Couponing -- an extreme sport?
By Ivory Riner
With the economic downturn over recent years, Marshall County residents have to try to make ends meet. Cyndie Burton was one of many who was affected by the closing of ICP.
After her sister-in-law Velma Barrett experienced a cut in income after retiring from Redstone Arsenal, the two started couponing.
"We both know what each other uses, so when I'm in the store and see something Cyndie needs, I'll pick it up for her," said Barrett.
First mentioned by The Wall Street Journal in 2010, extreme couponing was referred to as the newest extreme sport. Today websites like CouponMom.com and TheKrazyCouponLady.com offer insight on the latest bargains and tips to help get the best deals.
"I married at age 16. Although I did get my high school degree, I had to dig up pennies just to buy milk and bread. I didn't have a lot. My husband did make good money, (but) I was also having to pay things off and get out of debt. I'm a giving person, and seeing others do without really made me open my eyes. That's what made me start couponing," said Burton. She got more serious about couponing after moving into a bigger house because she had more room to store everything.
You can find the two couponers bargaining at a variety of stores. Together they have paid 33 cents for Axe hygiene products, 10 cents for 25-ounce bottles of Palmolive dish soap, $1 for 3.5-ounce cans of cat and dog food, 10 cents for Angel Soft toilet paper, and $8.70 for 12 12-packs of Coca-Cola. Burton has gotten 24 12-packs of Bic razors, Branch's candies, Covergirl makeup, and Vidal Sassoon shampoo all for free. All that was paid was sales tax, but a lot of the time they get money back from overages. Together the two have gotten countless of great deals, but Burton's best deal was when she ordered 186 packages of CareFree women's essentials. She had a $2 off coupon, and a $1 off manufacturer's coupon. She ended up getting back $300 in overages.
Burton said for anyone who wants to start couponing, start small. Subscribe to your local newspaper to get coupons, and always keep a binder to keep when shopping. The binder should be divided by store and expiration date of the coupon. Barrett said never throw away a coupon before its expiration date, and don't use a coupon just because you have it. Make sure the product is something you need. The two use price matching when shopping. If they're at one store and another store is having a better deal on something, the first store may match the competitor's price. Also, when couponing, know that rain checks are available. If a store runs out of a product that's on a coupon, they may order it and you're able to get it for that sale price they advertised. Do the research and find what you like, and always shop at stores that offer rewards programs.
"Stock up things your family needs so you aren't running and buying last-minute needs," said Burton. When shopping, keep the coupons near. Coupons are like money, and people will steal your binders. Burton says to always be nice to your cashier and managers; sometimes they like to add in free stuff. Burton and Barrett both get calls from one store when their toys go on sale.
Although newspapers are filled with coupons, CouponMom.com is where Burton and Barrett get a lot of their coupons. Burton first heard of this website from Dave Ramsey's wife.
"It's my job to provide for my family. When I get back overage from my coupons, that's money I can put forth on my bread and milk," said Burton.
Being the kind giving person Burton is, most of her "stock" goes to charity. After all, who needs 110 packs of granola bars? Wipes, juice, hygiene products, and laundry supplies are currently waiting to be donated to disaster relief. When Burton's son was deployed to Afghanistan for a year, she sent 33 boxes filled with necessities overseas. She also donates to Hands of Mercy, Howell Church of Christ, and the Petersburg Food Pantry and Angel Tree.
Over the years, some stores have put policies on their coupons like how big a bottle of something you have to buy to use your coupon, or they don't allow you to double coupons.
"My best advice would be to know your coupon policies. Some cashiers aren't coupon knowledgeable, some are rude when they see you walking up with a binder of coupons, and some scrutinize every coupon you give them," said Burton.
With multiple storage spaces holding their stocks, Burton and Barrett continue to coupon, but they currently have everything they need.