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I recently received some great emails from readers filled with stories of their money-saving couponing successes.
In your recent column there was a letter from a reader who thinks couponing is all smoke and mirrors and you outlined another shopper’s recent savings. I was that shopper! It takes hard work and attention to detail rather than “smoke and mirrors.” But without examples, I can see where one would be skeptical.
I thought I’d share some examples of deals that all add up to savings. I truly think of this as income from a part-time job. Viewing it that way may help people realize the value of it.
First, in two recent shopping trips, I spent $44.45 and $48.64 and saved $50.16 and $50.12 respectively. Preparing for each trip took about an hour spent this way: going through the weekly ad to check specials, using a coupon site to match coupons to offers and then clipping the coupons from my newspaper inserts, weekly newspaper supplements or printing those available online. Both trips involved a combination of vendor coupons, store coupons and special/promotional pricing.
Here are several specific examples of deals I got. One was for bags of mashed potatoes priced at $3.79, buy one get one free. I had a store coupon for $1 off 2 and two 75-cent manufacturer coupons. So what would have been a retail purchase totaling $7.58 was $1.29, or 65 cents per container of mashed potatoes. Another sale was on 100-percent whole grain pasta, buy one get one free at $1.59. I had a $1-off-2 coupon so purchased $3.18 in pasta for 59 cents, or about 30 cents per box. Fig cookies were on sale for $3. I had two-$1 off coupons and on the cookie packages were “peelie” coupons for $1 off fresh fruit. So, I was able to get two packages of cookies and nearly 3 pounds of bananas for $4! One final deal – cheese and breading mix were $2.99, buy one get one free. I had two-$1.50 off coupons, so these were free!
I’ve shopped this way for over 20 years, but the Internet and these coupon-to-sale matching sites are heaven sent. Everything I do is legal and ethical. I do not clear shelves; I do not take more coupons than I need; I do not resell what I buy; I buy what’s on sale with a combination of store and/or vendor coupons. To make this work consistently, you have to be diligent, not loyal to specific brands, willing to try new things and not tempted to buy what’s not on sale. It’s worth it! I think what I’ve outlined here proves that.
I do not think it’s right is for some shoppers to say they saved a ton while buying an amazing amount of certain products they could not use up for years. Sometimes I receive $6 cat food coupons for a particular brand of cat food from their promotions. Last month, 7-pound bags were on sale for $6.49. I bought 12 bags and got $83.28 worth of cat food for $5.88! If I put just those cat food totals out to the public, I would be an “expert” shopper.
It is still good for people to use coupons that practically jump up and bite them. In a recent column you outlined one of your shopping trips, step by step. It is obvious you WILL use what you purchased … not just to stock up your house for years! So that was good to do. Show the shoppers what can be saved. Now I would love to see how many shoppers would really make the effort to save as I do, and as you do now! (None of my family or friends will do it now and think I am crazy!)”
Smart Living Tip: Don’t get discouraged in your couponing journey. Remember that any amount of money you save this week with coupons, even if it’s just five or ten dollars, is a success! It’s money you didn’t have to spend on items you would have purchased regardless. We all have days that are better than others.
Jill Cataldo is a coupon workshop instructor and a mother of three.
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