London

Meet the London, Ont. woman trying to help others save big one coupon at a time

For Catalina Barrios, couponing became one of her favourite pastimes more than a decade ago when she first moved to Canada. Now, the single mother of one can save up to $300 a month on groceries, and she's trying to help others do the same.

Catalina Barrios says she saves up to $300 a month on groceries for her and her son through couponing

Catalina Barrios shows off her coupon binder in her stockpile room, where she usually keeps any overflow of products she buys with coupons. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

For Catalina Barrios, couponing became one of her favourite pastimes more than a decade ago when she first moved to Canada.

The single mother of one remembered how her grandmother used to coupon here and there, and after watching a few episodes of Extreme Couponing, she thought it could be something she could take up to save a few extra dollars.

"I was like how are people getting all this stuff free or close to free? So, I started researching ... and then I started saving $20, then $30 and then $40," Barrios told CBC News.

"It was a huge adrenaline rush," she added.

Barrios runs a couponing group on Facebook called "Couponing in Canada" to help others learn how to get the best deals. Her two friends, Mary-Anne and Crystal, help her run the page. (Submitted by Catalina Barrios)

Now, Barrios says she can save anywhere between $250 to $300 a month on groceries for her and her son.

When Barrios was a newcomer from Colombia, she said coupons provided some relief to an already tight budget.

"As a parent, you want to make sure you provide your child with the best nutrition; you want to make sure your child never goes to bed without eating," she said.

"My son is my motivation and the reason why I do everything, so with couponing, as soon I started seeing I could save, I could [have] a stockpile, it was perfect." 

Barrios says one of the reasons she started couponing more than 10 years ago was to make sure her son, Felipe, had everything he needed. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

"If my son felt like eating cereal 'A' today and cereal 'B' tomorrow, he could do that. He didn't have to eat the cheapest cereal because that was everything we could afford."

Now, Barrios' financial situation has changed, but she still enjoys the thrill of couponing, only now in addition to buying just her own groceries, she buys by the bulk when she can and donates the non-perishables and personal care items to a local women's charity in the hopes of lightening the burden for another woman.

Helping others save big through coupons

Helping others has always played a big part of her life, Barrios says, adding she credits the virtue to her hardworking parents and her uncle.

"If I see a deal, why would I keep it to myself rather than sharing it with other people," she questioned. "I want to try to help as many people as I can."

That's why Barrios decided to launch a Facebook group that would notify people of the latest deals and give people the tools to embark on their own couponing journey. 

The group, which now has more than 3,500 people and has posts in both English and Spanish, is run by two other women she calls her "amigas" who help update the page constantly in the hours she can't. 

"It makes me very happy to know we are able to help people save money, especially now when every dollar you can save makes a difference," she said.

How does she do it?

Barrios says one of the keys to couponing is having a lot of patience and keeping your eyes peeled as you shop in your local grocery store. 

"I always tell people that as soon as you start couponing, you start seeing coupons everywhere." 

Barrios gets her coupons at a variety of different grocery stores and pharmacies across the city. She says people can typically find them along with the items that correspond to the coupons in each aisle, but she's also subscribed to many brands' mailing lists. She says that's where she gets the majority of her coupons now. 

"I advise people to set up a 'couponing email' and then start subscribing to brands of stuff you like. There are also designated coupon websites that you can sign up to," she said.

Barrios stores her hundreds of coupons in this binder and keeps them organized by categories such as dairy items, baking items and personal care items. (Sofia Rodriguez/CBC)

"One of my other biggest pieces of advice is buying a printer because you're gonna need it if you really want to save," she added. 

Barrios then stores all her coupons in a binder and organizes them by categories to make it easier to sift through hundreds of coupons before her next grocery run.

"The night before I go grocery shopping, I make a list of what I need to buy and start taking coupons out of my binder. Then I store them along with [my grocery] list in a pouch and then I shop and start marking things off my list as I go."

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