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Inflation's high — and coupons are increasingly difficult to find

MoneyWatch: Paper coupons on the decline
MoneyWatch: Paper coupons on the decline 03:22

It's more difficult than ever to find paper coupons, once a household staple for saving on groceries and other purchases. 

The reason is partly due to the pandemic, with manufacturers wanting to avoid shortages in case consumers respond to an offer, Axios senior breaking news reporter Kelly Tyko told CBS News. 

At the same time, Americans are redeeming fewer coupons, dropping from 2.6 billion coupons in 2006 to half of that — 1.3 billion — in 2019, according to a study from economists at Harvard University, Georgetown University and Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf. That's likely due to a shift in consumer behavior, with fewer shoppers opting to spend time cutting out coupons for small savings, they noted. 

But the disappearance of the coupon comes as Americans are grappling with the highest inflation in four decades, pushing up prices on many items at the grocery store. Yet there are other ways to save, such as by signing up for loyalty programs at stores or buying in bulk, Tyko said. 

"The truth is you cannot get the same savings that you were able to get years ago with paper coupons — and that's because there are far fewer coupons than there were," she noted. 

The supply-chain issues of the pandemic may have contributed to the decline of the coupon, she added. "Think about the empty shelves we experienced in the pandemic — if there is a great coupon, that can drive demand even more," Tyko said. "Manufacturers don't want to worry about that."

Another option for finding savings: Buy store brands, which can be cheaper than brand-name products, Tyko said. The products are often indistinguishable from brand-name products, but can cost far less. 

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