One could say a trip to Fortinos on Main Street West changed Kathleen Cassidy’s life in more ways than one.
Back when Cassidy was a third-year student at McMaster University, she stumbled upon a coupon board at the front of the store while grocery shopping — and never looked back.
Cassidy started teaching herself everything she could about couponing while learning the ins and outs of finding deals on supermarket shelves.
By the time she graduated in 2017, she’d paid down a large chunk of her student debt while still getting the chance to embrace life in Hamilton.
“I feel like as a university student, you always have that tight, burning sensation in your wallet when you try to go out and do things,” said Cassidy, now 27. “Couponing alleviated a lot of that financial stress for me.”
Five years later, Cassidy’s passion for frugality is alive and well — and it has gained her a massive following on social media.
Her TikTok account, Living on a Loonie, has garnered more than 312,000 followers since first launching last April. Her Instagram page, where she first started sharing her couponing journey, has more than 27,000 followers.
But Cassidy said her social media platform isn’t about boasting about the deals she’s managed to find or the money she’s been able to save through couponing.
Instead, it’s a platform where she can teach hundreds of thousands of Canadians how to make their money go further.
And it’s not just through the use of traditional coupons — although they do make their fair share of appearances on her page. She has several “different tools” in her arsenal.
For Cassidy, couponing has evolved to include scouring the internet for deals, using cashback and loyalty reward programs as well as finding marked down products in stores.
If some of those methods sound daunting, her videos, which go step-by-step, teach viewers how to integrate her skills into their shopping trips.
“I’m trying to break down the barriers so that couponing isn’t intimidating,” said Cassidy. “I want to be able to educate Canadians about couponing, financial literacy, different ways to get free products and ultimately how to save and live a better financial life.”
That approach has seemingly taken off — especially as the cost of living in Canada continues to swell. Several of her videos have racked up more than 500,000 views and her total likes have surpassed 2.5 million.
Cassidy said her platform has become increasingly important as people have realized that their financial situation can change “in an instant.”
Since launching her TikTok, she’s received countless kind messages and comments from followers, with some even noting that her platform has completely “changed their finances.”
But Cassidy, who has a full-time job in marketing, also can’t deny the impact couponing has had on her own life.
Even amid skyrocketing food costs, she and her husband, who live in the Halton region, spend roughly $200 a month at the grocery store. They’ve also been able to travel, enjoy concerts and sports games while creating a more “financially-stable” life.
Cassidy has also been able to give back to the community, including through frequent drop-offs at the community fridges here in Hamilton — including the newest one, which is located at McMaster University.
“It’s been really rewarding,” she said. “It warms my heart that I can help people through a passion that I’m still mastering myself.”
Five tips to help you save at the store
Look for discounts
Most stores will have dedicated racks or sections stocked with discounted products. This includes anything from produce, baked goods and meat to beauty and household products.
Price matching is a policy where retailers will reduce their price to match or even beat the price of the same product offered by a competitor. Several stores price match in Ontario, including Real Canadian Superstore, No Frills, FreshCo, and Giant Tiger — and there are apps to help.
Use rewards and rebates programs
There are several loyalty rewards and rebates programs that can be used to get money back and earn points while shopping in Canada. They include PC Optimum, Checkout51, Caddle, Eclipsa, Ampli and Reebee. Each have their own rules and requirements.
Some coupons can be found online through manufacturers while others are available in store, either placed around the shop or attached to the product itself. For online coupons, be sure to check if they can be printed at home or ordered in the mail.
Buy in bulk
Costco is good for more than just free samples and cheap hotdogs. The big-box store offers a massive range of products in bulk that are sometimes cheaper to splurge on than to buy in smaller amounts at other stores.