Shoppers have long been using coupons as a way of saving money on their grocery bills.
But as Dominique Aviles explained to her avid listeners, the digital realm has created an array of new tools to make the process easier, more effective, and more lucrative.
Aviles, of Norwich, led a workshop May 1 at the Griswold Youth Center on “extreme couponing.” The workshop was sponsored by Families and Children First of Griswold, funded by a community grant from Jewett City Savings Bank.
“I’ve walked away with a cartload of stuff and only paid $3,” Aviles told her listeners.
By watching the sale flyers for stores and combining advertised discounts with manufacturers’ coupons and store coupons (and sometimes both), it’s often possible to receive items for free.
Digital tools make that process even easier, said Aviles. She gave her listeners a list of Instagram feeds that monitor sales at big-chain retailers – like drugstores and supermarkets – and offer corresponding coupons. Downloading the apps for individual stores gives shoppers access to digital coupons, so that they don’t even need a pair of scissors to get started in the process.
But some couponing techniques are timeless. Aviles encouraged shoppers to visit stores during different shifts and develop relationships with helpful store clerks.
“It’s nice when the people working in the stores also know the deals,” she said.
Coupons give buyers an opportunity to try a new brand of toothpaste or dish soap, said Aviles.
“For some people, it’s not their favorite, some people don’t like it. But it’s free toothpaste,” she said.
Like many couponers, she gives away her excess products to charity – in her case, her children’s classrooms or Madonna House in Norwich, which provides resources for needy families.
She also teaches her workshop to families at Madonna House, to help them make their grocery dollars go further.
Saving money with coupons takes some time, Aviles said, but she uses downtime from her job to collect and redeem coupons to stretch her family’s budget. At first, she said, she thought “it was way too complicated for me.”
But a friend of a relative taught her the basic tricks, and she was delighted to find that “it’s easy, surprisingly. Now, my basement is overflowing.”
Couponing has become such a way of life for Aviles that her 8-year-old son made her an elaborate “coupon” for $30 off his favorite Yu-Gi-Oh! games – a coupon she admired for its creativity, but had to explain to her son that she couldn’t use.
Participants in the workshop received a tote bag and binder with clear plastic pages with pockets to help organize their coupon stash. Aviles also handed out stacks of coupons for items currently on sale in local stores.
The workshop was one of a half-dozen aimed at educating the public about financial issues, budgeting, and money management, said Griswold school readiness coordinator Sandy Frizzell. Previous topics have included health savings accounts and retirement planning.
Two workshops remain in the series: a workshop on identity theft, with Lorna Burkart of Primerica, on May 12 and a repeat of the couponing workshop May 19.