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America's 10 most coupon-crazy cities

Some cities take coupon-clipping more seriously than others.

Scott Gamm
by Scott Gamm, MainStreet contributor (@ScottGamm)

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Clipping coupons is arguably the classic way to save money. It’s even a part of American culture, with reality television shows, books and blogs devoted to shedding light on how to become a die-hard coupon clipper.

As much as America loves to clip coupons (after all, several hundred billion were redeemed last year), some cities take the coupon-clipping process more seriously than others, as seen in the Coupons.com Saving Index, which ranks the value of coupons printed from Coupons.com and its affiliate sites.

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How did your city stack up?

Here are America’s top 10 frugal cities and the reasoning behind the rankings:

1. Atlanta
Atlanta has topped this list for four years, due largely to the type of stores in the city — that is, stores that not only offer a wide variety of products, but ones that make couponing easy.

“Publix is a major store chain in the area, and they are aggressive with their couponing,” says the site’s savings expert, Jeanette Pavini.

2. Orlando, Fla.
People in Orlando are couponing with a passion; the city wasn’t even in the top 25 most frugal cities from the same study last year.

“Orlando saw a big jump in mobile couponing, which makes sense given the large amount of tourism in Orlando,” Pavini says.

3. Tampa, Fla.
Tampa is a repeat at the top of the frugal cities list.

“In Tampa, the demographic skews older, since Florida has retirees, and coupon users in general skew older,” she says.

4. Nashville, Tenn.
In 2011, Nashville was No. 10 on the list, but last year the city jumped to No. 4.

“In 2012, Publix opened their first store in Nashville. When we were looking at the research, we were trying to figure out what the factor was and it was interesting that all of the top cities have this chain,” Pavini says.

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5. Charlotte, N.C.
As in Nashville, Publix opened in Charlotte last year, accounting for the uptick in coupon redemption in the city, since Charlotte was ranked at No. 11 in 2011.

Stores that make couponing easy and more convenient make it more likely residents in the area to search for more coupons, whether online or via smartphones.

6. Kansas City, Mo.
When unemployment hits, families are forced to make do with less — and coupons can help.

“The average unemployment was 7.5 percent and people are trying to find ways to cut expenses,” Pavini says.

The city saw a slight rise in frugality year over year; it was ranked No. 9 in last year’s study.

7. Boston
In 2011, Boston came in at only No. 11.

“Whole Foods Market took over Johnnie’s Foodmaster, which is an element that may explain Boston’s uptick in coupons printed,” Pavini says.

A more expensive grocery store that increases its presence in a particular town forces consumers to resort to coupons to offset the higher prices.

8. Cleveland
Cleveland was hit hard last year, especially on the employment front.

“The labor force in Cleveland was down by 25,000 in 2012 and employment declined in March, April and October, November last year,” Pavini says.

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9. Sacramento, Calif.
Sacramento saw an increase in the number of grocery stores opened by Wal-Mart last year, and consumers tend to resort to coupons when shopping at the nation’s largest retailer.

And with an unemployment rate of 10 percent in the city, consumers were forced to take measures to cut their grocery bills via coupons.

10. St. Louis
As seen in other cities that topped the list, when unemployment hits a city, consumers flock to couponing sites to get a head start on the savings.

“Since the recession, St. Louis lost a staggering 53,000 jobs, which causes more coupon clipping,” Pavini says.

Don’t be surprised to see coupon usage continue to increase for many cities across the country, especially since the payroll tax holiday expired earlier this year and consumers are now giving up an extra 2 percent of their paychecks.

Pavini also notes the wide variety of coupons today: “Coupons aren’t just for groceries anymore. We see coupons for drugstore items, personal care items, pet food and diapers. They’re so widespread that it makes wise financial sense for people to use coupons.”