I am a coupon queen.
I wasn't always. In fact, it's not even a title I gave myself. But two years ago, I completely changed the way I shopped for groceries for my family. Perhaps you've seen stories in the news about some frugal person gleefully purchasing hundreds of dollars worth of groceries for pennies.
Well, I am one of those people. And I've been getting a lot of attention over the past few months for something that anyone can do. I'm now dedicating a large portion of my time to educating other people in what I call "Super-Couponing," an easy and fun way to save money on groceries.
This isn't the coupon-clipping of our parents' generation. You won't find yourself spending hours cutting and sorting coupons when the Sunday paper arrives in your driveway. Nor will you struggle with carrying piles of loose, disorganized coupons to the store with you.
The Internet has completely changed the way people use coupons. It's made finding the best deals and the best prices not only enjoyable, but also incredibly addicting.
If you don't believe me, imagine walking out of the grocery store with 58 boxes of cereal and 40 boxes of granola bars, all name brands, for a total of $5.15 - including tax. Or 66 packages of diapers for $7.92, also including tax. I did both of those things last summer and I have the receipts to prove it.
Those weren't even my favorite deals! Believe it or not, you can even get stores to pay you to shop. This summer, one of my favorite stores gave me a $20 bonus coupon for a future visit, after I purchased nine tubes of name-brand toothpaste for 63 cents.
Intrigued? When I'd hear of people getting great deals like this, I used to think, "There's no way that can be true," while simultaneously thinking, "I want to be one of those people." Now I am. I've also discovered that it's a lot of fun to show other people how to effectively use coupons to save more money than they ever thought possible.
With the economy worsening and food prices on the rise, I began teaching couponing classes at Chicago-area libraries. At the first class, our library anticipated 20 to 30 registrants. We had 162.
Local media took notice, and one newspaper dubbed me a "coupon queen." More library workshops followed with similar turnouts. My coupon workshops broke registration records and shattered expectations of the men and women in attendance, who had no idea how valuable coupons can be. But more importantly, people learned a new, better way to shop that will save them thousands of dollars a year.
Forget all stereotypes you may have about coupons. Using coupons is smart, fun and becoming trendier by the day. It's also not just Mom's domain anymore. Plenty of men and young adults are using coupons and enjoying getting great deals on everything from razors to roast beef.
The principles of Super-Couponing will change the way you think about grocery shopping and will help you learn how to save money in other areas of your life -- unrelated to groceries. In the weeks ahead, I'll share my knowledge with you.
(c) CTW Features
Jill Cataldo, a coupon-workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her web site, www.super-couponing.com. E-mail your couponing coups and questions to email@example.com.