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Money Matters Blog

Monday, August 6, 2012

Competing with Coupons

Christine Donaubauer has discovered
how to "win" using coupons.
Across the pond, athletes from all over the world are competing in sports from table tennis to volleyball, basketball, swimming and track and field at the London Olympics. 

However, back on the home front, there is another “sport” played in the living rooms and grocery aisles across America – coupon clipping.

“I’m always trying to find the best deals,” said Christine Donaubauer, Community Financial Credit Union quality assurance manager.  “That’s when it becomes a sport.”

Like the Olympic athletes, Donaubauer is still an amateur coupon clipper; “certainly not extreme” like people on some recent reality TV shows.

She got started after her daughter was born six years ago, when the additional costs of food, diapers and other baby needs were adding up.

“I’d go to the store and spend $200 a week, so I finally looked at some of the coupons I’d get in the mail and started to realize how much I could save,” Donaubauer said.  “I saw I could cut that spending down to $60 or $70 per week.”

To keep herself organized, Donaubauer kept coupons in an envelope, but as she expanded her clipping operation, she’s outgrown it and moved on to a binder, similar to what baseball card collectors use to keep their cards safe.

While her couponing has grown, her shopping has reduced.

“The one thing I had to let go of was shopping every week,” she said.  “If I went every two weeks, I spent less money because then I could really figure out what I needed and make things stretch a little bit more at home.  And once you get used to shopping less, you figure out how to stock for a few weeks at a time.”

Getting started with coupons is simple for anyone to do, Donaubauer said.  They just need to start looking at the circulars that come through the mail, or the flyers in the Sunday paper and think about what they buy and what they need.  Coupons are also going digital; stores like Kroger now let customers load coupons on their loyalty cards so they don’t even have to keep track of the paper version. 

There are also some misconceptions about coupons as well.
“The most common misunderstanding is that the only things you can get deals on are processed or junk food – that’s not true,” she said.  “There are coupons for things like organic milk, yogurt and other healthier items.”

One of the side benefits of saving money with coupons is the ability to put those savings towards higher quality meat and produce.

Donaubauer said she is reminded of why she clips coupons whenever she happens to pay full price for something.
“It is amazing when you see that last number pop up and you think, ‘Wow! I just had to pay that much for that thing,” she laughed.

Then the competitive side creeps in, and she vows to keep clipping.

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