Last week I plunged into the art of couponing, which is to say that I now have a hobby that could equate to a full time job if I let it. Don’t worry; I don’t have a ten pound binder loaded with categorized coupons, store policies, Sunday circulars, and store rain checks. Not yet. For now, I am a fairly unobtrusive shopper who is simply learning how to maximize her dollars in a brutal economy.
My extreme couponing niece, Anna, recently showed me the ropes. Or at least the basic things I needed to know as a virgin couponer. She possesses a whole lot more knowledge than she chose to divulge, because couponing is, well, like all new relationships; it’s best to start off slow.
I spent an untold number of hours at home last week, gathering store and manufacturer coupons from newspapers, grocery fliers, and websites. The online coupons are still something of a mystery to me. Many websites offer the same coupons, and they are for products I don’t use. Indeed, a lot of the coupons out there are for processed foods, kids’ cereals, and single serving packages that cost too much to begin with. A 50 cent coupon simply doesn’t entice me to buy overpriced Cocoa Puffs when the generic brand is available for $2.00 less.
Oh, I know. There are thrilling ways to combine multiple coupons with buy-one-get-one-free offers and end up paying pennies for a closet full of toothpaste and toilet paper. I’m not there yet and am really not sure I’ll ever have the energy, creativity, and chutzpah to adopt these extreme practices.
For now, I’m happy to just scrounge modest coupons for stuff I know I need, and search the grocery store fliers to find where that stuff happens to be on sale. If the store doubles coupons, all the better.
Truth be told, my new hobby is bigger than coupons. I’m learning to maximize my hard-earned dollars. It is quite easy, after all, to plan meals based on what is on sale. To choose generic over brand-name. To take advantage of buy-one-get-one free offers and weekly $5-off coupons. regularly discounts staple products, offering an additional discount if you purchase 10 other discounted items that day. and offer great discounts and buyer bonuses as well.
My goal is to never, ever buy full price again. And this is a realistic goal, given the myriad of shopping options available in our community. Retailers want your business and they have come up with some amazing incentives to earn your loyalty.
The secret is to stay informed. It takes a lot of time, but scouring the weekly fliers and buying based solely on discounts is worth it. On Sunday, I visited five local stores. Using store discounts and a few coupons, I saved about 32% at each location and spent $150. My pantry is stocked with at least six weeks’ worth of goods and I have enough toothpaste and toilet paper to last until at least the New Year.
Now to find somewhere to store all this stuff.
So why the new hobby? After all, I spent years buying gazillion-dollar-a-pound imported cheeses from Dean & Deluca, fresh bagels from Zabar’s, Copper River salmon in season from Alaska. Extravagance was easy and fun.
But like many of you, I found myself at mid-life overworked, overextended, and overtired. I craved simplicity for stuff like homemade pimento cheese spread on really pasty white bread. And, given a drastic change in income since and , that’s more in line with our budget.
Oh I still splurge on fresh shrimp, artisan breads, and macadamia nuts. But only if I have a coupon.
. Couponing is one option. Discover the thrill in the chase, and let me know how much you save!