Cutting costs with a dedicated couponer

By Karl Henkel


Lori Factor spends a few hours of each week clipping coupons, neatly organizing them in a large, white binder.

Factor, a 48-year-old mother of two, is a self-proclaimed “dedicated couponer.”

Just don’t call her an “extreme couponer,” like those profiled on the TLC show “Extreme Couponing,” devoted to those who maximize their coupons, often saving hundreds of thousands of dollars.

The show’s nearly 2 million viewers get an inside look at individuals who treat couponing like a full-time job.

“I think it’s unrealistic, and it gives couponers who are just

doing it to help out the family budget a bad rap,” said Factor, assistant director of performing arts at Youngstown State University. “For me, it’s just a hobby.”

But that hobby, on average, saves Factor as much as 50 percent on groceries per week.

“I can get a $160 bill down to about $95 or $100,” Factor said. “That’s not every single week, but it’s pretty regularly.”

Although the number of extreme couponers is rather low, “Extreme Couponing” has brought about a new, more frugal shopper, especially considering the high unemployment, lower wages and a consumer price index that continues climbing to record levels.

Carrie Rocha, a money-saving expert from, is one of the most well-known couponers, who, in just 21⁄2 years, expunged $50,000 in debt with the help of couponing.

She and Factor both agreed that with a little time, effort, and for the cost of a Sunday newspaper, anyone can take cutout pieces of paper and turn them into huge savings.

“I don’t see pieces of paper,” Factor said. “I see dollar bills.”

Factor and consumers across the nation have turned paper into money like never before.

Americans last year shaved $3.7 billion off shopping bills by redeeming

3.3 billion coupons, according to NCH Marketing Services.

So how was so much money saved?

The most popular way is stockpiling, or buying a large quantity of a particular item, which has given extreme couponers a bad name. Rocha recalled emails from consumers bragging about stockpiling.

“I have heard people tell me about these massive quantities of products they have gotten,” she said. “Over 80 boxes of pasta from a local grocery chain. Other that the thrill of saying you got it for free, what’s the point?”

It’s an aspect of couponing that Factor can’t wrap her head around.

“Nobody needs thou-sands of anything,” she said.

But stockpiling in moderation can be beneficial, especially for Connie Juh, 47, of Boardman, who shops for a family of three.

“My stockpile isn’t close to those on “Extreme Couponing,” but I have more than enough for the week,” Juh said. “If the sales are good, I buy and I stockpile. If not, I use up my stockpile and wait it out.”

To stockpile, or to maximize savings on multiple products, consumers should use coupons in conjunction with store sales, said Andrea Woroch, a consumer savings expert who has appeared on national television shows such as “Good Morning America” and “Today.”

“You want to pair coupons with store deals,” Woroch said. “Grocery stores always offer store coupons or sales, so if you can stack them, you’re obviously multiplying your savings.”

Case in point: A 15.3-ounce package of Kellogg’s Fiber Plus Antioxidants cereal, which regularly sells for $4.29 a box.

Kellogg’s, on its website, offers a coupon for $1 off two boxes, for a two-box total of $7.58, or $3.79 a box.

A local store recently had a sale on Kellogg’s cereal: Four boxes for $10. Using two of the coupons, coupled with the sale price and the four-box total is $8, or $2 a box.

By coupling the sale price with coupons, a consumer saved $9.16, or 55 percent off the original price.

“Name brands – whether it’s cereal, salad dressing or soup – they love to offer coupons,” Woroch said. “They know shoppers are looking for them, and they want you to try their products.”

Factor said the cereal example is exactly how couponing is supposed to work.

“It’s all about looking at the sale and saying, ‘Well, I have this coupon, [so] let’s apply this coupon to the sale,’” she said.

But if life is too busy and hectic to spend any time searching for and cutting coupons, it doesn’t mean a consumer can’t save considerably during his or her weekend shopping run.

Woroch said there are plenty of other ways to protect your pocketbook.

She said buying precut vegetables, fruits and meat isn’t smart; precut vegetables alone can cost 30 to 40 percent more than the entire raw vegetable, despite being the same size.

Same goes for meat.

“If you buy smaller pieces, it will likely cost 40 percent more,” she said. “And you can definitely cut back on meat prices by looking for meats [closer] to expiration dates.”

Other things to stay away from: products placed at the end of aisles or at eye level (for those between 5 feet 5 inches and 5 feet 10).

“Consumers are just naturally drawn to those because they assume these are going to be remarkable deals,” Woroch said. “Manufacturers pay a lot to have that real estate because they know it will attract consumers.”

Instead, look for the items on the top and bottom shelves, which more than likely are the same products disguised in less eye-catching packaging.

“Always look at the generic options,” Woroch said. “Many big brands actually produce the generic brands. Everything is the same, it just doesn’t have the same packaging.”

Here’s a brief rundown of some of the popular Mahoning Valley grocers and their coupon policies:


Valley locations: 15 (Youngstown, Boardman, Austintown, Poland, Canfield, Niles, Howland, Brookfield, Warren, Salem, and Hermitage and New Castle, Pa.)

Coupons accepted: Internet and manufacturers.

Double coupon: Some. Manufacturers’ coupons can be doubled with the Giant Eagle Advantage Card.

Rewards card: FoodPerks!: For every 10 gallons of fuel purchased, customers earn a 1 percent discount on a future

visit. FuelPerks!: Customers receive 10 cents off per gallon for every $50 spent in-store; an additional 4 cents per gallon if they apply for FuelPerks! credit card.

Special policies: If the charged price of a product appears on the register tape at an amount higher than the displayed, posted or advertised price, the first improperly scanned item is free (does not include, alcohol, tobacco and milk). Coupon value cannot exceed price of item(s) purchased.


Valley locations: 14 (New Middletown, Cortland, Warren Niles, Youngstown, Boardman, Champion, Salem, Columbiana, Lisbon)

Coupons accepted: Varies by store, manufacturers. No Internet coupons.

Double coupon: Up to 99 cents.

Rewards card: No.

Special policies: Coupon value cannot exceed price of

item(s) purchased.


Valley locations: 10 (Austintown, Boardman, Youngstown, Columbiana, Niles, Hubbard, Warren, Lisbon)

Coupons accepted: Internet and manufacturers.

Double coupon: No.

Rewards card: Smart Shopper Club, which entails members to special monthly online coupons.


Valley locations: 4 (Austintown, Boardman, Niles, Salem)

Coupons accepted: Marc’s, Internet and manufacturers.

Double coupon: No.

Rewards card: No.

Special policies: Coupon value cannot exceed price of item(s) purchased.

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