Workshop breaks down the art of couponing

By Brenda Sullivan - ReminderNews
South Windsor - posted Thu., Nov. 7, 2013
Nancy Bassos (left) talks with coupon expert Kandi Victorino after her Nov. 4 workshop at the South Windsor Public Library. Photo by Brenda Sullivan.
Nancy Bassos (left) talks with coupon expert Kandi Victorino after her Nov. 4 workshop at the South Windsor Public Library. Photo by Brenda Sullivan.

Not everyone can duplicate the success of those "extreme couponers" on TV, but anyone who is willing to spend some time and effort can save significantly on their grocery bills. "How people live off of mustard and antacids, I don’t know," said couponing expert Kandi Victorino of the kinds of items the "extreme couponers" tend to stock up on.

Victorino, who lives in Tolland, presented an information-packed, two-hour talk on the art of couponing Nov. 4 at the South Windsor Public Library. She’s been saving money on all kinds of bills with the use of coupons and savvy shopping habits – from dining out to Christmas gifts, as well as groceries and household items – for about 20 years.

She advises beginning couponers to start simple – pick a particular store or maybe four items to focus on.

She recalled when her husband asked her to stock up on a year’s supply of hygiene items. She spent four months collecting only these coupons and watching for sales. She ended up with a stash that lasted for several years, she said.

One of the best ways to save the most using coupons is to "stack" them, Victorino said. This means pairing the store’s coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon to multiply the savings. She also noted that some stores, such as Price Chopper, honor other stores’ coupons and will allow you to pair them with a manufacturer’s coupon.

However, it’s important to know each store’s limit on the number of coupons it will honor, per item or per transaction (meaning your entire shopping trip), she said. Victorino prints the coupon policy from the websites of stores where she shops and keeps them in a coupon binder that she always brings with her. This is helpful when confronted with a cashier who doesn’t know the rules, she said.

And try to time shopping trips for when your favorite, coupon-friendly cashier is working, she said. Also, be friendly and have your coupons organized, she said. "It’s okay to cashier-profile… Some act like you’re stealing from their pocketbook, but I am always honest," she said.

She recalled wrangling with a cashier who was adamant that a $1 coupon would not work in combination with a buy-one-get-two-free store sale. After asking for the manager and showing her the printed store policy, the cashier swiped the coupon and it registered.

One of the biggest changes Victorino has seen since she first started couponing is the blossoming of coupon blogs and other coupon-related websites. "Their hearts and souls are in couponing, and each has her own personality," she said of these bloggers.

Among her favorites are http://www.iamthatlady.com, http://www.hip2save.com – where you can also find information about free samples and special offers such as free shipping, and http://www.couponingtodisney.com – whose host uses couponing to finance trips to Disneyland for her family, and gives tips on how to save for any goal.

Coupon blogs are excellent sources of up-to-the-minute sales and special coupons and you can search their databases for particular coupons, Victorino said.

Victorino also gave advice on organizing coupons which was, basically, use what works best for you.  In her case, she sorts her coupons for food items by brand – such as G for General Mills or K for Kelloggs – instead of C for cereal.

For those who have Facebook accounts, she also recommends "liking" stores and companies in order to get special offers.

Participants in the workshop went home with five pages of very detailed notes outlining these and many more tips and strategies.

Victorino gives these talks several times a year – at libraries, senior centers, recreation facilities and even people’s homes. A special two-part workshop that will include tips on saving money at drugstores, is scheduled for March 24 and March 31 from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m., sponsored by the Vernon Adult Education program. She can also be reached at onehappymom@yahoo.com.


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