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COUPONERS SAVE BIG page 2
Richmond woman uses coupons to save big at stores.

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Date published: 10/9/2011

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Cutts has had some huge successes. Her best was a Kroger "mega-sale," which offered $5 off for buying 10 of certain items. She got a $193 grocery bill down to $6 with the sale plus coupons.

One of Velez's first big successes was buying soap. A lot of soap. With a coupon and Ivory soap on sale, she bought 30 three-packs, and actually made 3 cents on each.

Then she bought 60 boxes of pasta at two different Bloom stores. Every box was free when doubled coupons were combined with a sale. On Oct. 2, when Bloom doubled even high-face-value coupons, she whittled her original bill of $132.02 to $58.64. Bloom's double-coupon day is usually the first of each month.

But Velez doesn't just keep the savings for herself. If she has a coupon that's nearing its expiration date and she doesn't need the item, she'll leave the coupon on the shelf near the product for someone else to use.

"I like to look at myself as the coupon fairy," she said with a smile.

Getting stuff for free usually involves "stacking," in which a store-specific coupon (such as one for Target or Bloom) is combined with a manufacturer's coupon (clipped from the paper or printed from a website) and a sale on the item.

Those deals aren't hard to find if you use Cutts' website or others that do the "matchups" for you. Matchups tell you what coupons to pair with what sales to get the best deals.

Because Cutts is based in Richmond, her site doesn't cover all the Fredericksburg-area stores, but sites such as coupondivas.com and afullcup.com do matchups for local chains.

Cutts said to also be on the lookout for unadvertised sales once you get in the stores, as well as coupon dispensers in the aisles. Rebate coupons are often found in the beer and wine section, and you don't even have to buy the alcohol sometimes.

She also advises shoppers to keep "catalinas," which are the coupons issued at the checkout based on the items you purchase.


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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.