Coupon expert offers advice to Northlake audience
Coupon expert Jill Cataldo spoke about finding and using coupons and offered other money-saving tips to 45 people at the Grant Park Recreation Center in Northlake the evening of March 6. | Mark Lawton~Sun-Times Media
Updated: April 15, 2013 6:21AM
NORTHLAKE — The best place to shop is at home.
“There is a bad time and a good time to buy everything,” Jill Cataldo told 45 people — one man, 44 women — in the Grant Park recreation center in Northlake the evening of March 6. “Stockpile, so you can essentially shop at home when you need things.”
Cataldo is a “couponing” expert. She writes a syndicated column on the best ways to find and use coupons and has appeared on various TV and radio shows.
Tip number one to saving money is to buy when prices are low.
“Grocers operate on a 12-week pricing cycle,” Cataldo said. “Everything we buy is at its lowest price every 12 weeks.”
Most people, however, buy when they run out of an item. Cataldo stopped doing that a few years when she had two babies and was running through diapers. To save money she started buying about three months of items when prices were at their lowest.
“Instead of running down to the store and paying whatever they want to charge, I go downstairs,” Cataldo said. There she stockpiles items.
“You are shopping ahead of your needs,” she said.
You don’t have to use coupons, she said. You do have to keep track of prices so you can recognize a low price.
“If you see a product going 50-percent off, even without a coupon, it’s a deal,” Cataldo said.
That said, Cataldo has several tips on coupons. The first is where to find them. The most common place is the Sunday newspaper inserts. That’s followed by in-store coupons and Internet coupons.
Inserts can vary. Larger newspapers may have coupons with higher savings than inserts from smaller newspapers.
Coupons may last for months. Cataldo suggests saving for when items are at their lowest price.
“The week you get them may not be the best week to use them,” Cataldo said. “What a lot of stores do is leave (items) at a higher price intentionally.”
Sometimes you can use both a coupon from the manufacturer and a coupon from the store on a single product, a practice known as “stacking.”
Also, bigger products are not necessarily the best deal.
“A coupon can take a bigger bite out of the price of a smaller item,” Cataldo said. “Look at the travel size items.”
When you get a coupon, read the fine print and ignore the picture. The print might say the coupon is good for all products by a particular manufacturer while the picture might just show the most expensive.
Pay attention to loyalty programs like Fresh Value Card at Dominick’s. Also pay attention to coupons printed out at the register.
And don’t get hung up on product loyalty.
“Products in the same category will be in price wars with each other,” Cataldo said. “Be willing to try a different brand.”
Some useful websites for novice coupon users are SavingsAngel.com (which charges a small fee but has no pop-up advertisements) and CouponMom.com.
Cataldo writes a blog and offers a deal of week. It can be found at JillCataldo.com.
Jenny Castillon, a Chicago woman who attended Cataldo’s seminar, said she was impressed.
“I had a little one last year, which is when I started looking at using coupons,” Castillon said. “For diapers, razors. Cataldo breaks it down really well.”