WYOMING — Roughly two dozen women (and a man) packed the back room of the Wyoming Free Library on Saturday to learn how a group of college students recently bought nearly $1,800 worth of non-perishable grocery and personal care items for under $10 using coupons.
The newly formed “Campus Clippers” of Misericordia University purchased the items using coupons from the Sunday papers as well as from online sources. They donated their entire haul to charity.
During “Extreme Couponing 101,” Kristen Andrews, assistant director of Admissions at the university, gave an entertaining and humorous 90-minute presentation on how to save tons of money at grocery and drug stores.
“I got into couponing two and a half years ago because I have these awesome things called student loans,” said Andrews. Although she has a hectic schedule, Andrews said she makes sure to fit time for couponing.
Using a laptop and a large, overhead screen, Andrews demonstrated how to navigate a website called Savingstar.com to earn credit from shopping at local stores. By registering loyalty cards from favorite stores, the website allows users to earn money.
When the consumer purchases the items at their store, their Savingstar account is credited.
“It’s called ‘Social Currency,’ ” said Andrews, adding that she recently earned $50 using the site. The money was directly deposited into Andrews’ checking account, but users can pick their own form of payout such as Pay Pal or an Amazon gift card.
Andrews and several of the club’s members told the group how they can rack up the biggest savings by combining or “stacking” a manufacturer’s coupon with a store coupon. The big bang comes when the item is also on sale, she said. “When these three stars align, oh my gosh, we love it!” she said.
Some people worry that they’re somehow ripping off the merchant, said Andrews squashing that misconception.
“People ask me how the store lets me walk out only paying four cents for my stuff, but I tell them that I pay for everything,” she said. “You have to change your mindset. Coupons are a form of payment, not a form of discount.”
Andrews said stores are reimbursed by the manufacturer of the item on the coupon. The merchant is happy because the products are moving off the shelf, and the manufacturer is happy because the consumer is trying the product.
Although the Campus Clippers consists of teams of students who are assigned one store per team, Andrews advised newbies to shop at only one grocery store and one drug store once a week to avoid becoming overwhelmed and to get to know the stores’ pricing and coupons policies.
Andrews outlined the habits of highly effective couponers: The first is to dedicate some time to couponing.
“This includes getting organized, searching for deals and planning shopping trips,” she said.
Second, is to never go to a store without your coupons and a plan. “My advice for people who clip coupons but leave them at home is ‘knock it off,’ ” she said.
Bonnie Chocallo of Wyoming never leaves home without her coupon collection, which she keeps in envelopes tucked in a large bag in her car. “I save money on coupons so I can waste it on my electric and other utility bills,” she laughed. “But I do save a lot, especially on cereal, coffee and cleaning supplies.”
Nancy Smith of Pittston Township excitedly told how she saves big using coupons and loyalty cards at her favorite grocery store.
“Once I got four free turkeys and made Thanksgiving baskets for neighbors,” she said. “I felt good about helping them out.”