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The Minneapolis Star Tribune has a story about three Minnesota women who have turned coupon redemption into a fine art; two of them have turned their talents into a website business advising other shoppers, and one of them actually used coupon redemption as a way of saving enough money to retire $50,000 worth of debt.

“I spent $300 to get $2,000 in groceries for my family of four last month," says Karen Gunter, one of the website advisors. "People hear that and they think I must have OCD: obsessive coupon disorder."

The story notes that “11 percent of shoppers who always use coupons. Sixty-six percent of Americans use coupons either very often or sometimes and 23 percent rarely or never use coupons, according to a 2009 survey by Illinois-based NCH Marketing Services. Those of us who clip or print coupons are using them in record numbers. More than 311 billion coupons were distributed nationwide last year and consumers redeemed 3.2 billion of them, a 23 percent increase from 2008.”

The paper also notes that “most coupons are an advertisement for a product we will never buy. Coupon critics complain that most grocery coupons are for highly processed and snack foods. Out of nearly 50 coupons in last week's Red Plum insert, five could be considered meal staples (pasta sauce, bread, vegetable oil, sour cream, and meat entrees). The rest were for fast food, snack food, pet food, vitamins and supplements, hair and makeup products and household cleaning products. Shoppers looking for healthier options have to dig deeper, said Gunter, but they're there.”
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