Special Photo: Jill Cataldo saves hundreds on groceries by making the most of the common coupon. You can, too.
Question: “Thanks so much for your weekly columns and your web site! I really enjoy reading your tips and suggestions. Now I have a question of my own: Do you ever get into a coupon slump? I started couponing late last year. I was really eager every other week to get my coupon inserts in my newspaper and online. But all of a sudden, I just have a lack of enthusiasm. Instead of excitement, there are times that I feel like I don’t want to do it anymore. Do you have any suggestions to get over this feeling?”
Answer: Making the commitment to become a coupon shopper is a smart way to take control of your household’s finances. Through smart shopping, paying close attention to pricing cycles and using coupons to cut low-sale prices even more, you can reduce your grocery expenses significantly.
But what happens when you fall into a slump? Is it ever not fun to be a coupon shopper?
The question in this reader’s e-mail isn’t uncommon. Let’s face the facts. Coupon shopping is a fair amount of work, even with all of the great tools available to help shoppers track the best prices and times to buy and match coupons to the best sales.
As a coupon shopper, my week begins like this. The newspaper arrives, and I flip through the supermarket and drugstore ads to decide which store’s sales look the best for the week. While some coupon shoppers go store-to-store, hitting every sale in town, I typically focus on one grocery store and one pharmacy per week. Remember, the price of gas has to figure into your savings, too. In addition to taking more time, there’s a definite financial cost to chasing deals.
Once I decide which stores’ sales are best, I use a grocery list matchup site to match coupons to the sales. These sites are easy to use. Click the items you wish to buy at your stores of choice, and the site provides the location of the necessary coupons, whether they’re from the newspaper or available online.
I then go through the large library of coupon inserts that I’ve dated, saved and filed each week, and cut out just the coupons I need for the shopping trip. I print out or load any online coupons that I need. This entire process typically takes less than an hour, and I’m finally ready to hit the store.
Now, think for a moment about the way most non-coupon shoppers prepare for a trip to the supermarket. They simply go to the store, put everything in the cart that they need for the current week and then buy it. That’s it.
It definitely takes time and enthusiasm to be a coupon shopper. We trade the convenience of buying what we want for methodically cutting the coupons we need and stocking up during the best sales. But remember: This is work that pays well, reducing grocery bills by 50 percent or more every week. For me, the money I save is a huge motivator to keep couponing.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with taking a break from coupon shopping, if you’re feeling burned out. As long as you can financially afford to take time to regroup and get excited again, you may find yourself renewed and refreshed to jump back into the savings game. I’ll confess, I occasionally take a break. Any time we travel, my coupon wallet stays home. During a recent beach trip, my family stayed in a villa with a full kitchen and we planned to cook most of our meals to save money. It was truly eye-opening for the entire family to walk into the local supermarket, buy our groceries for the week and see what a no-coupon total at the register looks like. My husband said, “Wow! Are you sure you don’t want to bring your coupons with us the next time we travel?”
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.jillcataldo.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.