Naples resident Anja Brown dutifully saves money each week by clipping coupons before she visits the grocery store, but the young mother of two small children thinks she can do better.
That’s why Brown attended a couponing seminar at the Women Today Expo on Friday morning.
“I try to use coupons when I can,” said Brown. “I think I save about $20 a week, but this was awesome, all the good information that I can use to save more.”
Couponing guru Kasey Trenum, a stay-at-home mom who began couponing in earnest when the economy went south, led the 45-minute workshop
Although Trenum is from Cleveland, Tenn., her personal story is a familiar one to many Southwest Florida residents. She and her husband had built two homes on speculation, and then were stuck with three house payments when the housing industry collapsed and her husband lost his job.
Since that time, Trenum and her friend Kelly Thompson devised a couponing system that allows them to save hundreds when they visit the grocery store.
They also established a blog and website to help other consumers do the same, and have shared their system on the ABC television show “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition,” as well as on National Public Radio.
Trenum has a hungry audience, as couponing has become more popular since the economic decline. In the first six months of 2011, consumers saved an estimated $2 billion using coupons, according to the Promotion Marketing Association.
Still, coupons are an untapped resource, according to Trenum. Last year, manufacturers offered $330 billion in coupon savings, but only 1.03 percent of those coupons were redeemed.
Like Trenum and Brown, Breka Strait of Naples said she has increased her use of coupons since the economy faltered.
“I’m single, so I don’t use them quite as much as a family might,” said Strait. “But I do use coupons for groceries and items at the drug store, like contact lens solution and eye drops.”
“I have learned to go through stores and buy what I use, rather than buy what I need, which was a useful point in the presentation.”
Buying for use rather than need is the central tenet of Trenum’s couponing philosophy.
It means buying staples in quantity as particular food items tend to go on sale in 10 or 12 week cycles. Once you have built up a pantry, you can replenish it when items are on sale or you have coupons, rather than when you need them.
Trenum said building a pantry make trips to the store faster and less stressful, as well as less expensive, because consumers have a pre-determined list.
“I have a life outside my grocery cart,” she said. “Couponing is a necessity. I do it in a balanced, effective way that doesn’t take over your life or require an addition to your home.”
Trenum provided tips for collecting coupons, using newspapers, magazines and online resources, such as coupons.com or her website, www.time2saveworkshops.com.
She said that 89.6 percent of coupons are still found in Sunday newspapers and that she buys several papers each week so she can buy sale items in quantity.
At one point, she asked an audience member to inspect one of her recent grocery bills. The bottom line: she saved $345.08 with coupons in a single trip.
“Coupons equal money,” she told the audience. “Do you want to pay with your cash, or do you want to pay with coupons?”