. For online purchases of alcohol, for example, coupons are easy to find and can offer big discounts. The same goes for apparel and accessories, and personal care and beauty.

And know when to call off the coupon search. Of course, it also helps to know which categories have lackluster coupon offerings, so you can avoid wasting time hunting for a deal that will never materialize. Books and reading materials don’t tend to have stellar coupon codes, according to our data. And while travel coupons can offer some of the biggest savings in dollar amounts, they can be harder to find and they have the lowest average discounts as a percentage of the total purchase amount.

Don’t forget other deals, too. While this data proves the value of online coupon codes, these aren’t the only way to save and spend less. Our data doesn’t reflect savings you could be getting from sitewide sales or discounts that don’t require a coupon code. In fact, combining retailer sales with coupon codes is a great shopping hack to maximize savings and spend even less.

Methodology

CouponFollow put together this study using data from the most recent Bureau of Labor Statistic’s Consumer Expenditure Survey (CES) from 2017. It also used anonymized coupon usage data from Cently, an automatic coupon browser extension created by CouponFollow, from July 2018 to June 2019.

CouponFollow carefully matched Cently spending categories to CES expenditure categories, as defined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. We only included Cently categories that are direct, corresponding matches to CES categories. Here’s an overview of what each category includes:

  • Automotive: Other automotive expenses besides gas, insurance, and car payments
  • Alcohol: Wine and Alcoholic Beverages
  • Apparel & Accessories: Accessories, Clothing, Handbags, Jewelry & Watches, Plus Size, Shoes, Sports Apparel, Uniforms
  • Eating Out: Restaurants, Food Delivery
  • Entertainment: Consumer Electronics, Crafts & Hobbies, DVDs & Movies, Exercise Equipment, Fitness Services, General Entertainment, General Sports / Fitness, Music, Musical Instruments, Outdoor, Party Supplies, Pets, Sports Equipment, Things To Do, Video Games
  • Food at Home: Coffee & Tea, Baked Goods & Candy, General Food & Gifts, Cooking & Grocery
  • Household Items: Babies & Kids, Collectibles, Cell phones, Computers & Accessories, Department store, General Home / Family, Home & Garden, Personalized Gifts
  • Personal Care & Beauty: Beauty & Cosmetics, Sexual Wellness
  • Reading: Books & Magazines
  • Travel: Air, General Travel, Hotels, Vacations & Packages

CouponFollow analyzed Cently data to generate three key coupon statistics:

  • Average success rate, which represents how often Cently is run and successfully matches a user with a coupon code
  • Average savings, which is the amount in dollars for the retailer when a coupon code is found.
  • Average discount, or the amount saved as percentage of cart total for the retailer when a code is found.

We analyzed coupon usage to find these averages for all our saving data, as well as for each purchase category analyzed.

To calculate the average savings of using coupon codes for an American household in dollars, we multiplied the CES’s average spending amount in each category by the coupon code success rate and average discount in each category. The total savings amount is the total of the average dollar savings in each category.