The first time June Salzer ever saw the program Extreme Couponing, she thought it was ridiculous. “I mean, who needs 25 bottles of catsup all at once,” she said with a laugh.
This program, featured on the channel TLC, highlights the efforts of people who take using coupons to an extreme level-like getting $1,000 worth of groceries for $25. “I was actually bothered when I saw the show the first time,” she said. “But then there was a couple featured that used their coupons and donated hundreds of dollars worth of food to their local food pantry, and I thought that was really cool.”
But the show did intrigue June, and she decided that while extreme couponing would never appeal to her, using coupons in her everyday life could benefit her budget. She also determined that coupons could help her accomplish a goal-becoming debt free. “As a kid my mom would clip coupons, and so I wasn’t unfamiliar with it,” she said. “And I wasn’t interested in having a pantry filled with 50 bottles of mustard or 10 cases of noodles. I just wanted to save some money on my own grocery bill, and use that money to pay off my debts, even if it was only a little at a time.”
June began small and started clipping coupons for items she used regularly. As a single working woman with no children, the coupons that benefit her most are for items such as shampoo, toiletry items, make-up and soap. “It’s not that I don’t use coupons for food, but I just don’t buy that much food,” she said.
The first place she turned to for her coupons was the Star Journal. “I was getting that paper delivered for free, and the inserts always had coupons I could use,” she said. “I also buy a paper like the Sunday Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel because that is a different market than in the Northwoods and the coupons are different than what is available up here.”
June doesn’t spend hours at her kitchen table clipping these money savers. “I make it a pleasant pastime,” she said. “Usually I do it while I watch TV or a movie. My roommate crochets while she watches TV, but I clip coupons.” Clipping coupons is also a way she spends time with family members. “Lots of times on Sunday morning my brother Joe comes over and clips coupons with me,” she said. “It makes for a good time to catch up and spend time with each other.”
At first June’s savings were small; maybe $4 to $5 a trip. “But that small amount inspired me to find other ways to coupon,” she said. “Hey five bucks is five bucks, and in this economy that can make a difference over time.” She gives an example of a friend who has five children to feed. “This woman shops two times a month and saves about $40 each time using coupons,” she said. “At the end of the year she has saved $960. That’s a lot.”
At first June used a small wallet-type folder to keep her coupons, but that became frustrating. “I was always digging for them, and if you do that you usually get fed up and end up not using the coupons you’ve saved,” she said. Then she purchased a plastic three-ring binder and clear plastic inserts that are used to hold business or baseball cards. She sectioned off pages into different categories, like frozen foods, soaps, shampoos, grocery, etc. “I used to clip coupons for every item,” she said. “Now I only clip them if I know I will use a product. Then I put them in the correct category in my binder. That way I can find the coupon faster and look to see if I have a coupon for an item, especially if it goes on sale.”
June has also started a roster of prices for products in different area stores. For instance, she knows the price of a certain brand of shampoo she likes at most area department stores. “It’s important you have an idea of what stuff costs in different stores,” she said. “That way when it goes on sale in one store, you can determine if you are saving money, especially if you have a coupon for it.”
Another way June puts couponing to use is through social media, as many brand name products offer coupons through their Facebook pages.
June does admit that couponing isn’t for everyone. “If you want to save significant amounts of money, you have to be organized,” she said. “And you do have to put some time into it.” Another practice she adheres to is always compiling a list before shopping and sticking with it. “You can’t impulse buy everytime you go to the store,” she said. “If I want to treat myself, I’ll treat myself by making a purchase using a coupon. Another practice I use is if I want something, I’ll wait before purchasing it. Everything goes on sale, and usually the item I want will eventually not only go on sale, but I will find a coupon for it too.”
Being brand loyal is also prohibitive. “You have to be flexible with the brands you use,” she said. “However, I did have a friend who could only use a certain laundry soap because of her daughter’s allergies. But I showed her how to get coupons for that brand and stock up on it when it went on sale.”
Since June has been couponing, she has noticed a difference in the reaction of her friends and family. “Yeah sometimes they say ‘here comes that crazy coupon girl,'” she laughed, “but then when they come with me to the store and see a $100 charge go to $50 they come around pretty fast and want to know more.”
Presenting a pile of coupons to a cashier can also cause people waiting in line to become a little agitated. Because of this June usually does her shopping early in the morning. “There’s hardly anyone in the stores then, and besides my mind is fresher and I enjoy it more,” she said.
June felt honored to be asked to teach a class on couponing through the Community Education Program. Her coupon class will be held on Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Central School in Rhinelander. “You know if you want to save a lot on your grocery bill or just a little, coupons can make a difference,” she said. “And since I’ve been using coupons more, I have also accomplished my goal of reducing my debt. I’m almost there. But the most fun is when I go shopping and walk out of the store $40 or $50 richer. That always puts a little smile on my face.”
Editor’s note: To find out more about June’s couponing class, or the many other classes offered through the Community Education Program, call (715) 365-9745. In addition, the Sept. 2 and Sept. 9 editions of the Star Journal have a roster of all the classes and times and dates they will be held.