Consumer alert: Getting the most out of your coupons - KSLA News 12 Shreveport, Louisiana News Weather & Sports

Consumer alert: Getting the most out of your coupons

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Krogers trip: Total before sales/coupons: $231.73.  After: $33.67 (Courtesy: Cost Cutters by Brandy) Krogers trip: Total before sales/coupons: $231.73. After: $33.67 (Courtesy: Cost Cutters by Brandy)

Free groceries!?  Dedicated couponers know how to make it happen.  If your clueless when it comes to couponing, tonight's consumer alert is for you!

$3.00 packs of diapers.  Free shampoo.  Those that get the most out of their clippings can walk away with carts full of groceries at half the cost, and the savings can add up to hundreds of dollars. 

The U.S. Department of Education is expecting food prices at grocery stores to increase 4 to 5% from last year.  At a time when every dollar counts, it's more important than ever to find ways to cut expenses. Yet people are throwing tons of coupons away every Sunday - free money, if you ask people like Brandy McCain.  She has become a coupon expert, and is now teaching others how to score the best deals.

McCain's Cost Cutters coupon classes stay booked with people wanting to learn how to clip and save. "People are in debt, people are having a hard time making it," McCain explains.  At a recent couponing class McCain offered at the Bienville Parish Library in Arcadia, McCain laid out her philosophy: Free is best.  Next best: Pay as little as possible. 

Couponing "student" Jessica Martin is a nurse, and loves to find the sales. "I have about 15 Gain right now, and I paid about $2 a piece for each one."

Savings like that come from what's called "stacking:" finding a good deal, and then stacking a coupon on top of it for optimal savings.  For example, finding a box of Colgate toothpaste on sale for a dollar, and then using a $1.00 off coupon: A free tube of toothpaste!

But in order to score the deals, you must be prepared, and organized.  A binder to store your coupons is key.  McCain keeps a binder full of coupons with a shopping list on the front and back.  She has a coupon for everything she plans to buy.  We went along on a recent trip to Kroger to see how it works. 

McCain had Covergirl coupons that say she must by two Covergirl face tools in order to get $8.00 off.  Kroger already has a sale offering any face tool for $2.18.  Two face tools would come to $4.36 with the special.  But with the $8.00 off coupon, she actually made $3.64. 
That's called a "money maker." McCain had four of those coupons, which means she made a total of $14.56 on that deal.  Depending on the manager, Kroger will give her that money back.  But McCain opts to put it toward the cost of the rest of the items in her buggy. "Knowledge is power when it comes to the game of couponing," says McCain.

On the same shopping trip, McCain found just about everything on her shopping list, including 11 packages of Kandoo baby wipes - all for free, with coupons.  By the time she handed over her Kroger loyalty card and coupons, McCain paid only $33.67 for a cart full of goods that would have cost $237.13.  Total savings: 88%. 

Some couponers know the tricks and work them over and over.  It's the basis for the popular TLC reality show, "Extreme Couponing."  But McCain says the "reality" show is actually pretty unrealistic, featuring self-proclaimed "shelf clearers" who take hundreds of items of shelves just because they have coupons to make all of the items free.  "I buy enough for me and one other person and that is good enough.  You don't need to buy 60 things of mustard."

Email Brandy McCain here.

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