1Well, that's how much Amesbury's Jamie Chase says she saves each year since adopting a life-changing coupon strategy devoted to spending less on everyday needs. And she's willing to show others how to cash in themselves.
The married mother of two toddlers who previously was a retailer with Brooks Brothers and J. Jill has been couponing regularly for several years, reducing the whole clipping routine to a science she says is easier than most people realize.
After wowing friends, family and associates with her ability to reduce grocery bills and other household expenses down to their barest minimum, Chase has decided to share her industry knowledge with others. She's leading couponing classes designed to help beginners get started and seasoned clippers to take savings to a new level this winter and spring through Northern Essex Community College.
But be prepared: Chase said once people learn how to pick up all their favorite brands for pennies on the dollar, they can never go back to shopping the old way.
"If you're not saving 60 percent or more on your groceries every week, then you're just wasting your money," Chase said. "There's so much money to be saved at major chain stores."
Chase said the key to her money-saving strategy is learning the basics of the grocery store where you regularly shop as well as how to tap into a network of shared couponing strategies. Participants will learn how to stack coupons for double the savings and search out where the big sales are.
"Part of the class is teaching people what the different vernaculars are," said Chase of her "Couponing and Freebies 101" class, which offers up some of the essential tricks of the trade for those who currently dabble in couponing but would like to save half or more on their weekly grocery bills.
For those who already practice some good couponing acumen, Chase is also offering a "Master Couponing" class. "Master couponing will really focus on hard-core scenarios, like how to take a list of seven or eight items that totals $80 and bring it down to $2 to $3 out of pocket," she said.
The best deals are found in places where nobody else seems to be looking, Chase said. Major drugstores such as CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens are just one example, she said. "There's huge, huge money to be saved at each of these stores," she said.
Chase said she hasn't paid cash for a tube of toothpaste in years. The same goes for razors, toilet paper and toothbrushes. In fact, on a recent trip to one of the big drugstore chains — you'll have to attend her class to find out which one — Chase purchased $400 worth of items and actually made $60.
"The interesting thing is I'm buying the exact same amount of items I used to buy before couponing, I'm just doing so at a significant savings," she said.
While most people think nothing of paying $5.95 for a big box of cereal, Chase would never shell out more than $2 for that same box, and then only that much because she's particular about the brands she likes.
"I could make it free if I were willing to purchase any brands," she said.
Her monthly food budget for a family of four averages just under $400 and that includes organic items she insists on keeping on her family's menu.
While she's saving her biggest couponing secrets for those who take her classes, Chase was cajoled into sharing one of the best kept strategies of saving, known to savvy shoppers as the catalina.
Calling it the most underused resource in the general couponing world, Chase said a catalina is the manufacturers' printout that accompanies grocery store receipts, offering shoppers money off on their next purchase.
Since Chase's toddlers go through about two to three boxes of Cheerios a week, she waits for its manufacturer, General Mills, to offer a catalina, and then pairs it up with her other General Mills coupons. That way she's not only saving on the purchase, but if she buys the requisite number of General Mills products dictated, she gets a cash reward at checkout. She then uses the cash reward to purchase those organic produce items that rarely, if ever, go on sale.
Aside from groceries and personal-care products, Chase said there are plenty of other items that can be purchased at outrageous savings, like clothing, sporting goods and restaurant meals.
This past Christmas, Chase spent just $90 on presents for her entire family. She said there ended up being so many gifts under the tree that at the last minute she pulled some back to save for Easter.
"It really is exciting," she said of the process. "It's a real fun thing to do should one do it properly."
Jamie Chase is leading "Couponing and Freebies 101" and "Master Couponing" this winter and spring at Northern Essex Community College's Corporate and Community Education Center in Methuen at the Timony School, 45 Pleasant View St.
The first session of "Couponing and Freebies 101" started this week and runs through Feb. 23. The three-week class will be repeated on Tuesday nights from 6:30 to 8 starting April 27 through May 11. The cost is $45.
"Master Couponing," a three-week program for the more advanced couponer, will be offered Tuesdays from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. starting March 9 through March 23 and again May 25 through June 8. The cost is $60.
To register, call 978-556-3700. For information, call 978-659-1200.