Confessions of a novice couponer

Have you ever wondered if clipping coupons could pay off? Recently a colleague in my office volunteered to share her experience with me on using coupons. The busy manager, wife and mother said she didn’t have a lot of time to organize her shopping but wondered if she could make a dent in her monthly budget and get debt help just by using the coupons that came in her weekly newspaper.

Sally was inspired to try couponing after watching an episode of the TLC hit show ‘Extreme Couponing.’ “The people on that show are clearly extreme,” explained Sally. “Most of the people on the show make it a priority and are obsessed with saving and couponing.”

I told Sally that I would follow her story to see if she could be successful on a smaller scale. Sally resolved to set her first goal – dedicating time to consider her monthly grocery expenditures. She also knew that she buys a lot of the same things week after week.

“When I took a good look at my usual routine, I noticed a pattern in my buying,” said Sally. “I saw that most of what I purchased each week included necessities like diapers, paper towels, milk and cereal. This inspired me to set my next goal which was to clip coupons that pertained to necessities I already buy and use often. Sally, who is expecting another baby, also had a goal of creating a “mini-stock pile” for her family; she said this would help reduce her “emergency” runs to the grocery store.”

To start she made sure she paid attention to the newspaper circulars. She also considered in-store promotions, such as Buy-One-Get-One specials, and combined them with coupons when possible. “It has made a difference in my budget so far,” said Sally, a self-professed coupon novice. “With 10-15 minutes a day and a bit of planning before I shopped, I saved a little over $100 my first month.

“I was a little nervous that I would end up spending more than usual, which I did on some weeks, but I can already see how it will benefit me in the long run when I’m busy with a new baby. It’s a debt relief when my husband tells me we are out of something, and I can tell him to go to the basement “stockpile” to get more, instead of one of us jumping in the car.”

Sally revealed that other goals, such as planning meals ahead of time and focusing on the necessary ingredients, help her refrain from clipping coupons on things she may not need just for savings sake.

“Taking a small step to consider what I buy has changed the way I think about my finances,” she remarked. “I’ve also become more organized. Having a plan helps me feel more confident about my buying decisions and my budget.”

Sally’s next goal is to see if she can save even more for debt help by utilizing online coupons or by obtaining specific coupons for specialty products, such as organic foods.

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