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“Does anybody know of any good deals on toilet paper?” a member of a Facebook couponing group asked back in March 2020. “This is a joke, right?” another member responded. “There isn’t any toilet paper!”

Today, more than a year after we were all forced to grab whatever brand of toilet paper we could find, paying full price – or worse – supplies have largely returned to normal, pre-pandemic levels. And now, the return of toilet paper coupons and sales has many couponers getting back on their game, seeking out deals on one of their favorite stock-up items.

Online coupon groups are once again starting to become filled with photos like the ones seen above, showing off group members’ hauls and breakdowns of their discounted toilet paper purchases.

“Dollar General was good to me yesterday,” one member captioned her photo of a a veritable wall of toilet paper. “I didn’t buy out one store,” she pointed out. “But did go to several to never be in the same boat as last year… No shame in stocking up!”

This time last year, just about everyone became a toilet paper stockpiler. According to NielsenIQ, Americans spent more than $11 billion on toilet paper last year, about 25% more than the $9 billion spent in a typical year.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that manufacturers sold 25% more toilet paper – the rise in dollar sales is also partly due to the fact that few toilet paper manufacturers were offering coupons or price promotions as they struggled to keep the shelves stocked.

And NielsenIQ estimates that American retailers lost some $837 million in potential sales last year, because they didn’t have enough toilet paper in stock – suggesting that shoppers would have bought even more, if they could have.

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But now that supply has caught up with demand, toilet paper purchases have finally declined. According to NielsenIQ’s most recent figures, U.S. sales of paper and plastic products, which includes toilet paper, fell 18.3% in the four weeks ending May 1 compared to the same period last year. And, perhaps more notably, sales are down from pre-pandemic levels as well.

So regular people aren’t buying as much toilet paper anymore. But now, couponers are.

A few weeks ago, the Georgia-Pacific brand Angel Soft issued its first Sunday insert coupon in more than a year – and a good one at that, offering $1.50 off a package. That accounts for the prevalence of Angel Soft packages in many of the coupon group members’ stockpile photos – combining sales with the coupons and dollars-off-your-total-purchase discounts made for a great deal.

Other brands are slowly getting back into offering coupons as well. Kimberly-Clark’s Cottonelle and Scott began offering insert coupons again earlier this year, and Procter & Gamble resumed offering Charmin insert coupons back in August of last year, albeit of the 25-cents-off variety. Georgia-Pacific’s Quilted Northern brand has yet to offer insert coupons again – its last one was back in March 2020, just days after the COVID-19 spread was officially declared a pandemic, though it has offered digital coupons.

It stands to reason that, as sales decline, manufacturers are beginning to offer coupons and promotions again to entice shoppers to buy more. But that strategy isn’t necessarily the best option right now, because they simply can’t afford to lower their prices too much.

As the cost of everything from raw materials to transportation is rising, manufacturers are beginning to pass along many of their higher costs to consumers. Kimberly-Clark, for one, said earlier this year that it would begin raising prices by mid-to-high single-digit percentages this month. The prices hikes “are necessary to help offset significant commodity cost inflation,” the company explained.

So if you see a deal on toilet paper – you’d better brush off your couponing and deal-seeking skills, and get it while you can. Stockpile photos like the ones that have been shared recently, are already motivating some lapsed couponers to get back into it. “I have gotten very lazy with my couponing… You make me want to start again,” a couponing group member wrote in response to one photo. “My stash is just about depleted. I need to get back in the swing of it!” another wrote.

Because if prices do rise, and the deals become harder to find again, there’s nothing like planning ahead and being prepared. “Nothing better than a TP wall when the pandemic first started and the stores ran out,” one group member wrote. “I stockpiled and didn’t have to buy for almost 2 years when I last did this,” another added.

If couponing has taught you nothing else, it’s that you’re better off buying extra whenever you can get a deal, instead of waiting until you run out. You may not need a whole wall of toilet paper, but as some who were forced to take drastic measures last year can tell you – it’s better than having no toilet paper at all.

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