While unloading my grocery items onto a checkout counter at the Plaquemine Wal-Mart last week, I watched the cashier scan a heap of coupons for the woman ahead of me.
“You saved $107,” she told the shopper.
The woman looked pleased with the amount shaved off of her original $450 bill.
“I thought people on reality television shows did that kind of shopping,” I said.
As the cashier continued scanning coupons, I asked her more questions about her “extreme” couponing.
“I look for and use coupons everywhere — for oil changes and Waffle House, to name a few … I go through coupons on Sunday night while watching a good TV show,” she said.
Blanche Allain, a school teacher who plans to retire soon, started clipping coupons 35 years ago when she and her husband were going through some tough economic times. “My husband had been unemployed for a year and money was really tight. We had just received a really high utility bill. So, I started going through two boxes of coupons that I had clipped and filed. We went to the local Piggly Wiggly and started shopping,” she said.
Their visit to Piggly Wiggly concluded with some extreme coupon savings.
“To the cashier’s and our surprise, the coupons lowered the bill just over $300. God was with us that day,” Allain said.
I’ve never met a person as thrilled and polite about couponing as Allain.
“When you have coupons that total in the hundreds of dollars, it is best that you go to the grocery store early in the morning. That way working people do not have to wait on you,” she said.
She looks out for shoppers, too. “I also tape coupons that will expire to the item in my local store for other people to use.”
Just to put a bit more perspective on couponing, 2.8 billion coupons were redeemed for $3.7 billion in savings in 2012, according to Statista, a statistics-gathering website. Most coupons are redeemed on food products.
I’m not a deliberate couponer, but I do save a few coupons a month to buy paper goods or laundry detergent. I particularly like to save the sales receipts from certain fast food places and pizzerias that offer a chance to win a prize and earn a free cookie, fountain drink or half-off of a meal. When I am running low on funds in my account, the coupons come in handy.
Allain’s couponing behaviors are lessons that we can all use. She saves even when it doesn’t seem worthwhile.
“Don’t think that 50 cents is too small of an amount. Two coupons total $1. Next thing you know, it is $5, $10 or even $100,” she said.
Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.