BY CARRIE MACMILLAN in the REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN
Gina Juliano doesn’t just get gratification from keeping her weekly grocery, household and pet supply budget to $50. And that’s for a family of five, including seven cats and one dog.
The Enfield coupon maven wants others to benefit from her money-saving strategies, like the stranger who recently approached her and said, “I didn’t have to get a second job because of you.”
Juliano, 44, knows what it’s like to struggle to pay the bills.
She and her husband came close to having their home foreclosed on after she lost her six-figure salary as a school principal in 2009.
Before that, Juliano hardly ever clipped coupons. But she developed her own method of saving bundles. They not only kept their house, but her money-saving ways spawned a hobby, a passion and a new job.
In addition to the deal-oriented website she runs, she leads classes on coupon use. Thursday, she visits the Beardsley and Memorial Library in Winsted at 6 p.m. for a free class.
Although Juliano is now employed parttime as a principal at a private special-education facility for kids with substance abuse problems, she dedicates 40 to 60 hours a week to her web site, www.ginaskokopelli.com.
(Kokopelli is a Native American deity.) The site tells shoppers the best bargains to be found in local grocery and pharmacy stores and online.
“In two hours, people can learn what took me eight months to figure out,” Juliano said of her classes. “There is a learning curve, but I always talk to people after class if they have problems figuring it out on their own.”
In 2010, Juliano said she purchased $11,209 worth of merchandise, including groceries, toiletries, paper goods, cleaning and pet supplies. (She has three kids, ages 22, 20 and 15 ) She says she used $5,143 worth of coupons and got $907 back in rebates. She received $2,991 worth of free merchandise, which she donated to charity, she says. In the end, she only spent $2,168 for the entire year, making her $50-per-week goal with $226 to spare.
Her secret in a nutshell is to combine what’s on sale in a store with what coupons are available. And since most sales run in six- to 12week cycles, stock up on anything you’ll need before it goes back on sale. Although Juliano said she has a decent stockpile of nonperishables in her laundry room and linen closet and a good amount of food in a second freezer, she said the house is not filled with items.
In fact, she said the extreme couponing reality TV shows do a disservice to her work.
“Those are hoarders and it’s not reality,” she said.
Juliano said her husband, who does most of the cooking in their household, was initially worried his wife would not get all the fresh ingredients he needs.
“He does everything from scratch and he thought it would all be boxed mac ‘n’ cheese and processed foods,” she said.
“But it’s not. We eat filet mignon and lobster. We just wait for it to go on sale.”
In 2011, U.S. consumers redeemed more than 3.5 billion coupons, a 6.1 percent increase over 2010, according to Inmar Inc., a company that monitors coupon distribution and redemption.
The increase continues a trend that began about five years ago.
Since 2006, coupon redemption has increased 34.6 percent, Inmar reports. This comes despite the fact that marketers last year significantly reduced the number of coupons made available.
For people like Juliano, that means working just a little bit harder.
“I think it’s a sign of the economic times,” Juliano said of companies putting out fewer coupons. “Once we are out of the recession and completely bounce back the other way, coupon use will drop off.”
But that doesn’t mean she intends to stop clipping.
“I am working again and I could totally get away with never couponing again, but why would I want to throw money down the toilet?” Juliano said.
“Once you realize how much you can save, why would you want to go back? This just means we can take nicer vacations and buy nicer things.”
Plus, Juliano insists her dealsaving only takes her about an hour or two weekly. (She gets 10 newspapers on Sundays.) “A lot of people go to the grocery store and spend an hour and half doing their shopping, but if you do it my way, you save time and you are better prepared,” she said
A FEW MONEY-SAVING TIPS FROM GINA JULIANO
$$ Be careful of buy-one-get-one-free sales because the price of the “one” might be too jacked up to make up for getting two.
$$ Go shopping with a list, otherwise you get distracted by things you don’t need.
$$ Avoid dollar stores. You end up putting all this stuff in your cart because it’s “only a dollar” and before you know it, you’ve spent $50.
$$ Don’t redeem coupons the same week they come out in the newspaper. Wait until the item is on sale.
$$ If something is on sale and a decent price and you’ll need more the next week, buy several because the sale will end. For example, if you eat pasta once week and there is a sale, buy five or six boxes to get you until the next sale. The boxes don’t take up a ton of space.
$$ You don’t have to buy 10 items to benefit from 10 for $10 sales.
$$ Plan your meals around what is on sale, not
by what you feel like eating.
$$ If you have a coupon for 99 cents or less, many grocery stores will double it.
$$ Choose your grocery store wisely. Juliano said Stop & Shop shoppers spend an average of 30 percent more and that Shop Rite is a better value.
$$ Use the Internet. There are some great sales on Facebook. If you aren’t on Facebook, set up a fake identity just for deals.
$$ Know how to shop the wholesale stores like Costco and BJ’s. Such stores are great for deals on things like milk and butter, trash bags and dog and cat food, but things like cereal, salad dressing and peanut butter can be purchased cheaper elsewhere when on sale, she said.
For more advice and deals, visit www.ginaskokopelli. com or www.ctcouponlady.com.
— Carrie MacMillan
*This post may contain affiliate links. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.*