Savvy saver shares tips and tricks
If you saw a $5-off coupon on the ground would you pick it up?
In today's economy, few people can afford to pass up the opportunity to save money, but many do when they throw away their coupons.
When Lynne Dahlheimer of Alexandria retired five years ago, she set out on a mission to supplement her household income by amping up her coupon clipping.
In the first year of her retirement she kept a log of her savings - $18,000 was her total by year's end.
"I never pay full price," she proudly proclaimed.
In one trip to Target, Dahlheimer spent only 69 cents (sales tax) on $50.40 worth of items using the "stacking" method. Stacking is when a manufacturer coupon is combined with a store coupon to increase the discount of a purchase.
Dahlheimer spends about two hours a day clipping coupons and searching websites for deals.
The Internet has changed the way people shop with printable coupons and networking among coupon enthusiasts. A study by Kantar Media reported that digital coupon distribution had increased by more than 12 percent in 2011.
Some of the websites Dahlheimer frequents are: WeUseCoupons.com, TotallyTarget.com, iHeartTheMart.com and WildForWags.com. She writes a blog on WeUseCoupons.com where a helpful video featuring Mr. Coupon can help get people started couponing (http://bit.ly/wmyb14).
As with all things online, you can't always believe what you see. Some printable coupons can be counterfeit.
"If it doesn't scan, it's probably not legitimate," she said.
Dahlheimer said she doesn't blame stores for not accepting printed coupons sometimes because she's witnessed people try to scam stores. Local stores especially have a difficult time getting reimbursed from manufacturers, she said.
Another source of coupons for Dahlheimer is a group of about a dozen friends who get together for a coupon swap.
The Star Tribune, Echo Press and Wall Street Journal also contribute to Dahlheimer's coupon collection - through a second-hand subscription she receives from neighbors. She used to get the bulk of her coupons from the Pope Douglas Solid Waste Management site, prior to inception of a recent policy change that prohibits people from going into its dumpsters.
One trick Dahlheimer revealed is to never be brand loyal.
"If you get a good coupon, use it," she said. "Often a company like Tide will offer a great coupon to lure consumers in."
If you coupon properly, you can save a lot of money and even get cash back. When Dahlheimer shops at Walmart and receives an overage, she has it put on a gift card and later gives that card to someone in need. She hopes others do the same.
Dahlheimer said she's paid for other people's groceries when they have waited in line behind her patiently as she and the clerk deciphered her coupons at the checkout counter. One rule Dahlheimer always abides by: She never pays for alcohol or tobacco products.
Couponing isn't the only way people can save money, Dahlheimer said. A crackling woodstove was ablaze to heat her home and all the household appliances are unplugged when not in use. She said her average electric bill is $45 a month.
"You can refinance your mortgage, apply for scholarships if your kids are in college and check insurance rates frequently to get better rates," Dahlheimer said.
She would like to see couponing classes offered in conjunction with social services programs like food stamps and WIC. An added benefit is it would save the government money also.
Dahlheimer said people can only go to food drops and the food shelf a limited number of times in a month and learning how to stretch a dollar would really help.
"There are many areas to branch off on in this area and with the tough economy we're in, it could be helpful to many," Dahlheimer said.
Dahlheimer is a self-described avid coupon clipper who loves to get a good deal and help others. She lives on a seven-acre farm on the outskirts of Alexandria where she and her husband, Jerry, raise chickens.
When she isn't venturing into town on one of her twice-a-week coupon voyages, she enjoys taking care of her three grandchildren.
Lynne doesn't consider herself an extreme couponer. She has only watched the TV show, Extreme Couponing, once or twice, and isn't a fan. Her television only receives two channels.
Lynne volunteers at the United Way's food drop. One day she would like to convert a room in her house into a shop where down-on-their-luck folks can come pick up a few things they need and benefit from her frugality and hospitality.
Perhaps the root of her saving savvy came from an expression her father, Darcy Lorsung, used to say: "If you watch your pennies, the dollars will take care of themselves."
If anyone would like to learn more about couponing, contact Lynne at (320) 763-8175 or read her blog at WeUseCoupons.com.
SAVE AT LOCAL STORES
Lynne Dahlheimer offered the following tips for saving at local stores:
Walgreens offers Registered Rewards, which offers consumers coupons for items they purchase. Stacking is allowed at this store. WildForWags.com
Walmart will pay customers overages if the amount saved with coupons is greater than the amount due for the transaction. Walmart offers price match without competitors' advertisements. Dahlheimer suggests bringing the ad just in case. iHeartTheMart.com
Target offers price match with a print ad from another store. Stacking is also allowed at Target. TotallyTarget.com
Kmart features double coupon days each month.
Pete's County Market has a coupon box at the door where coupons can be dropped off, picked up or exchanged.