Coupons & COVID-19: Simple Way to Pinch Pennies During the Pandemic

The Faraone family of New Britain says they save thousands of dollars a year couponing.

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The pandemic has many of us pinching pennies and looking to get a better bang for our buck.

“I mean it’s a pandemic! You got to do what you got to do,” said Hartford resident Latrice Foster.

The pandemic has many of us pinching pennies and looking to get a better bang for our buck.

Foster spoke to NBC Connecticut as she was entering the Stop & Shop on New Park Avenue in Hartford.

“I’m coming here because they have the sale item that I want.”

Foster isn’t messing around when it comes to saving money.

“I go to all the local stores and buy whatever is on sale with my coupons.”

Even with one less mouth to feed these days.

“So I have a son, but he just left for school, so my grocery bill just got cut in half! So yeah for that because he’s 6’4,” so he’s a giant. Imagine how much he eat?”

Hartford resident Chris Branford is also watching his wallet during the coronavirus crisis too.

“It makes you like appreciate what you got. What you can do with your money.”

Branford said he’s clipping coupons more these days, something New Britain father Nicola Faraone swears by.

He finds that it saves his family a lot of extra money.

“It just means being able to take more vacations,” he said, and putting his kids in more programs too.  

Faraone, a longtime grocery store employee, has seen firsthand just how hard this year has been for folks, like when shelves went bare as the state started to shut down.  

“In 25 years, I’ve never seen anything like what I saw on those four weeks. Literally, we were sleeping at the store. It was crazy.”

Now Faraone hopes his years of couponing can help out other Connecticut families during the coronavirus crisis.

His wife Irene explained the first time her husband shopped with coupons, “He came home with enough stuff to fill our kitchen, I looked at him and said, ‘what are you doing?’

He told her, “This whole thing only cost me like $32." So she said, "At that point I said, ‘you know what, do what you got to do.’”

Faraone said finding and clipping coupons is easy - check your local flyers and browse online too.

 “When I get the coupons, I clip them right away. My sons like to help clip them, so it’s kind of like a family thing.”

But Faraone said it’s essential to keep the coupons in order by expiration date, really take the time to plan out your grocery shop, know exactly what you want to purchase, and set a budget.

 “I said all right, ‘this is what I’m spending’ and I was literally like 40 cents off.”

Faraone said only buy what you’ll need, despite what you see in his packed basement, which his kids call "The Coupon Store."

For the family of five, he said it makes sense to stock up. Plus, they like to share with neighbors in need.

While cleaning supplies, for example, may be tough to find right now, Faraone said deals do exist, even if you have to think outside of the box.

For example, “What you can do is called 'stacking,' when you use a store coupon with a manufacturer’s coupon.” Using both on one item makes things even cheaper.

For the Faraones, couponing gives them a little more cushion as they bounce through life’s ups and downs.

“I’d say on average about $10,000 a year,” said Faraone.  

Couponing can be complicated, so the Faraone family recommended finding and joining local Facebook groups.

They said don’t be afraid to ask members questions and most importantly, make it fun.

That’s what Foster suggests too.

“Just look at the different flyers on the weekend on a Saturday or Sunday when you’re sitting there watching TV, or something, maybe NBC News.”

Industry analyst Ted Rossman said make sure you look for deals online too.

He’s seeing more digital deals linked to credit cards during the coronavirus crisis, as more people are shopping from the comfort and safety of their couches.

While Rossman suggested taking advantage of these cash back offers, he warned they do come with a catch: make sure you’re not buying over your budget.

Rossman said he believes the main risks with these online offers are overspending and privacy concerns.

While Rossman said some folks are fearful of getting tracked by advertisers online, for those who already use the web to shop, he suggests checking out all your options before you cash out.

“Don’t go directly to the retailer's site. Like click through that credit card portal or click through that airline portal look around for coupon codes.”

This way, he said, you can potentially get items cheaper, accumulate extra points for the future or gain potential cash back opportunities.

So when times are tough, savvy shoppers said taking some extra time that can save you some extra cash in the end.

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