Written by Sarah Cocchimiglio
Before she became a stay-at-home mom, Amara Mahmood clipped a coupon or two here or there, but saving wasn’t a big priority.
Then she had a baby. Then she had two children.
“Seeing how much diapers and wipes cost made me wonder ‘How can I cut costs?'” Mahmood said.
The 29-year-old Brooklyn, N.Y., mother of two says that saving 80 percent at the checkout is normal for her, which she does by matching store coupons with manufacturer’s coupons for things that are already on sale, making them really cheap or even free. She also tries to shop at stores that offer coupons back or have a loyalty discount, like Walgreens or RiteAid.
“Most people save a few dollars with coupons or sales,” she said. “For me, it is typical to pay $20 for $100 worth of items in a drugstore.”
Don’t Fear Frugal
“Why not cut a coupon?” Mahmood asks. “There is nothing to be ashamed of. I have had people laugh at me because of my couponing, but why is more money in your pocket something to be ashamed of?”
She suggests starting small. Focus on one approach and move forward. Don’t try—or expect—to save 80 percent on your first shopping trip. That takes practice and a major investment of time. Instead, celebrate small savings achievements to stay motivated to keep going.
“Get excited about saving $1!” she said. “Then, when you save $50, you’ll love it!”
Feedback = Freebies
“I usually email companies and tell them what I think of their products,” Mahmood said. “The trick is to be honest. Sometimes they thank me for my feedback, [and] sometimes they send coupons.”
Sometimes, nothing happens at all, but it’s worth the effort. She sends at least one email a day from this list, and it’s generated her lots and lots of coupons and freebies, not to mention the gratitude of manufacturers.
Here are Mahmood’s smart spending tips:
Make a list. If you know what you need, you’ll be less tempted to impulse-buy.
Don’t buy something just because it’s on sale. If you don’t need it, you’re not saving anything.
Cook at home. You can prepare a meal in your own kitchen, at a fraction of the cost of eating out.
Buy fruits and veggies in season. Prices are lower compared to imported produce.
Find the Sunday coupon preview online. If there are good coupons you can use, you may want to consider buying more than one newspaper.
Swap coupons. Mahmood and her mother trade coupons for cat food and diapers. Trade unused coupons with a neighbor or a friend, or join a coupon-trading group.