Discount Coupon Books, At a Discount
Before there was Groupon, there were discount coupon books: national and regional publications full of dollars-off deals for food, entertainment and more.
The "more" part might surprise you. The price might, too, at this time of the year.
Is using coupons really worth the trouble, though?
I just paid $10 for two copies of the Entertainment Book, and I'll get a $2 rebate because I ordered through a cash-back shopping site. After I see one movie and take my sister out to lunch, the books will have paid for themselves -- and that's before I treat myself to half-price whole-grain bread or some amazing cupcakes and ice cream.
Other discount books are on sale, too:
- The Chinook Book. Deals on green and sustainable goods and services in Minneapolis/St. Paul, Seattle/Puget Sound, Denver, the Bay Area and Portland, Ore. Normally $20, now $12.
- Discover Indy. Two editions, one for central Indiana and the other for southern Ohio/northern Kentucky. Normally $20, now $10.
- Enjoy the City. 100 editions, mainly in the southeastern United States. Normally $20, now two for the price of one.
These books get discounted because their deals expire in November or December. You have less time to use them, obviously, but they pay for themselves pretty quickly -- that is, if this were stuff you were going to do anyway. As I noted in "When a store's deal isn’t a good deal," a coupon isn’t always a good thing.
Making back your money
These books also offer deals on things like restaurants, golfing, movie theaters, plant nurseries, arcades, live entertainment, hotels, bowling, travel, drugstores, sports teams, cultural attractions and services such as eyeglasses and oil changes.
Groceries, too. Tricia Meyer of the Sunshine Rewards deal site buys a book with four $5-off Kroger supermarket coupons. "I do most of my regular shopping there," she says, "so it was an immediate savings of $20 for me." Now that her preteen daughter needs adult-priced tickets, Meyer appreciates the movie coupons.
Not all regional coupon books go on sale. The Northern Lights Coupon Book is published each October in Anchorage, Alaska. The tourist season runs from mid-May through mid-September, and locals use the book the rest of the year.
The KidStuff Coupon Book -- 17 editions in eight northeastern states -- is sold exclusively as a school fundraiser. The company's no-discounts policy means "the schools can maximize their profits," according to Heidi Schiffman, the company's president.
Buying books at the beginning of their seasons is often worth it. The supermarket coupons alone are likely to make you back your money. If you're an avid golfer or need an oil change, you'll be saving some additional dough.
Besides, would you rather buy overpriced chocolate and wrapping paper to support your kid's school or something you can use throughout the year?
Sharing the savings
Not sure about a purchase? Visit the website and look for a "view book" or "deals near me" feature. You can flip through the categories to see if the book is right for you.
I don't buy much and I don't do stuff like go-carts, miniature golf or pottery-painting joints. Yet I still buy discount books because it doesn't take much to recoup what I pay, even when I'm paying full price.
It's highly unlikely that you'll redeem all the deals, or even most of them. The publishers I interviewed said the average customer uses 10 to 19 coupons each year.
When I was through with my books last fall I put them up for grabs on The Freecycle Network. Even though there was only about a month left on the coupons, people clamored to get them.
Next month, my sister will have five houseguests, all of them interested in doing touristy things. I'm giving her the discount books to help keep their visits under budget. That is, once I've torn out the bread and cupcakes coupons. Some things I just don't share.