I’ve been using coupons to get discounts on merchandise since the A&P grocery store on Magnolia Avenue in Knoxville, Tennessee issued Green Stamps forty years ago. Every grocery store in the country probably had its own coupon program designed to get your business. Coupons have come a long way since then.

As quite as it’s kept, coupons are the reason subscriptions balooned for the Sunday edition newspapers. But with each passing year less people subscribe to a newspaper. I can’t remember the last time I bought one. I get most of my news through the internet. Companies that want to market their products and services to the general population find it hard to determine the most effective way to do so. Now somebody has created what’s best described as the internet’s version of the penny saver. It’s a daily listing of companies that offer discounts on their products or services via the internet. Two such virtual penny savers include Living Social and Groupon.

The discounts are categorized by city. While people in, say Baltimore, get information about discounts on area products and services there, they also have access to discounts in other areas in case they are traveling. And if you have a smart phone you can download the Living Social or Groupon apps so daily discounts automatically are sent to your phone.

Discounts range between 50 and 75 percent off the regular price on services most people already use. And some things I never would have used because the price was out of my budget. But now, not so much! There’s also a referral program: Get three other people to pay for the discounted service and you get it free.

I paid $33 for three pole dancing classes (strictly for the exercise, of course) that would have cost me $100; I paid $20 for a month of unlimited bootcamp style workout classes, and I lost 8 pounds in 30 days; Microderm abrasion treatments, meals, massages, mani-pedis – you name it and it’s on sale. Last week I had my first colon hydrotheraphy session and – in a weird way – I enjoyed it. I paid $30 through Living Social when the regular cost would have been $90. They also advertised $300 worth of laser lipo-suction for $79. I got so excited I almost bought it. Then I remembered my vow to never pay for lipo-suction. But that was when it would have cost me thousands of dollars.

Before I could put in my credit card information I ran out of time. Just like the Home Shopping Network, the deals last for a limited time before they expire. If I have to pay full price, I keep my money in my purse. But these group coupons have allowed me to sample services that I normally would not.

The only improvement I suggest is for gender differentiation. That way guys who participate won’t have to wade through all the female specific services just to get a half-priced game of golf.

Steffanie is a freelance journalist living in the Dallas, Texas metroplex. Send questions, comments or requests for speaking engagements to Steffanie at [email protected]. And see the video version of her journal at youtube.com/steffanierivers.