PORTLAND, Ore. - “Couponing and saving large amounts of money is incredibly in vogue,” said Damascus resident Angela Davis. “I think couponing is the new scrapbooking or the new Avon, where people get together not to spend money but save money.
"It really is the hip thing to do, for people in their 20s and 30s especially.”
Davis and Southeast Portland resident Rebecca Gibson are co-founders of Frugal Living, which offers a Web site (www.frugallivingnw.com), blog and seminars on couponing.
It all started a little over a year ago when Davis heard about www.moneysavingmom.com. By following the strategies on the Web site ― which include “stacking” store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons, as well as menu planning ― Davis found herself “saving tons and tons and tons of money.”
At the time, her monthly budget for food and household items, including diapers for her two children, was $400 per month. Davis, 33, was mostly shopping at WinCo and Wal-Mart to feed herself, her 35-year-old husband, Will, a general contractor, and their three children, Audrey, 5, Willy, 3, and Nathan, 1. They now have a fourth child on the way.
Angela Davis offers these couponing etiquette tips:
As a result of couponing, Davis now spends $265 food per month on food and household items and is able to shop at Albertsons and Safeway. She estimates that she spends one to two hours a week cutting coupons and finding store deals and another 15 minutes or so planning menus. What she calls her “focus on frugality” makes it possible for her to be a stay-at-home mom and for her and her husband to contribute to charities. But, for her, the most exciting part of couponing is teaching the skill to others.
When Davis offered her first two-hour "Couponing 101" class through her church, Damascus Community Church, and 60 to 70 people showed up, she knew she was on to something.
“It happened right when the economy tanked,” Davis said, “so it was the perfect time. People all of a sudden got really interested. It was attended by more than just the people already interested in saving money. All of a sudden, everyone started becoming very interested in saving money.”
Davis then told Rebecca Gibson, 32, another stay-at-home mom and member of Damascus Community Church, about blogs on couponing; and Gibson decided to give it a try. At the time, she was on a monthly food budget of $200, with which she fed herself, her husband, Tone Gibson, a construction project engineer, and their children, Nikolas, 3, and Luke, 14 months.
When, as a result of couponing, Gibson was able to buy a year’s supply of diapers for $30, she realized she’d “stumbled onto gold.”
Couponing can be incredibly complex, however, what with store coupons, Internet coupons, double coupon days and register rewards, among other deals to keep straight. Gibson first focused on toiletries, such as shampoo, toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors and shaving cream, to learn the art. Later, she started couponing for food.
That was when she noticed that most couponing blogs included coupons for stores in the Midwest, so she decided to start her own blog about couponing in Portland.
That blog, combined with the www.frugallivingnw.com Web site, started out as a way to offer continuing support for people who took that first Couponing 101 class.
“All of sudden we had an audience that we could think about when we were doing the Web site,” Davis said. “People aren’t left out there on their own. When my mom was couponing in the 1980s, she was doing it completely on her own. Now the Internet has made it really accessible and easy for other people to do this.”
Today, the Frugal Living Web site offers information on upcoming classes and frequent new postings with specific information on Portland-area coupons and store deals.
Most recently, Davis used a coupon for Bertolli Pasta Sauce at Safeway, where she paid $1 for two packages of the product and received a coupon for $2 off her next purchase of anything at the store. In other words, she made a buck off the deal.
It’s those kinds of deals that get her heart pumping.
“It’s so exciting,” Davis said. “It’s meeting my needs to spend money and to go look for deals, so it takes the incentive away for me to go to the mall and buy other stuff, so that’s how I’m also saving money. It’s completely addictive, especially at the beginning. It is really fun to do.”
A way to give hope
What Davis enjoys most about couponing, however, is “helping people feel like they have control over their money and that this economy is not in charge of them. I’m just thrilled to be able to share this with as many people as possible. I want to give people hope, and I think this is one way that people can have hope when it comes to their money.”
Gibson appreciates the fact that, as a result of couponing, she is able to stock her pantry and prepare for the future. Although, for her, couponing is “definitely a part-time job,” requiring about 10 hours a week of her time.
In the evenings, when her children are in bed, she goes online to check out blogs, look for deals, post deals on her own blog, and print out Internet coupons. She also spends time organizing her coupons, which she keeps in a box and always has with her in case she comes across an unadvertised sale. She also takes time to plan menus, which she matches with store sales. Couponing, she says, has taught her self-control. She rarely buys anything not on her shopping list and even then only if it’s on sale and she has a coupon for it.
“That’s one of the big keys,” she says, “sticking with the budget.”
For more information: www.frugallivingnw.com; or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.