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COUPONERS SAVE BIG page 3
Richmond woman uses coupons to save big at stores.

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Date published: 10/9/2011

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One key to successful couponing is organization. Cutts and Velez use zippered three-ring binders filled with baseball-card display pages. Couponers can organize by product type, expiration date and even where the item will go in the home once purchased. Whatever makes sense to you will work.

Velez organizes by product type, with A-Z page dividers. Some of her categories are unique to her.

"'Makeup' wouldn't really fit because M was too crowded," she said, "so I moved it to V, for 'very beautiful.'"

In addition to organization, knowing what you can and can't do is vital. Most stores' coupon policies are available on their websites, or in the stores.

Many stores double coupons up to 99 cents every day. Some have special days where even the higher-value coupons are doubled. Some stores limit the number of coupons per transaction, or the number of items you can purchase on doubled coupons.

So be aware, carry the policy with you and check back often, because policies can change frequently.

The couponers also recommend buying and using reusable bags. Not only is it better for the environment than all those plastic bags, but most stores give up to a 5-cents-per-bag rebate.

"It may not seem like much, but it really does add up," Velez said.

Cutts said you have to be proactive to get your coupons.

"I buy two papers every Sunday," she said. Some recommend buying one paper for each member of the family. And buying more than one publication can be beneficial, too. Different newspapers get different coupon and advertising inserts.

Free Lance-Star Marketing Manager Stacy Rounds said there is an average of $209 in coupon savings weekly in the newspaper. And weekends aren't the only time readers can find savings. There's a coupon every day on page A2 that offers a free item from a local business.

In some cases, couponing isn't the only thing that has been extreme. So has theft.

Media outlets around Texas reported the June arrest of 37-year-old Sybil Hudson, who was charged with stealing coupon inserts from a newspaper rack outside a fast-food restaurant. She denied the charge, but faces a $4,000 fine and up to a year in jail if she is convicted.


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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.