‘Centsable’ Savings for Your Family

It’s almost like a secret society. So secret in fact, a few of the women only wanted their initials used.

Yet anyone is welcome to join.

The coupon club meets at 6 p.m. the second Tuesday of every month at the San Marcos branch of the San Diego County Library and members gather to swap the latest coupons, share stories of mega-deals and help each other stretch their family budget dollars.

The benefits of being a member can be quite rewarding. They range anywhere from free razors and toiletries to nearly-free cereal and other groceries.

“We’re not like those crazy couponers where it’s ‘I’ll give you this coupon if you give me that one,’” said L.S., who is one of those who asked that only her initials be used. “Here, it’s more like ‘please, have this coupon.’”

Instead of hello, each attendee that enters the room is greeted with, “Are you looking for anything in particular?”

The table is full of big stacks of coupon inserts from the library’s Sunday newspapers. There’s a big box of scissors for clipping and each person brings their own extra coupons and inserts.

They sit around the table and clip coupons, chatting about their families, grocery deals or anything on their minds. The conversation is interrupted only when one of the clippers finds a coupon they know someone is looking for or might be particularly interested in.

Wendy Cajina has been there since the beginning, getting the club off the ground with her sister Jennifer Nolte, who is a library tech at the San Marcos branch.

After inquiring what the library did with the coupon inserts from its papers, the two started discussing the idea of a coupon club. They found an opening on the library’s busy schedule of community programs and the club was born.

“It just sort of came about,” said Cajina.

“Oftentimes, they will close down the library,” said Nolte. “They’re the last ones to leave.”

“We’re here until we hear ‘we’re closing,’” said L.S.

J.C. Snow heard about the club through word of mouth.

“It’s very convenient,” she said. “Where the deals are, is where I’m at.”

And that’s really what the club is all about – helping your friends and neighbors save money on everyday items.

Some of the great deals highlighted including buying 20 of the big family size boxes of General Mills cereal for 49 cents each at Ralphs.

“They were Honey Nut Cheerios and Lucky Charms, etc. for $1.99 with a coupon for $6 off of four boxes,” said Cajina. “We’re big on cereal with kids in our families.”

She also got cans of Libby vegetables for 25 cents after they went on sale for 50 cents and she had 25-cent-off coupons.

“We just went and got 20 cans – lots of green beans,” she said, noting Thanksgiving was coming up.

Canned goods are a great item to get in bulk with coupons, according to the couponers. Most canned goods have expiration dates 2-3 years in the future.

One of the highlights for the week ahead was free (with coupon) Colgate mouthwash at Stater Brothers. The grocery chain put the mouthwash on sale for $1.99 if you buy three and Colgate has a $2-off manufacturer’s coupon.

Cajina says couponing has allowed her to lower her family’s food and toiletries bill to around $80 a week – for a family of five!

Each couponer has her own way of sorting coupons.

“We all have our own system,” said L.S. “I have them organized in my file folder so they aren’t all over my house.”

Some organize by item, some by expiration date.

“My strategy is to stock up when things are close to free,” she said.

Technology and the economy are changing the face of couponing. Besides the traditional clipping of paper coupons with scissors, couponers now have smart phone apps and websites that help them save money.

“Things have changed,” said L.S.

But that hasn’t taken the fun out of it for them

“Every little bit helps,” said Cajina. “We’re on top of the technology.”

In between meetings, the group stays in touch to share deals. In their phone, their fellow couponers are listed by their first name, but their last name is always “coupon.”

That’s how they know they’re part of the “secret society.”