FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- As the president unveils his plan to cut spending, many of us are trying to do the same in our own households. For the most part, aside from a few splurges on shoes or handbags every now and then, I tend to be fiscally responsible when it comes to my weekly expenses.
But my vice is, alas, food. A trip to the grocery store is to me what a trip to the Apple Store must be for a techie. Beef short ribs' Of course. Risotto' Coming right up. That one obscure spice that I buy for one recipe but will likely never use again' I'll take two. I've become increasingly lax with my food budget, and scouring my food/recipe magazines has made it worse.
So in the name of journalism and my dwindling food dollars, I attended a workshop aimed at those like myself who are looking to save a few peanuts - Extreme Couponing.
If it sounds like a sport, it should. With all of the strategizing, game planning and preparation, I felt a little bit like a new recruit at his first team meeting in the big leagues. The workshop, spearheaded by Wendy Doiron, the spouse of a retired Soldier who works with the Warrior Transition Unit on post, and John Edwards, Moncrief Army Community Hospital's resiliency trainer, had nearly 70 attendees.
Once Doiron discovered that a local woman was hosting workshops on saving with coupons, she knew she had to try to bring it to post. So with Edwards' help, they worked with the MACH Family Readiness Group to raise money to sponsor a workshop primarily for MACH employees and family members.
So Monday night, the several dozen of us sat, pens poised, as Jenny Martin, who runs the uber-deals website Southern Savers, schooled us on the art of extreme couponing.
Martin, a stay-at-home mom of three children, started couponing as a way to save money after she and her husband moved to Columbia about five years ago. Now before I go any further, I must clarify; couponing is not the same as clipping coupons. Clipping coupons is something your mom and grandma did; couponing is a hardcore money-saving technique that leaves no man behind, and by man, I mean good deal. Don't believe me' The practice has even spawned a reality series on TLC (though I must add that the folks on the show do things that Martin discourages, most of which involves cleaning out stores' entire inventories of products and holding up checkout lines). Martin has a few hard and fast rules, one of which stood out to me as though it was a commandment: Though shalt not pay for toothpaste.
Her goal for those of us who put her techniques into practice' That we would see a 50 percent or more savings in our grocery bills. I have to admit; the techniques were pretty genius, though once the class ended, my head was spinning from information overload. But, Martin assured us, it would soon become second nature.
After last week's "government shutdown" threat, saving money is at the forefront on many military families' minds, mine included. And I can't help but think that these techniques will fall right in line with my other penny-pinching measures.
Doiron sums it up perfectly in an email sent out to attendees.
"I know many of our Fort Jackson families struggle between every paycheck, often have out-of-control debt, and many still have large families to feed; even some of the smallest families struggle to make ends meet between paychecks," Doiron said. "I think this workshop is just the tool we all need to ease our financial situations, save some real money, and to enjoy our families instead of stressing over how we're going to take care of them."
Visit www.southernsavers.com for more on couponing.