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COUPONERS SAVE BIG page 4
Richmond woman uses coupons to save big at stores.

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Date published: 10/9/2011

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"It has not been as extreme here as in some other cities," said Sue Baker, The Free Lance-Star's circulation service manager, but the newspaper has seen some. "It certainly isn't worth going to jail for a newspaper and some coupons."

Extra copies of the Sunday Free Lance-Star can be purchased in the newspaper's lobby at 616 Amelia St. during regular business hours. There also is a sales rack outside the main entrance that stays stocked with Sunday papers.

Wawa, Sheetz, Fas Mart and 7-Eleven stores also stock Sunday papers throughout the week, according to Baker.

Some blame the "Extreme Couponing" show for the thefts. The TV program shows extreme couponers using hundreds of coupons to buy a store's entire inventory of an item.

Cutts said the show is unrealistic. Most coupon policies limit the number of coupons that can be used per transaction, but some companies suspend those policies to get the publicity of appearing on the program.

And like stores' policies, newspapers' policies regarding coupons are clear and strict.

"You have to buy the paper," Baker said. "You can't buy coupons separately, and we can't give away recycled coupons. It's part of the pledge we make to advertisers, and it's the policy of all newspapers."

Be aware that those store or newspaper rack papers aren't guaranteed to have coupons. Only home-delivery papers are guaranteed to have the coupon inserts and sales ads, Baker said.

"Depending on how many inserts we get from the advertiser, we may run out," she said. "If we run out, the single-copy-sales papers are the ones that go out without the inserts."

Baker also cautioned that most national coupon companies do not print inserts for holiday-weekend papers. Her department often receives calls on those holiday weekends from subscribers who think their inserts are missing, when in fact there weren't any to be inserted.

In addition to buying newspapers, Cutts advised checking the websites of stores you frequent, and signing up for email and text-message coupons and savings alerts.

Facebook members should "like" favorite companies or brands, because great deals or high-value coupons are often offered there, she added.

"I 'like' something like 800 companies," Cutts said, "so I get lots of information and deals."


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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.