Couponing can help inflation-weary consumers keep money in their pockets, say discount hunters

Inflation may have Canadians feeling their wallets are lighter this year and not because they don’t carry change anymore.

But coupon advocates say one way to combat rising prices is for consumers to take better advantage of the discounts offered by sellers of consumer goods.

Inflation is the highest it’s been in 30 years, as the latest Statistics Canada tracking of rising prices of fuel and other essentials showed recently. The Consumer Price Index for March was up 6.7 per cent from one year earlier, StatsCan stated in its April 20 bulletin on inflation.

“Inflationary pressure remained widespread in March, as prices rose across all eight major components,” the federal agency stated. “Prices increased against the backdrop of sustained price pressure in Canadian housing markets, substantial supply constraints and geopolitical conflict, which has affected energy, commodity, and agriculture markets.”

The spike has led to sharp increases in the price of many staples, including groceries, toiletries and cleaning products.

Statistics Canada, which conducted a study of the monthly average retail prices for groceries from December 2020 December 2021, found most meat, dairy products and produce saw price increases of up to $3 per item during 2021.

“My advice for people just starting to coupon would be it is a marathon and not a race. It would help if you remembered each coupon is treated as a cash tender.”

— Teresa Bruce, Canadian Free Stuff website founder

Rising inflation does not seem likely to end soon, economists say. This may leave many Canadians feeling lost as to what they can do in order to save money.

Luckily for them, the online deal-finding community is willing to help. “Couponers” post notices about sales, coupon offers and reward programs that can help save money on necessities.

Websites such as Canadian Free Stuff do all of the work for consumers. Teresa Bruce, who runs the website, looks online and compiles offers of free samples, coupons and good deals she finds across the Internet. Bruce also runs a blog where she explains to her audience how they can become a professional deal-finder like her.

“My advice for people just starting to coupon would be it is a marathon and not a race. It would help if you remembered each coupon is treated as a cash tender,” Bruce said in an interview.

Michelle Lalande, a lifelong deal-finder who showcases her best finds on her Instagram account @stockupprice, highlighted the importance of each individual coupon.

“You can do small things like save $1 or $2 on your next shopping trip … I mean every dollar counts,” she said.

Susan Chlipala, who runs the Instagram account @smac_beauty — where she posts deals and free offers — recommends novice deal-finders consult and learn from those with more experience.

There are “many Facebooks groups that you can join and get access to in order to be a part of the couponing community. RedFlag Deals are also a forum that you should check out for everyday deals in Canada,” she said.

“Ask others online,” Chlipala continued. “There will be those who are willing to help and those who won’t respond. Keep at it.”

All three couponers mentioned the importance of rewards programs. These loyalty programs, usually offered by specific stores or the parent company of a family of retailers, offer people a chance to collect points and use those points towards a future purchase.

Lalande said she recently paid $150 for a week’s worth of groceries for her family at No Frills. “After coupons, I got back $74 worth of points. So that goes towards my next haul of groceries, where I’m going to get $74 worth of groceries for free.”

“Couponing isn’t only for those in lower-income households. It is for everyone. It helps you to achieve your financial goals, especially when the economic outlook is unstable.”

— Susan Chlipala, Instagram consumer guide

In this case, the rewards program she used was PC Optimum points — a program in which rewards can be collected and spent at any store owned by Loblaw Companies Ltd, including Loblaws, No Frills, Shoppers Drug Mart and Real Canadian Superstore.

Bruce cautioned consumers to only use rewards programs — such as PC Optimum — if they are stores they go to often. “Don’t fall into maximizing PC Optimum points. Only do it if it makes sense to your budget and your food habits. There will always be another offer,” she explained.

Bruce recommended looking at the flyers of various stores well suited for the individual consumer, and to get cashback on one of the apps available.

“Most of the time, they exclude coupons to be used with cashback,” she said, while clarifying how she gets deals on items even when they aren’t on sale.

All three couponers warned of the dangers of overconsumption when couponing, but said the discounting practice could help everybody, regardless of their financial situation.

“Couponing isn’t only for those in lower-income households,” Chlipala explained. “It is for everyone. It helps you to achieve your financial goals, especially when the economic outlook is unstable.”

She added: “It is very important to be aware of your own situation when it comes down to money and find ways to better your life.”

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