Stretching Your Dollar: E-Coupons

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COLUMBIA - If you've only recently bought into couponing, you're in good company. Thanks to the recession, Americans used $3.3 billion coupons in 2010, that's a 27% jump from 2008.

Now, businesses are figuring out you don't like clipping. Introducing the latest craze, the online deal. Mid-Missourians have many choices when it comes to cost-cutting.

Columbia bargain hunters celebrated Groupon's arrival earlier this year, but Groupon is just one option if you're looking to save money online.

"We have in our database over 14,000 customers who now look for their savings in their email account," co-owner of Modern Media Concepts, which operates the Add Sheet, Jake Sheafer said.

No longer just the yellow coupon magazine we all grew up with, the Add Sheet is making sure it appeals to all those customers who now look for savings in their email account. They now offer "Today's Big Deal" online each day.

In fact, mid-Missouri is erupting with new discounting options you can have delivered to your inbox, not your mailbox. Besides Add Sheet and Groupon, there is, most recently, "" Add that to the list of "Inside Columbia" magazines, "The Columbia Daily Tribune" and ""

It's the future for the deal-seeker and those businesses wanting to draw them in.

"We can make our website basically the coupon clearinghouse of Columbia," Sheafer said.

No matter which site you subscribe to, it's almost always 50% off a product, meal or service. When you open the email with the day's or week's deal, you decide if you want to buy in. If you do, you pay up-front, online, then print or download your voucher to be used as soon as the next day. The deals expire within a few weeks or months, but all of that's outlined in the detailed disclosure you can read before you pay.

Featured businesses split the discounted cost of the deal with the online offer-maker. Most businesses justify the deep discount with the hope of lots of new customers brought in by the deal.

"Upwards of 90% of people that are coming in off the Big Deal are faces they've never seen," Sheafer said.

Deal brokers vary the offers from paintball, to free appetizers, to a bikini wax because the same businesses offering the same discounts gets stale.