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We’re only a few weeks into the new year, and already it’s time to give your scissors a rest. There will be no coupon inserts this weekend – and that may be something we’ll be hearing a lot more often this year.

The publisher of the Save inserts typically takes at least one week off during the month of January, so this year is no exception, as it won’t be offering an insert this weekend. What is unusual is that SmartSource is also taking this same week off, for the first time in recent memory, if not ever. Records get spotty the further back you go, but SmartSource hasn’t paused publication in January for at least the past two decades, and possibly longer.

That makes this weekend the earliest weekend of the year without insert coupons, since the majority of coupon fans have been couponing at all. For the past several years, the first insert-free weekend didn’t come until April, around Easter. Before that, the earliest that the inserts ever took a weekend off was mid-February. Mid-February this year is already less than a month away – and it happens to be when SmartSource is scheduled to take its next weekend off in 2023.

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It’s not just the frequency of publication that’s declining, but the number of inserts published as well. Most years, SmartSource has offered multiple inserts to kick off each new year – two inserts most times, and even as many as three as recently as 2019. This year was the first time in memory that there was just a single SmartSource insert on the first Sunday of the year. And it comes just a few months after SmartSource took an unscheduled two-week break back in October.

Add to all this, the fact that Procter & Gamble has ended publication of its brandSAVER insert. brandSAVER regularly published at the end or beginning of each month, regardless of whether it was a holiday weekend. SmartSource and Save typically take a rest on major holiday weekends like Memorial Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s. P&G often filled the gaps when there were no SmartSource or Save inserts available, publishing on at least some of those holiday weekends. As a result, only a few weekends a year would be completely insert-free. Now, without P&G, most holiday weekends will be quiet, and many more weekends in total will be insert-free this year.

But this coming weekend isn’t a holiday weekend at all – Martin Luther King Jr. Day was observed this past weekend. So there’s no holiday-related explanation for the lack of inserts this weekend. The more likely explanation is that there are fewer manufacturers offering fewer Sunday insert coupons these days, so the publishers have to consider whether they can justify printing as many editions as they used to.

So could the fewer coupon inserts, and the extra weekends off, be part of the reason the insert publishers are keeping their schedules so closely-held this year? When Coupons in the News started more than a decade ago, the publishers of SmartSource, and Save’s precursor RedPlum, were so open about their schedules that they published them on their websites for all to see. When they stopped doing that, they were happy to provide them to Coupons in the News upon request. When they stopped doing that, sources with access to the schedules were able to share them. But this year, the publishers and the sources all came up empty. The publishers likely aren’t eager to publicize that they’re offering fewer inserts – though one might think they would want to publicize when they are still offering inserts.

Instead, the news that there are no new coupons this weekend will take many coupon-clippers by surprise when they open their Sunday newspaper. It’s probably a safe bet that the inserts will return next weekend. After that, it’s anyone’s guess. So this year, your scissors may not get quite the workout that they used to. But as 2023 progresses, you might want to keep those scissors on standby – because these days, you just never know when your next coupon inserts might show up.

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