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Couponing makes cents

Heather Phillips, a Little Rock Air Force Base Welcome Center leasing agent and couponer, stands behind the groceries she paid only $15 for. Phillips bought 17 tubes of toothpaste for 46 cents at Kroger. Without her coupons her total would have been about $35; she saved more than half the money she spent. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Regina Agoha)

Heather Phillips, a Little Rock Air Force Base Welcome Center leasing agent and couponer, stands behind the groceries she paid only $15 for. Phillips bought 17 tubes of toothpaste for 46 cents at Kroger. Without her coupons her total would have been about $35; she saved more than half the money she spent. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Regina Agoha)

Dallas West, Tiffany Watts and Emma Horlick, all members of the base’s coupon group, cut, share and organize their coupons May 28, 2013, at the Welcome Center at Little Rock Air Force Base. The coupon group attend weekly meetings every Tuesday. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Regina Agoha)

Dallas West, Tiffany Watts and Emma Horlick, all members of the base’s coupon group, cut, share and organize their coupons May 28, 2013, at the Welcome Center at Little Rock Air Force Base. The coupon group attend weekly meetings every Tuesday. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Regina Agoha)

Emma Horlick, base couponing member, organizes her coupons into specific categories May 28, 2013, at Little Rock Air Force Base’s Welcome Center. Couponing has become more popular in the last few years. Extreme couponers have been known receive money back when shopping. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Regina Agoha)

Emma Horlick, base couponing member, organizes her coupons into specific categories May 28, 2013, at Little Rock Air Force Base’s Welcome Center. Couponing has become more popular in the last few years. Extreme couponers have been known receive money back when shopping. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Regina Agoha)

LITTLE ROCK AIR FORCE BASE, Ark. -- The art of couponing has expanded in the last few years from just clipping one or two coupons out of the Sunday paper to coupon clubs being formed, television shows being produced and shoppers actually making money when they purchase groceries.

Here at the Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark., fellow couponers come together every Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the base's Welcome Center, where they organize and share coupons as well as learn how to shop smart and get the most from their money.

"Going to the meetings ensures that you are up-to-date with deals that others may know about," said Tiffany Watts, Little Rock Air Force Base Welcome Center couponer. "It helps set aside a special time to clip and organize that way we don't get behind. And plus, it's nice to hang out with other couponers."

Watts, who's been couponing for more than two years now, said after deciding she was going to stay at home and raise her son, needed to feel that she was contributing to the household as well.

"I like knowing that I'm saving my family money," she said.

Just like with every hobby, in order to become good at it, one has to dedicate time to the craft. Watts spends two and a half hours a week, (not including shopping), to couponing, which consist of finding coupons, cutting them out, organizing them and placing them in the specific sections of her coupon box. She said she usually spends about an hour and a half in grocery shopping.

Fairly new couponer, Dallas West, spends about four hours a week couponing.

"I got into couponing when I became a new mother and realized that I could be saving money on items I needed to get for the baby," said West. "I like that I can save some money and that couponing takes up some of my free time."

Both Watts and West devote one hour of couponing at the base's Welcome Center on Tuesdays.

"I try to go to the meetings every Tuesday," said West. "The trading of coupons that we won't use is a big help if anyone is looking for something specific. Plus, it is great socially, and others share the week's best finds at the meeting."

If one is not able to attend the weekly meeting, Watts said "Try to stay persistent with setting aside a certain amount of time each week to clip. If you continue to put it off, then you can get behind really quickly."

For couponing beginners, Watts has do's and don'ts to follow:

"Do's would be to know your prices, and be willing to break up with your brands," she said. "Start slow so you don't get overwhelmed. Buy your Sunday papers so you can start accumulating coupons, and get organized. There are so many sources on the Internet for you to use, [where] websites tell you what you can get for free...you don't have to spend hours in the store hunting for deals."

"[The] don'ts would be, don't buy a product just because you have a coupon for it (unless you need it)," she said. "The best way to get the most out of your coupon is to use the coupon when the product is on sale."

For the skeptics and those who want to start but can't seem to get past what they've seen or heard, Watts said, "I would tell them to not watch the couponing shows that come on TV because they are very unrealistic. Try keeping a coupon log of your savings, and over time you will see your savings go up and up. Over the past two years, I have saved over $9,600 with coupons and price matching."

Persistence paid off literally for Watts when she once purchased $619 worth of groceries for only 32 cents.

"My family didn't have to purchase meat for two whole months," she said.

Though one may say purchasing hundreds of dollars' worth of groceries for a few mere cents is extreme, Watts doesn't consider herself an extreme couponer.

"There have been times when I would have been considered extreme," she said. "But, you can only really be extreme if the sales and coupons allow you to. If I can save $60 a month couponing, then that's $60 extra our family can use for anything including a trip to the movies for example. I would consider myself an optimistic couponer...waiting for extreme opportunities."

For more information or to join the couponing club on base, attend the weekly Tuesday meetings at 10 a.m. located at the Welcome Center on base. One can also call the center at (501) 983-9044.
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