Weekly Feature



2012-11-28 / Lifestyles

Extreme Couponing

Thrifty ways to save big on bills
by ERIKA CARLSON
Reporter


Becky Guglielmi, left, and Christine King look through advertisements together and cut out coupons for their weekly shopping trip. King organizes her coupons in a binder, while Guglielmi keeps hers in hand as she shops. Becky Guglielmi, left, and Christine King look through advertisements together and cut out coupons for their weekly shopping trip. King organizes her coupons in a binder, while Guglielmi keeps hers in hand as she shops. Everyone loves a good bargain, but people who delve into extreme couponing take it to another level.

The phenomenon swept the nation two years ago with the debut of “Extreme Couponing,” a television show on TLC.

Cameras follow people who scour newspapers, advertisements and websites for the best deals they can find. Then it’s off to the grocery store where the customers exercise their skills in shopping to save as much money as possible. Sometimes they’re even reimbursed by the store.

But extreme couponing isn’t just reserved for television reality shows. People across the country are participating in this saving strategy to bring down their weekly grocery bills.


Christine King of Amherst purchased all of these items for $21.14. She was able to knock down the retail price of $98.39 by using the coupons she saved. Christine King of Amherst purchased all of these items for $21.14. She was able to knock down the retail price of $98.39 by using the coupons she saved. Christine King, of Amherst, and her friend Becky Guglielmi, of Lackawanna, started getting together to clip coupons and look for deals so they could save on groceries.

“I started because of Becky,” King said. “She told me about a website that shows you what sales are on and what coupons to use.”

The website, www.krazycouponlady.com, lays out strategies for beginners and fully fledged extreme couponers.

The two friends don’t always stock up on specific items as the families do on the show. Instead, they find all the coupons they can for the items they need.

After getting coupons online, from the Sunday newspaper and from friends and family, King started organizing them in a binder. She categorizes each coupon by type, such as beauty and health, to find them easily.

A few weeks after she got started on her thrifty endeavor, King saw an enormous improvement on her grocery bills.

“As I got better doing it, I’ve been saving overall about 30 percent, but on health and beauty stuff, I save 70 to 80 percent,” King said. “I don’t pay for toothpaste

or those kind of items anymore. With coupons, they can be free.”

For the average American family of four, the typical grocery bill can range from about $860 to $1,070 per month, according to a 2012 study done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Saving 80 percent on items such as shampoo, soap and deodorant can take a chunk out of the total cost at the cash register.

“My boyfriend and I just moved in together, and we’re starting to combine our budget, so it’s really helping,” King explained.

To share her progress, King began posting pictures on her Facebook page of the items she bought, listing the retail price and the amount she actually paid after using coupons.

One of her biggest savings was on a group of items including cat litter, eggs, toothpaste, brownie mix and a thermometer. The retail value was listed at $91.79, but King paid only 61 cents.

Guglielmi started couponing after she kept receiving free coupons from a co-worker.

“I subscribe to the Sunday paper, so I had always been clipping them. I got a little more intense with it when I realized how much money I could save,” she said. “I don’t buy things I don’t need, even if they’re on sale or free.”

She also learned that in order to get the best deals, she would have to shop at multiple stores.

“I was never much of a Tops shopper, but

I learned about their gas points and all the coupon doubling, so that was a nice tidbit I learned,” Guglielmi said.

Before she heads into the store, Guglielmi makes sure she has a plan of action.

“I look online ahead of time, look at my ads, cut out what I need and go prepared with exactly that,” she said. “I have my stack of coupons in hand, and I look for those specific things.”

Another website Guglielmi recommends visiting is www.ebfarm.com, which has coupons for organic produce.

“It comes out every week. I basically never have to pay for things like carrots or cele ry,” she said.

Although Guglielmi said she wouldn’t call herself “ex- treme,” she said the coupon saving has put a dent in her grocery bills. She even uses this method when shopping for other items such as clothes.

“I don’t go anywhere, I don’t shop anywhere without a coupon, ever. It’s a little harder for clothes, but I traditionally won’t buy anything that’s not on sale and that I can’t use a coupon for,” she said.

Both King and Guglielmi said saving coupons is something everyone can do, although it may take time to get it down to a science.

“It does take a lot of time and organization at first to figure out what works best for you,” Guglielmi said. “I think the most challenging part is learning to get just what you need and not being tempted by a sale or a cheap item.”

The money saved on grocery shopping can then be used for other expenses, King said. In her case, the money goes to student loan payments.

“Some people make fun of me and call me the ‘coupon lady,’ but I don’t care because we’re saving a lot of money,” King said. “Becky and I are both working professionals, but we’re still doing this. In these times, you need to save money where you can. This is a great way to do that.”

email: erikac@beenews.com

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