When it comes to making life changes, saving money and budgeting is arguably the toughest change to make. It comes with lots of sacrifice, discipline, number-crunching, and saying “no” to those things and activities on which you love to splurge. Usually, going out to eat is the first to go; it’s almost embarrassing to see how much is spent on fast food and fine dining. Sure, a $5 meal seems harmless, but paying the drive-thru a visit a few times a week certainly adds up. Then, to make matters worse is the frivolous spending on clothes, especially during this time of year. For many, temperatures rising means shopping for a new wardrobe is a must. As tempting as it is, discipline is crucial; we’ve got to prioritize our short and long-term financial goals and create new ways to maximize our income. And believe it or not, making this life change doesn’t have to be as daunting as it sounds. In fact, you can make it fun. Yes, with a little effort, organization, and discipline, saving money can become a hobby your entire family can enjoy.
With shopping, coupons are more than those flimsy papers that fill the spaces in your newspapers. While they’ve been around since the early 1900s and became popular during the Great Depression, TIME Business reports that the activity of “couponing” didn’t rise to fame until about 2009. For decades, shoppers have clipped coupons from the morning paper, headed to the grocery stores, and taken advantage of incredible buy-one-get-one deals on food and household items. More recently, however, shows like Extreme Couponing have shown that you can really buy everything you need for next to nothing when couponing is done right.
Katia Farmer understands exactly how to “do couponing right.” Dabbling in the hobby nine months ago, she’s now created a system that allows her family to enjoy pantries and closets full of toiletries, cleaning supplies, and food that’ll last months, even years. An episode of Extreme Couponing initially piqued her interest, and she immediately began Googling resources that will allow her to join in and save her family hundreds of dollars each month.
“I watched an episode of Extreme Couponing and knew it was something I needed to figure out,” Farmer says. “I didn’t reach out to anyone at first; I wanted to do everything on my own and learn the ropes. I found couponing apps for my phone, and started joining Facebook groups that are basically communities of people posting about the deals they find and sharing digital coupons.”
The Facebook groups are also helpful for beginners because you’re made privy to additional resources and learn “insider” secrets like how to combine coupons and use them past the expiration date.
As Farmer gets deeper into the world of extreme couponing, she relies on the help of what are called Coupon Fairies to get deals ahead of time. On Saturdays, the fairies provide each customer with the Sunday paper’s coupons, giving them extra time to clip, organize, and prepare for the upcoming sales. Farmer admits that it’s no easy feat preparing for the new sales; she spends around two to three hours a day, twice a week, clipping coupons and organizing them in her binder. She categorizes them by hygiene, household, hair products, snacks, etc., and tries to keep at least five copies of each coupon in the various sections.
“I categorize them, but I don’t keep them chronologically ordered,” she explains. “Many stores actually honor coupons a month after they’ve expired, so I check periodically to make sure I haven’t missed any grace periods.”
All of it has certainly paid off, and Farmer has successfully become one of the extreme couponers who have stocked her home with necessities without breaking the bank. In fact, she’s even gotten money back after using coupons to buy air fresheners in bulk. While pretty incredible, Farmer says her most memorable couponing moment was spending only $5 for $80 Sonicare electric toothbrushes.
“That was the best deal I’ve gotten thus far with couponing,” she says. “I had a few coupons for $30 off a Sonicare toothbrush, and when I got to the store, I saw they had them on sale for $34.99. I bought a few for my family at only $5 a piece.”
Thanks to the deals she receives each week, Farmer now has the entire family in on her hobby, with her husband helping clip and organize the binder multiple times a week. She loves sharing deals with family and friends, eager to spread the word on how she’s saved hundreds stocking up on items she knows the family will use forever.
Coupons don’t just save you money on household items and groceries, but also experiences. Thanks to discount sites like Groupon and Living Social, customers may find coupons for dinner for two at local restaurants, discounts on services like massages and gym memberships, and even vacations. Yes, with the “Getaways” section of Groupon, you’re able to find discounted international and domestic trips for two (with airfare included!).
It was the rise of these sites that made couponing more popular, and it serves as a great marketing tool for local businesses looking to expand their reach. Customers may download the app or visit the site, purchase the deal right on the spot, and have it in their arsenal to use until the deal expires. It’s truly changed the game of consumerism in Richmond and beyond.
Where couponing and online deals may be the easier route to saving money, thrifting is an excellent—but more challenging—way to save on gently used clothes. Richmond has no shortage of thrift stores that boast an inventory of men’s and women’s clothing at a fraction of the retail value. From business suits and dress shoes to handbags and jewelry, thrifting is becoming wildly popular among those who want to wear designer but have to cut back on major spending.
Thrift stores and consignment shops are ideal for the shopaholic; unlike traditional retailers who have everything sectioned off by style, size, and color, these stores only separate items by category and size, so it requires quite a bit of digging. And sure, you may have to thumb through each selection and peek at everything to find the right pick for you, but that’s the fun in it! Many have taken on thrifting as a hobby and have padded their closet with vintage designer clothing and unique accessories that they won’t catch many others wearing.
Thrift stores like Goodwill and Salvation Army come in handy, especially when it comes to buying athletic wear; there’s no shortage of t-shirts, shorts, and pants for anywhere from $1.50 to $5. You’ll find blazers for under $20, and can snag dress shirts and dresses for under $10. Visiting the thrift stores in more affluent areas offers even better steals; local residents often drop off designer items that are placed on the racks for next to nothing at all, and with a quick wash or trip to the dry cleaners, the clothing is like new.
Cutting back on spending doesn’t always have to mean cutting back on your quality of life; if you like to shop, say goodbye to popular retailers and welcome the idea of digging for deals at consignment shops and thrift stores. If you know money must be spent on household items, take up couponing as a new hobby and cut down on the grocery and toiletry bills. Options—and fun options!—exist for those looking to save money, and what you’ll find are products, restaurants, and clothing stores that make life enjoyable and help you come in under budget month after month.