Ann Lucas is a Roanoke veterinarian by day, but in her spare time, she’s a serious coupon clipper. She’s disappointed if she doesn’t save at least 60 percent from her shopping trip. Lucas started focusing on saving money using coupons a year-and-a-half ago, after watching the television show, “Extreme Couponing” and brought her knowledge to workshops at two Roanoke Libraries this week.
Americans saved $4.6 billion dollars using coupons last year; half a million dollars more than the year before. Three hundred five billion coupons were distributed last year.
“So, that’s a lot. It’s a lot of opportunity to save a lot of money.” According to Lucas, 80% of shoppers use coupons regularly and 91 percent plan shopping lists with their coupons before they go to the store to save money.
She says it’s easy to become overwhelmed with the whole idea of saving money through coupons and suggests beginners don’t overdo it and just take their time.
First, know the key words of couponing, for instance “catalinas.. They’re manufacturers coupons that print out with your receipt.
Lucas also suggests knowing the couponing rules of the various stores where you shop. For instance, some stores double coupons, others don’t. Some stores will allow you to stack coupons, such as a manufacturers coupon along with a store coupon, but others won’t. Also, know the full price of the products you buy regularly so you can decide it buying it at that moment would be a good deal.
She suggests buying from two to five Sunday newspapers at Dollar Tree or Dollar General for $1, rather than the newsstand price.
There are a variety of places to obtain coupons, from coupon websites, Facebook, from the manufacturers website, and the store’s website. She says sometimes sending a complaint or compliment to a company will result in them sending you coupons. Many people get now coupons through text messages on their smart phones. There are even coupons to be found on Craig’s List or Ebay.
When searching coupons, Lucas suggests looking for those available on the West Coast, which have higher-value coupons because the cost of living is higher there.
She says you can usually print two coupons per computer by using the back button.
Then there are various ways to organize the coupons, whether it’s a white envelope to a small accordion folder you can take into the store, to a huge binder.
She encourages stockpiling items so you’ll have them on hand. “Buy it before you need it when it’s cheap, when it’s free especially. And that way you don’t have to pay full price for it when you absolutely need it.”
She even sold some of her overstocked items at a flea market and made extra money.
Lucas also encourages shoppers to share the wealth by giving expired coupons to the military which can use them for six months after they expire. The Williamson Road Library has a location for patrons to drop off their expired coupons and library officials will send them to military families.
“If there are opportunities where I can get free items and donate them to the women’s shelter or to the SPCA, I’m all for it. They can certainly use it.”
There’s something called a “coupon fairy.” Shoppers can place their extra coupons by the specific item on the shelf for those who need the item to find and save money.
Even after all her sorting and organizing Lucas will sometimes go a little out of her way to drive to a specific store for a certain item, but “in all my running and stuff. . . I’ll take five extra minutes if I know I’m by that Krogers, and there’s something that I need, I’ll run in and grab it.”