Here is an interview with one of Budget Smart Girl’s new contributors Marcia Layton Turner. She’ll be stopping by every month to fill us in what’s happening in the world of couponing.
Budget Smart Girl (BSG)-Tell us about yourself?
Marcia Layton Turner (MLT)- I’m a bestselling author and freelance writer who spends much of her day learning from others, which I love. I primarily write about two subjects – small business and saving money – and my work has appeared in BusinessWeek, Woman’s Day, Health, Parenting, Every Day with Rachael Ray and many others. When I’m not writing, I’m generally shuttling my two children to their many activities and lessons or reading about my favorite topic, saving money with coupons.
BSG-How long have you been an avid couponer?
MLT-I’d say that I’ve used coupons since graduating from college, but that I didn’t become serious about it until about five years ago. It was after hearing about www.RefundCents.com, and its companion print newsletter, that I began to recognize how much more I could save if I spent more time matching weekly sales with available coupons. So now I invest time in studying which stores have sales on products our family uses a lot, or which I happen to need, and then stock up on the coupons I need so that I can maximize my savings.
BSG-For the beginner, what are some of your favorite tips?
MLT-I would suggest that someone who is just starting to use coupons, or who is kicking their coupon usage up a notch, should start doing three things to significantly boost their savings. First, I would create a pricing book. This is a little notebook containing notes on the products you buy regularly, such as chicken breasts or cereal, for example, and the prices you’re used to paying. The next time you go to the store, jot down the everyday retail price of the top 10-20 products you buy. Then, take your notebook with you from now on and take note of sale prices. In the next three months you will find those products go on sale at least once for a rock bottom price. When you hit that point, stock up on as much of that product as you can, to last the next three months until it goes on sale again. But you won’t know what that lowest price is until you start tracking them.Second, work on improving your coupon matching skills. When your stores’ weekly circulars come out, whether that’s on Tuesday or Sunday, go through them and note which items you may be interested in buying. Then, find out which products have coupons in circulation. You can do this by turning to a site like www.thekrazycouponlady.com, or searching for “coupon database” in Google. Then do a search within the database for the different products on sale, to see if you can further reduce your out-of-pocket expenses with coupons.Third, stock up on the coupons you need. If you find out on Sunday that your local grocery store is having a sale on dog food, for example, and you’ve checked and know that a coupon exists for, say, Purina dog food, consider ordering some from a coupon clipping service like
. You’ll pay around $.05 or $.08, plus postage, to have a particular coupon clipped and mailed to you. This is a quick and easy way to get as many coupons as you need, so you can stock up on great sales when they come up.
BSG-What about places to find coupons? Any favorites, any places we wouldn’t think of looking?
MLT-The best place to find coupons is still your weekly newspaper insert. On weeks when there are particularly good coupons, I head to Dollar Tree and stock up on extra copies for just $1, which is a good deal in my area. Besides ordering what you need from a coupon clipping service, I’d also recommend looking closely at product packaging; there are some great coupons printed on the inside of boxes, which are often high value. Checking out blinkie boxes inside the store is another good place to get coupons. And I always scope out the beer aisle in my grocery store to find rebates; New York allows beer to be sold in grocery stores but does not require beer purchases on rebates.
BSG-Say you’re buying a particular item but just can’t seem to find a coupon for it, any tips for tracking one down, or do some products never have coupons?
MLT-Some products will never have coupons but, to be sure, do a search online to see what you can discover. A coupon database will tell you what is in circulation from newspaper inserts, but also do a general search using the product name to see if there are any Internet coupons. Sometimes online sites like
, just to name a couple, have coupons available for download that you won’t find in print.
BSG-I know lots of people and yes sometimes I’m guilty of this one I let coupons expire, any tips for gentle reminders?
MLT-I’ve been known to miss out sometimes, too. Life gets busy and coupons will expire. It’s a fact of life. Fortunately, when one coupon expires, there is often a replacement in the next Sunday’s paper.What I try and do, when I remember, is to sort through my coupon box and pull out coupons that are expiring in the next couple of weeks. I’ll put them in a separate section, or in an envelope, to remind myself to use them.
BSG-How about organizing coupons, anything in particular that works for you?
MLT-Although the binder method is apparently the most popular (you put coupons in baseball card holders within a 3-ring binder), I have found that it’s much easier for me to find specific coupons when they are organized alphabetically. So I use a coupon box with 25 different tabs and put coupons behind the appropriate letter tab based on brand name. So, for example, Cheerios cereal coupons go in the C section, along with Chiquita fruit and Campbell’s soup.
BSG-So how did this book come about and what can we find in it?
MLT-After tracking my savings one year and seeing that I saved more than $2,000 with coupons, and very, very little effort, I became a diehard couponer and coupon advocate. I wanted to share all that I had learned with everyone I knew, I was so excited! I started by writing articles on coupons and saving money for major consumer magazines and then decided I wanted to write a book. Once the TLC show “Extreme Couponing” came out earlier this year, I knew the time was right for a guide to using the techniques the folks on TV were using. So I wrote an ebook and sold it to an ebook publisher, who released it last month. It’s titled “Extreme Couponer: Insider secrets for getting groceries for free,” which is available on Amazon.com, BN.com, Kobobooks.com, Sony.com and Apple.com. I also have a Facebook fan page for “Extreme Couponer,” where I share information about couponing strategies and great deals I come across. Here is a link to the Kindle edition available on Amazon: