Gina Juliano lost her job about three years ago. She was an administrator in the Hartford public school system, and didn’t see the dismissal coming, like most people who are laid off. When work wasn’t easy to come by, Juliano had to think of ways to save money.
Coupons have since become her passion.
While she does not think of herself as an “extreme couponer,” Juliano’s concentration is on saving money for her family and teaching these concepts to the public. In fact, she spends an astounding 50 to 60 hours a week teaching classes and maintaining her coupon website, all free of charge.
“This is not work for me,” she said. “If I could make a living doing this, I would.”
Talking to a group of about 30 people at Windsor Locks Public Library on April 12, Juliano launched right into her explanations about how to use coupons to regularly save money on everything a family needs: from groceries to toiletries and even paper goods and magazine subscriptions. In her energetic and emphatic way, Juliano told the group the secret and not-so-secret ways to cash in on smart shopping.
Dissatisfied with a product? “Contact the company,” said Juliano. “I have also e-mailed companies and said, ‘I love your product.’” More often than not, Juliano said that the company will send you coupons for free products.
Buying health and beauty products? “Don’t buy them at the grocery store,” said Juliano. “Buy them at the pharmacy.”
Juliano never pays for toothpaste and refuses to pay more than 50 cents for a box of pasta.
Astonished looks and raised eyebrows were often the reaction of the audience members who were listening and taking notes. Many had tried couponing before but given up, some were avid couponers and shared some of their own techniques, and some were completely new to the world of couponing.
The launching pad for much of Juliano’s work is her website, www.ginaskokopelli.com. On this site, she posts lists of weekly sales flyers with matching product coupons, links and many other ideas on how to save while shopping.
“I think I am going to park on her website for now,” said Patricia Nelson, who had been taking notes during the lesson. “It can be done.” Despite feeling a little overwhelmed by the amount of information Juliano offered during her two-hour presentation, Nelson and her friend Linda Lee Boucher were inspired to attempt to try to coupon as soon as possible.
“It’s like leaving money on the table,” said Juliano about her pre-couponing days. She definitely has her opinions on which stores are coupon-friendly, which stores are generally over-priced, and which stores have over-complicated coupon programs.
Juliano is now working as a principal for a special school in Durham, Conn. But she is not going to stop couponing, and as far as she can see, she is not going to stop teaching her classes and updating her website. She is thinking about teaching a “Couponing 102” class, in which she would take people with her to the grocery store on a shopping field trip.
Juliano’s best advice? “Shop like a guy,” she said. “Go into the store with blinders and get what you came in for. Don’t treat the grocery store like it’s a shoe store.”
The presentation was jointly sponsored by the library and the General Federated Woman’s Club of Windsor Locks.