Recently, a supermarket chain in my area announced that it was closing its doors, and the stores would reduce everything to 50 percent off. As you can imagine, my blog readers at JillCataldo.com were pretty excited about the opportunity to pick up groceries at great prices, busily discussing savings strategies in anticipation of these sales. With any clearance, you never know what you'll find, so I cut and printed an assortment of coupons for products I liked and on which I hoped to find deals.
When the 50 percent off sale began, our store was packed with customers. I saw one shopper with a cart piled high with water softener salt. Another man had a cart filled with cat litter and cat food. Others were happily buying up usually expensive gluten-free items at heavy discounts.
My shopping wish list? Diapers for my new niece, 100 percent maple syrup, baking products, frozen shrimp, coffee and canned dog food.
I was happy to pick up a few surprises, too. Frozen apple turnovers for $1.75 with $1 coupons? Yes, please! Boxes of snack crackers were 49 cents with the 50 percent off sale, and with a 75-cents-off-two coupon, I paid 23 cents for two boxes.
I shared the details of my shopping trip on my blog, and my readers excitedly shared their finds, too. I spent $216 and used $71 worth of manufacturer coupons - a much more expensive trip than I'm used to.
The next day, I received an email from a reader:
"I find it disappointing that you spent more than 200 dollars. I have always thought you were about saving money but if you have $200 to spend in one day, you don't need to save money. I also know you have a stockpile at home and hope you're giving this to the food pantry. It doesn't seem right that you buy things you didn't truly need. Only people in financial straits should have been allowed to shop these sales."
Now, both as a columnist and a blogger, I'm used to receiving an inbox of criticism on a weekly basis. (Neither job is for the thin-skinned!) But, I had to disagree with this reader's comments.
Spending more than $200 each week is a reality for many non-price-conscious shoppers. It's through diligence and work that I'm able to cut my usual bill so significantly. While it was a lot of money, it was well worth doing to me as the prices of the items I was buying were so much lower than I'd normally pay, even with coupons. Jumbo packs of a name-brand of diaper were on sale for $5. The store's 50 percent off clearance cut that price in half to $2.50 - truly a steal. With $1 coupons, they were $1.50 per pack. Ask any parent with a baby in diapers how many packs they'd buy at that price point. I bought 32-ounce, $16 bottles of genuine maple syrup for $8, the price I usually pay for 12 ounces.
I also disagree with this reader's statement that only shoppers "with financial hardship" should have been allowed to shop. These stores were liquidating, and the evening news was even discussing these sales and encouraging people to go.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.