One of the most popular trends right now is couponing. From the hit show, “Extreme Couponing” to the beginning couponer, classes are popping up all over the United States showing people how to use those now valuable pieces of paper.
Low denominations of 25 cents up through high value coupons that can range from $1 to $5 or more are in high demand. Couponing advice is so popular that new websites are popping up on a regular basis offering advice on ways to save, how to organize your coupons and links to find discounts on groceries and services.
Tracy Shaw, a Land O' Lakes resident, has developed a quick and easy website called, Havingfunsaving.com. Tracy became an avid couponer after the birth of her first child. She had searched for childcare accommodations and after numerous doors closed, she decided to become a stay at home.
In order to do that, she needed to be able to cut corners every way possible in the family budget. She began clipping coupons and found that she was able to save significant amounts of money on items needed especially those that she used frequently.
Some of the biggest challenges she faced when she started out were things like figuring out what her family needed and how much they would go through on a regular basis as well as learning to eat what they had on hand and getting in the habit of buying what her family used or ate when it was on sale. She now saves an average of 75 to 90 percent weekly. Recently, she had her best week couponing when she saved $160 and spent $15 on her groceries for the week.
As Tracy became a whiz at couponing, friends started telling her she needed to share what she had learned with others looking to save money too. That's when her website, Having Fun Saving was born. With the current popular trend in couponing, Tracy is now conducting classes at local moms groups and holding couponing parties in homes sharing what she's learned and she does this all free of charge. It is her desire to help others save money the way she has.
I've sat through two of her couponing classes at local moms groups and each time learned something new. After the first class, I decided to give it a try I bought myself a three ring binder, a package of 25 plastic baseball card holder pages and a pouch to put my pens, envelopes and scissors. My "Hot Pink Binder" has become a necessary part of all my shopping trips.
I began by buying three papers on Sundays and clipping the coupons I regularly use and filed them in sections that were labeled in my binder. Then I signed up at some of the popular coupon sites on the web. I checked the local grocery store websites and made my list of what I wanted and I was off and running. The first week I went shopping I saved $80.78 and spent $120.68! I was so excited I couldn't wait until the new ads came out midweek so I could plan to do it again.
While I am by no means an expert couponer, I've been doing it for about three months and have found that I am now really getting the hang of it and enjoy doing it. I pass my unused coupons on to my other friends who are able to use what I don't need.
The popular TLC network show “Extreme Couponing” has inspired many consumers to start using coupons. Watch the show and you'll get a sense that some of these extreme couponers are almost borderline hoarders or obsessive about their bargains.
Tracy Shaw stresses that it is not necessary to have your garage and rooms filled with your coupon treasures, but it does make sense to keep a stockpile of items that you will use on a regular basis. Frequently used items such as ketchup, paper products, hygiene items and cereals can easily be stored in a pantry or other area. This enables you to collect more coupons in the time between sales cycles so that when the sales are up again, you can take advantage of more savings. It is not necessary to have one hundred bottles of Maalox and 75 boxes of cereal unless you have a really large family that will consume that much in short time.
Tracy has never seen “Extreme Couponing” but has heard a lot about it and feels that the real negative effect the show has on people is that it can be discouraging and overwhelming. Discouraging in the sense that you may not ever end up saving 85 to 99 percent on your groceries on a consistent basis and overwhelming because not everyone has 20 to 60 hours to spend on their couponing because they are busy working and raising families. The idea is to never pay full price again if you don't have to.
Organization when doing your coupon shopping is key. There are many ways to organize your coupons. From three-ring binders to small accordian files or envelopes, the important thing is to find what works for you.
Shaw shared her top five tips for saving money:
Know what's on sale before you go to the store by checking online websites for the stores you are planning to shop at or by reviewing their sale flyer prior to your shopping trip.
Stick to your list. It's easy to get thrown off course by grabbing this or that. Try to shop without your husband and kids in tow if possible.
Have your coupons with your list when you walk into the store. This way you are able to refer to the coupons for any questions you may have and it will make it easier at checkout.
Stack coupons. For instance, you can use a store coupon (a coupon that can be used at that store only) and you can also use a manufacturer's coupon. In addition, you may also use a competitor's coupon if your store accepts them. You can do this per item but you cannot use more than one manufacturer's coupon per item. Check with your local store as to what their coupon policy is. Most have it in writing and will be happy to give you a copy to refer to.
Stockpile. Sales cycles are every 6 to 8 weeks so be sure to buy them when they are on sale as this is when your coupons are the most valuable.
Updates are given frequently during the day when you “like” Havingfunsaving.com on Facebook. Tracy walks you through her shopping trips and how to get valuable coupons. She also keeps followers up to date on new coupons, sales, and special offers in addition to giveaways on her website. Be sure to check it out.
You can also give back to the community with your coupon bargains. So many local organizations are in need of donations on a regular basis. Nonperishable items and hygiene items are in great demand. In addition, local parenting and pregnancy centers are always in need of diapers, formula, babyfood and other baby items to assist moms in need. You can also drop off your or mail in your baby coupons to them as they will most assuredly be used.
Food banks and food cupboards are thrilled to receive donations from area residents any time that you're able to collect them. Not only have you saved money but then you've also been able to help someone else in need.
Military families have the added pleasure of being able to use their coupons at most of their commissaries. In some cases, they can even use expired coupons. The web address to check that out is:
If you're interested in having Tracy come and share her knowledge with your group or a group of your friends, please be sure to contact her at www.havingfunsaving.com.
In addition to Tracy's website, the following websites offer links or information on coupons and couponing:
You can also email the manufacturers of your favorite products and most will gladly send you coupons if you request them. Some will even make those available to you every so often as a special thank you for using their products.
Many couponers suggest that you set up a separate email address for your coupon offers depending on how many you wish to sign up for making it easier to keep unwanted mails out of your personal email box.
“The most important thing to remember is this; any savings is a good savings," Shaw said.