Riding the coupon train

Co-operative couponing helps parents save money

The West Shore has struggled for years to get a train running, but a group of West Shore parents are riding the rails in a different way.

Langford mom Abbie Shortt is a keen user of the West Shore coupon “train,” a package circulated through the community filled with hundreds of coupons for items such as diapers, pet food, groceries and medicine.

Working from her Langford home, Shortt has taken in the role of coupon “conductor” — she makes sure train riders are replacing what they take with fresh coupons, and removing expired ones.

“We save a ton of money,” Shortt said. “In one week I saved $70 on 15 items in three stores.”

Aside from having the coupons, these train riders have learned the art of coupon stacking — using more than one coupon on an item. Only a handful of stores, such as London Drugs, allow doubling up. On top of that, Shortt finds stores that allow price matching.

“You just take a flyer with a cheaper price to the store,” Shortt said.

Her next planned purchase give her two packs diapers without paying any money after using a price matching flyer and 10 coupons.

After discovering coupon stacking, Shortt stopped buying diapers in bulk because it cost more money than using coupons on smaller packages for her six month old son.

“I never thought this was possible until I learned the tricks of the trade,” Shortt said. “I am going to get 24 rolls of toilet paper for $1.99. The other day I bought 20 boxes of cereal for $15. I had a bunch of buy-two, get-one-free coupons.”

Langford mom Karin Waugh has been riding the train for about three years.

“I just paid $6 for a $30 can of formula,” said Waugh, the mother of a nine-month-old daughter.

Now that coupons have become a part of the shopping habits, Waugh said, “I won’t pay full price for formula. I never will.”

They collect coupons from newspapers, magazines, the Internet and on shelves in stores.

If she’s out of coupons, Waugh heads to the Internet to seek out other couponers who have extra formula coupons that are up for trade.

Being part of a train and organizing coupons has taught Shortt and Waugh to not be picky. They buy the brand that is offering the discount.

“This is the cereal that has a coupon, this is what you are going to eat,” Shortt said.

While their couponing techniques are nowhere near as dramatic as in the United States where coupon stacking is more widespread, Shortt said what she and the rest of the train passengers do is “Canada’s version of extreme couponing.”

Coupon trains all over Greater Victoria, the province and the country. The West Shore coupon train has about 10 members and each member hand delivers it to the next person. The train stops at each location for two or three days.

“Some trains are picky and you have to write down how many dollars worth of coupons you took out and then have put in (the amount) that you use,” Shortt said.

The West Shore train is a bit more relaxed and operates on the honour system. The train stops are coordinated by the location of people’s homes.

“We try to get it to go in a circle like a train would,” Shortt said.

Not surprisingly, all West Shore coupon train riders are parents looking to save a few bucks.

“As soon as I got pregnant I thought that we would need to start saving money,” Shortt said. “It can be a lot of work, but it’s worth it in the end.”

For more information on the West Shore coupon train, email Abbie Shortt at



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