The Coupon Lady: Couponing is about being smart

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I appreciate golf because it is a sport that depends entirely on the skill and mind-set of the golfer. I also appreciate that, in order to be the best, the player has to plan ahead but then adapt to the environment. Can the golfer adjust for wind or a light drizzle? Can he adapt and recover if he makes a bad shot?

If you are visiting our area for the tournament, I would like to welcome you to Augusta and to introduce myself. My name is Carol, and I am a couponer.

I really don’t like the word “extreme” to describe what I do. I prefer to think of myself as a smart shopper instead because the word “extreme” implies being crazy or, in today’s society, associated with greed or excess.

I don’t have a hundred bottles of mustard in my garage, but I do know how to save money by planning ahead and combining coupon use with store sales to maximize savings.

I share that knowledge in this column each week and in coupon classes so that other shoppers can learn how to save hundreds of dollars in grocery expenses each month and use that savings to get ahead financially.

You are probably wondering: How does a smart shopper differ from an extreme couponer?

First, it matters how you get your inserts. I don’t dumpster-dive or buy coupons off eBay. I purchase four newspapers each week, one for each member of my family. For large families or growing teenagers, you might consider two newspapers for each member of the family.

I also collect coupons from magazines, product packaging, Facebook and Internet sites such as coupons.com or smartsource.com.

After I get my coupons, I clip and organize them into a binder. Once that is complete, I look at the ad for my target store. I go through the ad and try to match my coupons to the sales that week. I’m most interested in sales that are 30 percent to 50 percent off regular prices. Once I find an item I’m interested in purchasing, I circle it in the ad and continue this process until I have gone through the entire ad.

You don’t have to clear a shelf of an item when it goes on sale. Most items go on sale every 12 weeks, with the exception of cereal, which has a six-week sales cycle, and baking goods, with a 24-week cycle. You only need to buy enough of an item to get you to the next sale. So, if you go through two boxes of cereal a week, then you need to buy 12 boxes if you only eat one brand. Otherwise, buy four to six at a time and then buy another brand on sale in a few weeks.

Most people think that couponers just buy random stuff. The truth is, couponers plan ahead. If you eat cereal that normally costs $4.29 a box and you had to buy the cereal at full price every time you needed it, then you would pay $51.48 for the 12 boxes of cereal. But if you wait and buy cereal when it’s on sale during a buy-one-get-one-free promotion and you have coupons for $1 off two boxes of that cereal, then you would only pay $1.64 for the same box of cereal, assuming you bought at least two boxes. If you bought 12 boxes of cereal at that price, you would only pay $19.74.

By planning ahead, couponers pay less for the items they purchase regularly.

Now, that’s a great game!

Reach Carol Gunter at (706) 823-3318 or augusta
couponlady@yahoo.com. Read her past columns at augustachronicle.com.smartshopper.


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