Downtown Atlanta

Atlanta is the country’s most coupon-loving city! Unless it’s Salt Lake City. Or Charlotte. It’s hard to tell, really. But that’s not stopping coupon providers from bestowing the title of “most frugal city” upon someone.

It seems we all love lists, especially if our city is on them. Journalists love lists, because they make for easy stories that people seem to like. And the companies that create the lists love them, because it gives their brands free publicity, as journalists take their bait and use their name and their information in “news” stories.

Ok, we’ll take the bait on the newest list. To a point.

A, shall we say, major American printable coupon provider has released its latest Savings Index, which lists the “Most Frugal U.S. Cities”. And for the fourth year in a row, Atlanta tops the list, followed by Orlando, Tampa, Nashville and Charlotte. Overall, though, the Midwest is declared the most frugal region, since Midwestern cities represent 11 of the top 25 cities. Orlando is named as the “Most On-the-Go Frugal” city, based on its use of mobile coupon apps.

The annual Savings Index is based on “each area’s total issued coupon savings, including coupons printed or saved to a store loyalty program” on the aforementioned major American printable coupon provider’s website. The company doesn’t quite explain its methodology, but earlier annual lists have said it’s based on usage from “registered users” of the site, which suggests that they’re only counting people who have created a profile and log in to print their coupons. So if you keep changing your zip code in your profile, you’re going to screw up their survey. If Beverly Hills (90210) tops the “most frugal” list next year, we know there’s something wrong.

But is the number of registered users who print coupons enough to declare a city the “most frugal” in the nation? A separate survey by a major American online coupon provider (ok, ShopAtHome.com) said in August 2012 that Salt Lake City was the most frugal city in America, followed by Denver, Seattle, Knoxville and Orlando. That list, too, was based on the location of people who used the site.

Then, there was a decidedly more scientific list compiled by the coupon provider RevTrax last year. Using more than just raw numbers of coupon use, its study examined geographic and demographic data to determine the cities most likely to use digital coupons. Charlotte topped that list, followed by Rochester, NY; Raleigh, NC; Virginia Beach, VA; and Huntsville, AL. According to their study, the cities share demographic characteristics that make them most likely to use digital coupons – they’re compact, densely-populated, family-friendly areas, with lots of seniors and females.

Authors of the study explain that they “cross-referenced aggregated, non-identifiable coupon activation data from millions of digital coupons issued by RevTrax brand and retail customers between January and April of 2012. The study then cross-referenced coupon activation data with a host of U.S. Census data, including location, population, household type, age and gender.”

Whew. Just coming out and declaring Atlanta the most frugal city, without thinking too hard about it, sounds a lot less complicated. And makes for much easier headlines.

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