Learn to become a super-couponer
Job layoffs, shrinking 401(k)s and daily headlines proclaiming the poor state of the economy are sending women and men of all ages and ethnic groups to area libraries to learn the ropes of "super-couponing," a way to save money on groceries and toiletries.
"I don't know how much longer I am going to have a job," Beverly Morgan of Lake Villa said as she waited for the start of a recent coupon workshop at the Mount Prospect Public Library. "So it seemed smart to see how I can cut coupons and maximize my results in an appropriate amount of time."
Joan Arnette of Mount Prospect agreed. "I have been cutting the larger coupons of 50 and 75 cents for awhile. But now I have two grandsons living with me, so every penny counts. I am here because I would like to see $15 or more come off when I get to the checkout."
Fred Lenze of Arlington Heights recently had his pay cut. So he, too, showed up for the workshop to learn about something he once regarded as an irritation.
"I haven't paid much attention to coupons and have actually been annoyed by some of the people ahead of me in line using them," he admitted. "But the economy has driven me to consider it."
Andrea Wojtas of Mount Prospect said that since she was recently laid off from her human resources position after more than 10 years on the job, she "absolutely needs to save money and I feel that I need to take advantage of every opportunity I can."
For Beverly and Herb Morath of Mount Prospect, who have occasionally used coupons in the past, attending the workshop was a positive step they could take to cope with their worries about the economy.
"This is our reaction to it," Beverly explained. "Instead of screaming about the stock market, this is what I can do."
Anne Ericksen of Des Plaines agreed. "You can cut out your cable television or your cell phone, but you can't cut out food. So I am hoping to maximize my grocery dollar."
The near-capacity crowd heard super-couponing guru Jill Cataldo of Huntley tutor them on the basics of buying groceries and toiletries at the lowest possible price in order to cut household costs.
And cutting those little coupons out of the Sunday advertisements is just part of the process.
Cataldo's first piece of advice was to shop in full-price stores because the full-price stores have better sales and accept coupons which the others do not. Stock up when things are on sale and avoid shopping on Thursdays, Fridays or Saturdays, she said.
"Every regular grocery store prices things on a 12-week cycle and the trick is to buy things when they are at their lowest price," using your coupons, Cataldo explained.
Web sites like couponmom.com, coupontom.com and grocerygame.com provide information about what is on sale at each store in a given week, what is about to go on sale and what manufacturer coupons for those items have appeared in Sunday circulars in recent months. If you save those circulars, you can go back and cut the coupons when you need them, according to Cataldo.
The idea is to buy items incredibly cheap. Many people in audience were shocked when she explained how most local stores allow you to combine a store-issued coupon with a manufacturer coupon on the same item.
And you can load special Internet sales on your store's frequent buyer card. For Jewel, log onto Avenu.JewelOsco.com and for Dominick's, log onto PGEsaver.com. Each time you are planning to shop, you should go on to the appropriate site to apply special daily sales to your card. The minute you log on, the sales are activated until midnight.
When you go to the store, the sales will be applied without you having to do anything more. No coupons needed.
Stores like Walgreens, CVS and Target are favorites of coupon lovers because of their generous policies. Target is known for passing out $5 and $10 Target gift cards to people who buy certain featured sale products, Cataldo said. You get the sale price, can add your manufacturer coupon and can buy something else with the gift card.
Cataldo also emphasized that people using coupons need to rid themselves of the notion that the largest size is the best value. When using coupons and shopping sales, the smaller size often ends up free or close to it, she said.
"At whatever level people get into couponing, it can save them money once they learn the principles - even if it is only $30 a week," Cataldo said. "And it is fun. It is a rush to find yourself saving so much money. "