By BOB JACKSON
For Joe Daugirdas, grocery shopping isn’t so much a trip as it is a mission. He’s out to save as much money as he possibly can, and in some cases, even get money back.
Though watching the dollars and cents is not uncommon among shoppers these days, Daugirdas has taken it to the extreme, and he’s taking his money-saving ways to the streets to help others become more- savvy shoppers.
On Saturday, he brought his message to the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, speaking at both its Liberty and Warren branches.
By matching coupons with in-store discounts and sales, Daugirdas said he has saved tens of thousands of dollars a year for the past several years.
Daugirdas, of Willoughby Hills, Ohio, has become known as “The Coupon Guy,” and for good reason. He clips every coupon he can get his hands on and then files them. He has two shoebox-sized, expandable plastic boxes, each stuffed full of coupons. One box contains food coupons, while the other contains coupons for nonfood items.
He takes those boxes into the stores with him, so he can pull out coupons as needed. Though most people are intrigued and impressed with his money-saving efforts, he said some people aren’t pleased about having to wait in line behind him while his coupons are processed.
“But the way the economy is now, if somebody gets mad because they have to wait in line while I go through my coupons, too bad,” he said.
“I typically save at least 70 percent every time I go grocery shopping,” the energetic Daugirdas told the 15 or so people at the Liberty branch.
“If I can’t save at least 60 percent on a particular item, I don’t buy it.”
Daugirdas said he watches for items that are already discounted in the store and then looks for a coupon to increase the savings. In some cases, he can use more than one coupon and ends up getting the item for next to nothing.
“You have to match up the deals with the coupons,” he said.
Daugirdas said many people routinely flip right past coupons in their local newspapers and then just discard them. He said that’s like throwing cash in the trash.
“The key with coupons is to cut them out,” he said. “I cut out every single coupon in the Sunday paper, and I go through them, and I save them. That’s it. I don’t do anything special.”
Daugirdas said his coupon-clipping ways have helped him save as much as 90 percent, sometimes even 100 percent, on trips to the grocery store. And although it hasn’t happened often, he said there have been times when a cashier actually had to pay him money that was owed him after his coupons.
“Sometimes I come out ahead like that, but not enough to quit my day job,” he joked.
His full-time job is at Applied Industrial Technologies in Cleveland, where he does information- technology work. He also teaches a Savvy Shopper class at Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio.
Daugirdas said he does sometimes buy things he doesn’t actually want or need, if he’s able to get them for pennies or even less. Those items are generally donated to food banks or other charitable organizations, so they don’t go to waste.
He advised the audience to shop ahead, buying grocery items that are on sale and stockpiling them at home, rather than limiting themselves to shopping only for specific items. He said you also need a flexible attitude.
“If you’re thinking about having chicken for dinner, but you go to the store, and beef is on sale, why not buy beef?” he said.
He said the same money- saving principles can be applied to shopping for pharmacy items, mortgage loans, credit cards, utilities and even vacations. He provided dozens of websites where discounts and bargains can be found.
Daugirdas said becoming an effectively savvy shopper involves some sacrifices of time and commitment.
“You have to change your habits,” he said. “Once you change your habits, it becomes ingrained in you.” He said he generally spends about two hours per week clipping and filing coupons and another hour or so shopping.
Steve and Michelle Takacs of Howland said they were skeptical about giving up a Saturday morning to go and listen to Daugirdas but found it worthwhile.
“We have two kids, so we try to save when we can,” Michelle said.
Steve said the couple will make stops at several stores if necessary to save money, and now they will try implementing some of Daugirdas’ techniques as well.