EL PASO – Every Sunday is like Christmas for Diana Lopez when she sorts through stacks of coupons and thinks about all the things she’ll be able give and receive.
“I get very excited when it’s Sunday because it’s time to go shopping and save some money,” she said as she outlined her weekly routine that has saved her thousands of dollars over the years. Her day starts at her local Dollar Tree where she picks up the Sunday newspaper to find the coupons and sales at area stores.
Lopez, 27, a special education teacher at Dolphin Terrace Elementary School, has been hooked on coupons since she was 24 years old, when she realized she was paying so much for clothes and food that she wasn’t able to build up much of a savings.
“Many people think that using coupons is embarrassing and a waste of time but what if I my total was $112.64 and I ended up paying $19.02 with coupons?”
Using coupons has helped Lopez and her husband save enough to be able to afford a two-story house valued at more than $190,000.
Hispanic communities like El Paso weren’t traditionally big users of coupons until the economic downturn in 2008, according to market analysis company Relevant Insights. The company referred to an Experian Simmons National Consumer Survey that showed 7 out of 10 U.S. households used coupons in 2009.
By 2009, Hispanics “weren’t too far behind the average non-Hispanic household as 6 out of 10 Hispanic households used coupons,” Relevant Insights reported in January, 2010. “With Cubans leading the way, followed by Puerto Ricans, other households of Hispanic heritage, and Mexicans.”
Saul Lopez, a fourth grade teacher at Dolphin Terrace, said that his wife’s extreme couponing has made them more united as a couple. And, with the money they have saved the past couple of years they have been able to travel frequently for vacations in Florida and Mexico.
“Having a partner who knows how to save money and arrange herself to do extreme couponing and even have time for me is what it’s about,” he said.
Extreme couponing is a way of life for many people who enjoy that moment when they’re at the cash register and see their total bill go down with every coupon they use.
Since she started extreme couponing Lopez has not just enjoyed saving money for herself and her husband, she also helps out her students.
Some of her students only bring a pencil and notebook to school because that’s all their parents can afford. Lopez searches coupons and store specials for deals on classroom supplies.
“I have my own stack of school supplies at home and I always bring some material to class and give them colors, markers, pens, folders because I want to help them out and not have them worry if they can’t afford school supplies,” she said. “I provide them with anything they need”
Extreme couponing is not just cutting coupons and going to the store. It includes researching specials and promotions at area stores in print and online. Lopez spends three to four hours looking for the best deals of the week in each store and finds out which stores are taking double coupons or have promotions online.
“It’s a lot of work. You really need to have patience to do this,” she said. “It’s not easy, it takes hours to cut coupons collect them and see which stores have the best deals.”
According to the Promotion Marketing Association more than 89 percent of consumers in the U.S use coupons. Inmar Incorporated, a promotional marketing research company, reported 329 billion coupons were distributed in the U.S. in 2013 and 2.9 billion coupons were redeemed, a 3.6 percent increase over 2012. Of the coupons distributed in 2013, roughly 40 percent were for food products and 60 percent for non-food products, Inmar stated in its annual report.
Lopez is pleased that her couponing skills have brought the financial stability she and her husband wanted to have before starting a family. They waited four years, but now feel ready to begin the next chapter of their lives together.
“I advise everyone to get your Sunday’s paper and a pair of scissors and start clipping coupons because it’s all worth it,” Lopez said while drinking a cup of tea and looking over a newspaper for the latest deals. “I know that after work the last thing you want to do is sit down and start clipping coupons for hours. But after you realize how much money a week you can save, you don’t care about sitting down for hours.”