My best friend and I have known each other for more than 20 years. Ever since I've known her, her family has driven Jaguars. My family drives Toyotas. I always just assumed that since the Jaguar was my best friend's family’s ride of choice, they were super-wealthy and paid full price for everything. As it turns out, they are wealthy, but I was wrong about the rest. No one was more surprised than me the day she told me they always buy pre-owned cars and shop at Marshall's and T.J. Maxx—just like my family does.

The older I get, the more I realize how very many misconceptions I have about the rich (and even about the upper middle class), about how they get so much money, and about what they use it for. I am learning that many wealthy people are not just rich because they earn a lot. They are also rich because they know how to hold on to what they have. This is where coupon use comes into the picture!

Income vs. grocery coupon use: the shocking truth

In 2011, Professor Anita Bhappu and her team at the University of Arizona decided to find out who uses grocery coupons, how many coupons they use, and how much they earn (for more see Today).

  • 61% of coupon users earn $35,000 or less.
  • 24% of coupon users earn more than $75,000 (50% women, 50% men).
  • The 24% reported using 6+ coupons during each trip to the grocery store.
  • 61% of the 24% who use 6+ coupons per trip have kids at home.

Why do high-earning shoppers use coupons? Professor Bhappu's team discovered it’s not because they need to save money, but because they want to save money.

Do they ever feel embarrassed presenting coupons at the register? Not a bit, Bhappu's team discovered. Sites like Groupon and reality TV shows have brought couponing into the mainstream, which has seemed to dissolve any stigma they once may have carried.

What coupon formats do they prefer? Bhappu and her team found out that the affluent use printable coupons most (just like we middle-classers do!) with digital (mobile) coupons coming in second.

What do they think of folks who do not use coupons? Affluent coupon-using survey respondents were quoted as saying things like, "You're wasting your money!" Some even gave their unused coupons to others waiting in line.

The true value of couponing goes beyond savings 

Affluent and moderate income couponers alike reported seeing value in spending time "couponing" (hunting for coupons, choosing which coupons to redeem for the most savings, etc.).

In a related study of more than 8,000 adults, 73% of coupon users had graduated college. Perhaps even more compelling, households earning more than $100,000 were 200% more likely to cash in coupons than households earning less than $35,000 (for more see Daily Finance).

Andrea Woroch, a consumer expert, told LearnVest that, "Using coupons is about feeling good about a purchase as much as it is about saving money."

No matter how you choose to clip, snip, save, snap, stack or otherwise redeem them, it’s clear the true value of couponing includes both saving funds and feeling good about spending choices.

A new breed of couponer 

The first time I heard the term "coupon diva" I had a very distinct visual picture of what such an individual might look like. (For the truly curious—I pictured an older, fully clothed Paris Hilton with big, round, dark sunglasses and a stack of coupons.) The truth is rather less, er, noticeable.

Essentially, the "coupon diva" is someone who feels strongly enough about saving funds (whether she particularly needs to or not) to take set aside time to search out coupons and redeem them for savings. As well, coupon divas are likely to use more than one type of coupon, including printables and mobile coupons (in fact, one-fifth of all smart phone users report using mobile coupons).

Which coupon types are most in demand?

Each study mentioned here noted particular types of coupons that were in high demand. Summarizing all three studies, these coupon savings received the highest marks.

  • Grocery coupons
  • Home and garden coupons
  • Financial savings and coupons
  • Technology coupons
  • Shopping coupons
  • Any coupons that offer big (stackable, more than 25%, other) savings