Tired of trying to arrange your schedule around the days your favorite store is having a big sale, or when the weekly circular starts? Can’t seem to find time to get to the store before your coupons expire?

Instead of missing out on big coupons and sales, what if coupons and sales could put themselves on your calendar, and tell you exactly when you have the time to fit them into your busy schedule?

That’s the aim of the latest coupon-related patent application. IBM’s proposal, entitled “Optimization of Redeemable Offers Based on User Available Calendar Dates“, would do just what the title suggests – organize coupons and offers for you, based on your calendar and when you’re available to shop.

“Where once store circulars, newspapers, and TV advertisements were the norm for redeemable offer communications, users are now bombarded with a plethora of digital advertising campaigns that fill their e-mail inboxes, overload their senses, or otherwise overwhelm the user’s ability to sort through all of the promotions that are actually relevant to them,” the patent documentation reads. “Identifying the best deals that match with a user’s available calendar days to shop for the product or products in questions may be near impossible for a user.”

So IBM’s system will do it for you. It proposes to “synthesize a selection of optimal shopping days… based on the user’s shopping availability and data associated with the redeemable offers.”

The system, likely in the form of a smartphone app, would serve as a central repository for all of your coupons – even allowing you to scan paper coupons into the app. In some cases, it could even do the legwork for you, scraping the websites of your favorite stores or brands to gather all currently available offers and promotions.


Then it would access your digital calendar that you’ve stored on your device or online, cross-reference your schedule with all of the offers that are saved, and generate a list of recommended days and times to do your shopping when the best and most deals are available.

If your Tuesday is packed with appointments and errands, for example, then the one-day sale going on that day won’t appear high on your list, since it’s unlikely you’ll be able to take advantage of it. If your Thursday is open, and there’s a 20% coupon that expires that day, that offer might appear higher up the list. And if there’s an even better offer – say, 30% off – that starts on Friday, and it looks like you just might be able to squeeze a shopping trip into your schedule that day, that offer might appear at the very top of your list.

The system will even take coupon stacking into account. If two coupons can be combined on a single purchase, and they’re both valid during a time that you’re free to shop, “a matching calendar day that has corresponding redeemable offers of ‘20% off’ and ‘$25 off when you spend $100’ may be ordered higher on the list than a matching calendar day that has only one of the redeemable offers,” the patent application explains.

And then, to make it all more convenient – and efficient, since your calendar shows just how busy you are – the system would combine all of your coupons into one bar code. That way, “the user may only need to scan a single bar code to obtain the benefits of every redeemable offer that is active on a particular matching calendar day,” the patent documentation reads.

There are a lot of potential kinks to work out before this idea can become a reality. Will it work with grocery coupons, or just retailer coupons? Can the single bar code contain coupons from different retailers, and will retailers actually accept an adulterated version of their coupon that appears on your phone? What if you get a lot of coupons from stores and brands you’re not really interested in – is there a way to keep those from rising to the top of the list just because they happen to match up with your schedule?

So it’s an intriguing idea, but one that will require some more tinkering. Until then, you’ll have to schedule your shopping and saving yourself – and hope that one day, your phone will be able to do it for you.

Image sources: CalendarTable.com / rose3694

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