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Coupon enthusiasts share their knowledge

August 18, 2012

In today's shaky economy, everybody's looking to save money.
Americans are investing less and often holding off on large purchases. Many people, however, do not realize how putting forth the time and effort to save small amounts of money here and there can add up to huge savings. Shannon Sims and Melanie Bucks have mastered this practice.
The two have joined the ranks of money savers throughout the country who have taken up what some call "extreme couponing." The huge trend, depicted on TLC's "Extreme Couponing," often involves spending hours to find, clip and organize coupons and then comparing prices and looking for specials in stores to combine with coupons.
The amount of money these people save might be surprising.
"People often can't wrap their heads around how much you can save by using coupons," said Bucks, who works as a physician's assistant at Family Practice and is a mother of three.
But this kind of savings is not achieved without taking the time to figure out a system and putting in a lot of work. "It takes patience," said Sims, who is a mother of two and works in the technology industry. Sims and Bucks have become proficient at this process, and they decided to share their knowledge with others. That's when they started giving couponing classes and started the group Saline Savings.
Classes are usually $10 a person, and the participants are provided food, drinks and informative literature — put together by Sims and Bucks — on couponing. The attendees go home with pages of coupons and sometimes free products.
"It's a lot of fun," Bucks said.
Saline Savings is a Facebook page that gives local shoppers a forum to share ideas and see what deals are out there. For example, someone might share tips on how to get free toothpaste, Sims said.
Group members also share their shopping success stories. Heidi Lutman, for example, posted how she spent $180.10 and saved $126.86 while shopping that day.
People post questions for Sims and Bucks about how to save money.
And the two are a beacon of knowledge when it comes to the subject. They have a seemingly endless list of tips. "There's certain things you should never pay for or pay very minimal for," Sims said.
Sims recommends you start with one section at a time. "It can be overwhelming at first," she said. She started in the beauty aisle, figuring out how to stack manufacturers coupons with store coupons and how to hold onto coupons to wait for the items to go on sale. "Then expand your horizons and work out a system."
Most people have probably seen these coupon lovers browsing the aisles of Walmart or Kroger with large binders and stacks of sales papers in tow.They often buy items in bulk and end up paying little for items or getting them for free. Sometimes they are paid money to take things out of the store.
Sims said she recently found contacts at a reduced price at Walmart. She bought the contacts and, after applying the $4 coupon she had found in the paper, she was actually paid money back for the purchase.
At Kroger earlier this week, Sims saved $151.85 off an original ticket of about $353, or 43 percent of her final bill. She accomplished this with $57.84 in manufacturer's coupons, $6.85 in bonus coupons and $87.16 of savings because from her Kroger card.
At Walmart, she didn't pay for razors or dental floss, Sims said. She also reduced her $117.76 grocery bill down to $63.19, saving $54.57 by using coupons and ad matching. Walmart will match any advertised price. In their classes, Sims and Bucks teach people how to incorporate this into their savings strategy.
The day she went to Kroger and Walmart, clipping coupons took Sims about three or four hours. "It's worth it when you're paying 40 cents for mustard, as opposed to $2.30. That's when you stockpile," she said.
Sims has a list of what to stock up on different times of the year, based on what the stores generally have reduced prices on.
The Saline Savings women are happy to share their knowledge and are willing to help in any way they can. Sims has accompanied friends to Walgreens on their shopping trips. Recently, she loaned a friend her coupon books so she could see how they were organized. Then she went with her to the store to teach her how to put it all into action.
If Sims and Bucks can't answer a question, they will probably know where to find the answer. There are plenty of resources out there, two of the most popular being Thekrazycouponlady.com and Coupondivas.com. O ther Facebook groups have a similar theme, including I Heart the Mart, which focuses on how to save money at Walmart.

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