For Sonia Woolf of Lake Anna, couponing is a way of life. For every penny she saves buying the things her family needs everyday, the more money she has to use for other things her family needs or wants.
“I have just always couponed,” said Woolf, while seated at her cozy kitchen table recently. “If I save a quarter per item, I can spend it on something else.”
The floor beside her was neatly stacked with flexible file folders and stacks of coupons, scissors and other paraphernalia she uses when organizing her coupon stash.
But it was a trip to visit her grandmother’s house in Alabama a few years ago that opened her eyes to couponing more effectively. Her aunts had a stack of five or six newspapers that they clipped from and they shared with her how they maximized their savings using coupons.
Afterward, she searched online and ordered a DVD by Jill Cataldo, founder of Super-Couponing, which explained step-by-step how to get the most bang for your buck using coupons, skill and strategy. She has shared the DVD with several friends since and has tried to share her knowledge with others who want to follow her example.
For Woolf, who started out with five or six subscriptions to different Sunday editions of her favorite newspapers, she eventually found it more cost effective to cancel the subscriptions and order her coupons through a clipping service for a nominal weekly fee.
“You don’t have to put as much effort into it,” she said, adding that its less expensive for her in the long run.
But there are still a few magazines that she still buys chiefly for the numerous coupons inside that she uses to boost her arsenal. Now, she doesn’t spend as much time clipping, saving hours each week.
Time is precious for Woolf, who commutes to Northern Virginia three days a week to her job in the IT industry, while also trying to spend quality time with her husband and six-year-old son.
Woolf delights in teaching others what she has learned about couponing over the years and has shared her tips in workshops she has taught in Louisa, Caroline and Stafford counties and in Fredericksburg.
When it comes to couponing, Woolf said that you can’t be brand specific. In addition, she recommends using stores that accept manufacturer’s coupons, or who double coupon values and those that allow shoppers to stack coupons.
There are a few stores that Woolf favors, especially one national store that offers a store card which gives cardholders an automatic five percent off all of their purchases. Add on top of that the ability to combine savings from that store’s mobile app, and stacking store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons—means there are four ways for her to save money at one location.
Woolf carries with her a binder filled with coupons whenever she goes on her weekly shopping trip. When she started out, shopping was a bit slower while she checked what coupons she had in the book against the sales.
“After a while, you start to remember what you have,” she said.
But these days when she goes to a store, not only does she already know what’s on sale and what she plans to buy, but her eyes scan the aisles for other discounts that may not have been advertised. Because she is now familiar with what coupons she has on hand, she is able to quickly identify a bargain and pull out the appropriate coupons.
Some grocery and drug stores have coupon machines inside the store, too, so she advises shoppers to take advantage of those. In addition, some drugstores publish a monthly coupon book. That’s when she can take advantage of exceptionally good bargains, especially when she begins stacking manufacturer’s coupons on top of store coupons.
Two things savvy couponers know you should never have to pay for are toothpaste and shampoo, she explained. In addition, cereal should never cost you more than a dollar.
To read the entire story, see the Jan. 30 edition of The Central Virginian.