I’m standing in line at the grocery store and there are two people in front of me. I’m in no hurry. In one unsteady hand, I have a rectangle of paper painstakingly scissored from a flier. With it, I can get half off one four-pack of 9-Lives cat food if I buy another three packs. Or maybe it’s half off the total. Half of half my purchase?

It’s half of something, anyway. I don’t know how these things work. I’m trying to use a coupon and I’m not happy about it. I know how this will go. I’ll hand that little scrap of paper to the checkout girl and she’ll heave a big sigh. She’ll squint at the coupon, at me, at the coupon again. A guy behind me in line will titter and roll his eyes. A semi-pretty girl, who moments ago thought I was sexy, now sees me as a tightwad memere who actually takes time to clip savings out of the newspaper.

Coupons. Very few things present such a threat to one’s manhood.

“Coupons,” said one man who responded to a query on the matter. “Isn’t that the male equivalent of tampons?”

“Coupons,” said another, “are a man card violation.”

Yet, behold. For every man who shared my squeamishness about the things, there were two who happily admit to using coupons. And why shouldn’t they? It’s all about saving money and few of us have enough of that. And even if you have enough, who doesn’t want more?

“OK, so I may not be Trump working on million-dollar property deals,” says Dan Cunliffe II, “but the challenge is the same – to put money in your pocket. Since I’ve always been a thrifty person, couponing is right up my alley.”

Thrifty, ah yes. That’s the word. Save 20 cents off milk here, half off kitty litter there, 10 percent off an oil change and it adds up. At the end of the year, you might be hundreds – nay, thousands – of dollars ahead of the game.

“I do love to save money on the things we normally buy every week,” Cunliffe, the penny-pincher continues. “It’s not simply that every dollar adds up to a bigger amount, but it also becomes a challenge to see how great a job you can do at it. Last month I was able to get 2 new $100 printers for free. For my recent food deals I scored 6 half-gallons of ice cream for only $7. I was thrilled at saving $16 until the next day I found I had missed the double coupon deals and could have saved an additional $4. I wasn’t as disappointed in the loss of the extra $3, but the fact I missed out on scoring an even better deal.”

OK fine, Rockefeller. You grew up thrifty and that’s why you don’t have to sell your blood each month to pay the cable bill. But if you’ve avoided coupons your whole life, it’s not so easy to start. I don’t even know how one cat food coupon works, how could I possibly become one of those people who pushes two carts in the grocery store, one for goods, one for the massive stack of coupons?

Fear not. Jennifer Martel is here for you. The same lady who teaches women how to manage their purses also offers a Couponing 101.

“It seems like now is a better time than ever to start saving money, and American’s have noticed,” says Martel, the show off. “Couponing is gaining in popularity and why shouldn’t it? It’s easy, free and accessible to most people. There are different levels to couponing, such as simply cutting coupons from the Sunday paper and making your grocery list based on that, to purchasing five Sunday papers and cutting all those coupons, plus printing coupons from online, and studying the store fliers, and lugging in a giant binder to the store, and purchasing $100 worth of product for $30.”

“No matter what style is yours,” Martel says, “rest assured that you are saving you and your family money, and that’s always a good thing!”

It IS a good thing. And yet there are still people like me who have a problem with image. We want to be seen as free-wheeling, free-spending studs with too much adventure in our lives to spend any time clipping coupons like an aging aunt.

If you’re a man and you want to use coupons, you have to change your state of mind, I think.

“Every coupon used,” went another response to the query, “means more available funds for beer or wine.”

Or, if you prefer, use the loot to suck up to the family.

“The other thing I like about couponing,” says Cunliffe, “is that it does add up to substantial savings every week. I feel that even if I can save $20 or $30 a week putting a little time into cutting some coupons, I would rather bring my wife out to dinner or get my kids something with the extra money than not try to save at all.”

Which leads to a troubling idea: A person who flat out refuses to use coupons may not be a man at all. He may be only stupid.

Martel, in her couponing class, works with Shannon Bissonnette to take the stupid out of the equation, whether you’re a man or a woman. And plenty of people are getting on board.

“Shannon and I recently hosted a Couponing 101 class in Auburn and it was well-received. More than 40 people were in attendance and plans for another one is in the works,” Martel says. “It seems that more people than you think are wanting to learn all they can about ways to save money. Everything is more expensive nowadays, from gas to clothing to vacations. Why not save money where you can? Combine your coupons with the store sales and really cash in. Use all that money you’re going to save and do something fun with it like take a family vacation. Shannon guarantees that when you learn how to use coupons properly you will save at least 50 percent on your grocery bill each time. That is crazy good!”

How many men were in the course? One.

“He seemed as interested as could be,” Martel said, “considering I don’t think he had an option of being there or not.”

OK, fine. So my wife handed me a coupon and dared me to use it. She didn’t put it that way, but I know. I could see it in her eyes.

The coupon was for Dunkin Donuts, a super mammoth gigantahuge coffee for under a buck-fifty. I love coffee. The more the better. And when I presented it to the clerk, he snatched it out of my hands, ran it over a scanner and that was that. Just like the harrowing experience with the cat food coupon at the grocery store, it turned into a non-event. No snickering, no drama, just savings.

Extreme coupon tips from Jen Martel

“Clever Container has a product called The Couponizer, which is a fabulous tool for that person who regularly cuts coupons and is trying to save each and every time they walk into the store. It is broken down into sections, such as frozen foods, dairy, meats and canned goods, and has slots to hold your coupons for each item. There is a spot for your pad of paper, which has your list on it, a place to keep your store card, slots for receipts, and more. I love that it is small enough to fit into my purse yet sturdy enough that my 3-year-old can play with it while I’m shopping and not have to worry that it’s going to fall apart. (www.clevercontainer.com)

“For those people who take it to the next level and who devote more time and energy into their couponing there is the binder option. A great online resource for all of your couponing needs is thecrazycouponlady.com. This website does a great job of describing how to set up your binder, what to include, tips on how to shop and also allows you to print coupons directly from the site. The only issue is that the website is based on the West Coast and sometimes is not helpful to those of us in Maine. A more local resource is on facebook at Maine Coupon Clipper. The creator, Shannon Bissonnette, is amazing at sharing her coupon successes, tips, strategies and more. It is a great way for people to connect and get ideas from other coupon-lovers.”


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