They’re thrifty, yes, but not extreme.
They don’t dumpster-dive for newspaper circulars, nor clock 40 hours a week clipping stacks of coupons and hunting them down online. Nor do they cash in counterfeit coupons trying to score 77 bottles of ketchup for $6.93.
They are frugal shoppers, but they bristle at comparisons to fervent bargain hunters like those featured on the TLC show Extreme Couponing – a phrase that, to them, describes hucksters out to game the system.
Those extreme couponers are still essentially a fringe group, but the Great Recession has given rise to a savvy new breed of mainstream shoppers who’ve finely honed the art of couponing.
For many, necessity was indeed the mother of invention. But some have simply come to love the high — and revel in the sport — of getting a good deal.
Here are a few of their stories.
Clipping Her Way Out of Financial Trouble
Dana Mammoser of Genoa, Ill., started couponing in 2010.
The 48-year-old mother of four sons used to run a thriving home day care, but then the recession hit. “When everybody lost their job, what do you think happened to my business?’ she asked rhetorically. “Nobody needed day care.”
Mammoser and her husband, a park maintenance director, had to find new ways to save. Three of the Mammoser’s boys still live at home, and they’re aged 16 to 21, “so they can really eat,” she says.
Over time, she developed a strategy: She spends an hour on Sundays cutting out coupons from The Chicago Tribune inserts, and devotes a good three hours on Wednesdays to scanning the ads in the local newspaper for sales at regional grocers like Jewel-Osco (SVU) and Hy-Vee, matching coupons with sale items to boost the discounts.
Mammoser also belongs to a local couponing swap group on Facebook. On the site, she posts requests to her pet-free savings buddies for dog food coupons for her pooches, Tank and Mac. “Once, I received 15 $1 Pedigree coupons. It was like getting a treasure in the mail,” she says.
Finally, Mammoser saves big by buying in bulk. As stores limit the number of coupons they’ll apply to a single transaction, she’ll go through the checkout counter several times during one shopping trip. “I’ll do what I have to do to get the savings,” she says.
Couponing has paid off big for the Mammosers. The family now saves about $500 a month on groceries. “It’s changed my life,” she says. What’s more, the family can now afford name-brand products like Doritos and Oreos instead of the store brands. “I used to never buy the good stuff,” she says.
Couponing has also brought Mammoser an unexpected source of fulfillment. She discovered Coups for Troops, and now collects expired coupons for families in financial need at military bases in Japan. Coupons can be used at military commissaries up to six months past their expiration date.