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COUPONERS SAVE BIG
Richmond woman uses coupons to save big at stores.

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Date published: 10/9/2011

BY LAURA L. HUTCHISON

Tiffany Cutts was destined to become a couponer.

The 26-year-old Richmond woman grew up in a family of four, with a frugal mother.

"When I was in elementary school, my mother would put checkmarks in the coupon inserts beside the ones she wanted, and my job was to clip them," she said.

As she grew older, Cutts' mother would send her into the store with a list and the coupons. If she bought anything not on the list, or forgot to use a coupon, she had to go back.

"In high school, the only way I was allowed to drive the car was if I went grocery shopping on Sundays," she said.

Cutts' mother must be proud now. In November 2009, Cutts started Young and Frugal in Virginia, a couponing blog.

The VCU grad, with a degree in criminal justice, works in pre-trial supervision. But she also was on the cutting edge--or maybe the clipping edge--of the coupon craze, teaching consumers about couponing before it was the trendy thing to do.

Now there are blogs and websites that teach savings tactics, and a program on TLC called "Extreme Couponing" shows exactly what it promises--people whose habits are truly unconventional.

But couponing doesn't have to be extreme to be worthwhile, Cutts said. And couponing can help others.

For example, Cutts doesn't eat pasta, but there are often pasta coupons and sales on pasta in grocery stores. When deals line up so that she can use a coupon and a sale to get pasta for free, she "buys" it and donates it to a local food bank.

Couponer Jessica Velez of Stafford County invited Cutts to the Fredericksburg area recently to put on a coupon class for some local residents. Velez started couponing in May, and has found significant savings on groceries, dining out and even school supplies for her two children, who are also in on the couponing.

"My 8-year-old's job is to pull out the expired coupons," she said.

Some sites say consumers can cut their grocery bills up to 90 percent by using coupons.


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$2 billion

Amount couponers saved in the first six months of 2011

$1.57

Average face value of a coupon in the first half of 2011, up 5.4 percent from the first six months of 2010

76

Percentage of consumers who say their grocery bills have increased up to $50 weekly; 41 percent have seen a weekly increase of $20 to $50.

96

Percentage of consumers who say they would still use coupons if they struck it big in the lottery

75

Percentage of consumers who consider the Internet their primary advertising source, but used newspaper inserts in the last 30 days.

--nationalcouponmonth.com

Buy multiple copies of your local Sunday newspapers. Yep, that's newspapers, plural. Readers in areas served by more than one paper will sometimes find different coupon and advertising inserts in different papers.

Ask friends, neighbors and co-workers to give you any coupon inserts they aren't using. Or, if all your friends are couponers, too, organize a coupon swap at work, the neighborhood community center or even local libraries, where you can exchange coupons you won't use for ones you will. If you have pets, but no babies, bring in all those diaper coupons and swap them for pet food and treat coupons.

Know a store's coupon policy before you go in. Most are available on store websites. Keep a copy of that policy in your binder, in case sales clerks are not familiar with it. But be aware that the policies change frequently, so make sure you have the most up-to-date information.

Be organized. You can arrange your coupons in a number of ways, such as by expiration date or product category. Cutts keeps a zippered three-ring binder filled with baseball-card-holder inserts. She also keeps an accordion file with the unclipped coupons, in case she sees an ad for a great deal on a product in a previous week's insert that she happened to have missed.

Think about using some of your savings for giving. If there's a deal that will mean you pay only cents for an item or, better yet, can get it free, buy it and donate it to an area homeless shelter, pet shelter or food bank.