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Clip Your Way to BIG Savings!

When local mom Emily Waite checks out at the grocery store, most of the time the people in line behind her are amazed, and the cashiers ask, "How did you save so much money?" Her simple answer: coupons!

Using a unique savings strategy, this mother of three boys has decreased her weekly grocery and household items budget from approximately $200.00 to $75.00. She revels in the "hunt" for savings. "Obviously, saving money is a huge advantage, but personally, for me, it's like a game," she says.

In these tough economic times, many families are looking for ways to stretch every dollar, and they are finding some help with coupons and in-store promotions. In February, Inc. Magazine reported that for the first time in almost 20 years, more consumers used coupons last year than the previous year. In fact, 2009 marks the highest use of coupons since statisticians began tracking their use in 1988.

About eight months ago when Emily's husband encouraged her to start using coupons to save money, she balked at the idea. "I thought it was going to be so much work, and I'd have to go to all these different stores," she says. "But, once I started seeing how much I got and what I paid for it, I decided it was well worth it to me."

Emily has her shopping strategy organized and planned before she ever enters the stores. She spends one to two hours each week finding sales and clipping coupons, and then with her coupon binder in hand, she hits the aisles. Her advice: "Shop according to the coupons then plan the meals around what you have in your pantry."

Getting started can be overwhelming, but luckily, there are hundreds of resources available to anyone who wants to start saving money including books and web sites. Local mother of two Kerri Scarlett wanted to save her family as much money as possible, so she started using coupons, but with a unique approach. She began to save her family $400 a month and decided to share her shopping secrets on her blog, www.saveathomemommy.com. "Most families should be able to cut their budget for groceries, toiletries, and household supplies in half," she says.

Now a nationally read blog, Kerri shares her shopping tips and coupon advice with her on-line readers as well as offers seminars for families wanting to learn more. These seminars include how-to's on developing a household budget, stockpiling goods, finding coupons, basic coupon rules, navigating the store rewards program, and getting organized. She will be hosting seminars this summer on June 19 and July 24. See her web site for more details.

Kerri's strategy is more than just clipping coupons, it's also utilizing coupon "stacking" and doubling. She wants to educate shoppers on how to combine as many savings options on one item to get the most possible savings. "The best way to maximize your coupons is to find the items that you have both a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon for; you can use both of these for one item," she says. "This also works best when you buy the smaller sizes with the smaller prices, bringing your out-of-pocket expense way down."

"My favorite deals by far are when I have come out of the store paying nothing!" Kerri says. "There have been several times that I have purchased $100 or more in products and not had to spend a penny on it. "

Emily says her favorite deals come in the form of packaged cereal. She never pays more than a dollar for a box of cereal, and most times 25-50 cents a box for cereals from Kellogg's and General Mills. Recently, her big find was fruit snacks for 10 cents a box.

When you find savings like these, savings experts agree to stockpile the goods. "This is the best way to save money," Kerri says. "By stocking up on items when they are at their lowest possible price, you keep yourself from spending top dollar on something when you need it."

Both Emily and Kerri recommend using a binder to organize your coupons, ads, and shopping lists; Kerri even offers a "Save at Home Mommy Coupon Binder" on her website. Kerri also keeps her newspaper coupon inserts labeled by date and filed in a file cabinet.

Local organizational expert and mother of four boys, Joy Rodriguez, agrees that binders are the best way to organize coupons. She says one option is to fill the binder with plastic baseball card display sheets and to use dividers to separate them into categories like cosmetics, baby items, household, medicine, etc. "Be sure to highlight the expiration date and include scissors and a calculator in your binder," Joy says.

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