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Cutting costs with a dedicated couponer

Published: Sun, July 24, 2011 @ 12:01 a.m.

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 PocketYourDollars.com, 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.


1bobbieburks(2 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

A easy and wonderful way to save money is by using "Printapon". Printapon are online coupons that are dispersed based on your city. Each coupon saves at least 50% off the regular price of an item in your city.

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2boardmanres(40 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

She surely is not saving money with the measly coupons that come with the Vindicator, to compare them with the other papers in the area you would think that no one in the Valley washes clothes, showers, eats yogurt, or buys food for that matter as most of the "coupons" are for checks, or porcelian replicas of the royal wedding.

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3PittsGirl01(1 comment)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

That "show" does give us honest couponers a very bad rap. It shows people stealing and promoting illegal coupon use (Can you say Jamie "Jail'me" Kirlew).

In reply to boardmanres - the coupons in the local papers are a joke. You have to buy a bigger paper - like the Pittsburgh Post or the Plain Dealer.

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4ytownoptimist(86 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

She forgets to mention that you can get great manufacturer coupons by going to the websites for your favorite brands, sign up for their newsletters & google whatever is on your shopping list before you go out the door to see if you missed any promotions. "Stacking" on top of a retailer's coupon is key to getting the best deals. Furthermore, search out frugal mom blogs b/c they will do the work for you & let you know the best ways to save a buck.

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5dufffur(1 comment)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Very ironic that the Vindicator would run such an article considering the lack of coupons included with our paper. Why is that Vindicator management? We can't even recoup the cost of the Sunday paper yet alone weekly subscription with what we get!!!

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6boardmanres(40 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

I would hope that we could get an answer as to why the coupons in this area are not at plentiful, certainly we do need as much help as we can get.

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7VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

She is the one woman I dread getting behind in the check out line!

The ones I really hate are the people who agrue over coupon validity or expiration dates. They will spend 10 minutes in line arguing over one measley coupon that saves them 23 cents. Meanwhile others in line are ready to see her executed.

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8Freeatlast(1991 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

I think a lot here are missing the point . This lady lives in Canfield the most affluent place in the county and she cut out coupons. THANK YOU GOV K__KK . You are bring down the best of the best

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9taxpayer1001(274 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Freeatlast -how is that bringing down the best? Do you think people with money don't use coupons or want to save $?? They say those with money have it because they don't waste it. Think about that. Maybe this is something everyone should think about. lots to be saved with very little time. It doesn't make you a lesser person because you use them.

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10ickyOhio(4 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Boy you are right boardmanres! The coupons in the Vindicator are horrible. I have written to the manager a couple of times regarding them. I have the same gripe, on the cover they claim over "$150 in coupons" and they are all subscriptions or dollar general ads. Its a joke. This is why I pay to get the Pittsburgh paper.

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11VINDYAK(1824 comments)posted 4 years, 2 months ago

Freeatlast - please check this listing of a home for sale in Canfield if you still live by the assumption that Canfield is the most affluent city in the area...
MLS # 3179246 -$14,500 manufactured home on 1.05 acres

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