By Amy Guckeen Tolson, Staff Writer Redstone RocketOctober 12, 2011
REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala.--Linda Dunivant wants to cut her weekly grocery bill from $100 to $75. Joanne Terek just may save enough money at the checkout to save up for a vacation. And Cindy Spidel finds no shame in being called the "coupon queen."
Frugality is in fashion. And for these three NASA workers, Heather McIngvale is leading the way to savings.
"You can still have a nice house and a nice life," said McIngvale, the creator of Heather's Hints, a website devoted to all things coupons. "Being frugal doesn't mean you're destitute."
Rather, McIngvale said, couponing has become a pastime for people regardless of how much money they make each paycheck. A couponer since college, McIngvale began clipping so she could put money she'd spend on food toward other, more exciting purchases, and has kept up the habit even after marrying a husband who works on the Arsenal and makes a good salary.
"That doesn't mean it's still not advantageous for me to go out and save as much money as I can," McIngvale said. "It's free money in your newspaper. If they were stacking $10 bills in your newspaper instead of coupons, wouldn't you go get one?"
Even in these tough economic times, McIngvale has cut her family's grocery bill from $1,000 to $1,200 a month to a mere $400, and has devoted the last year to sharing her tips, tricks and favorite coupons with others. McIngvale spends 20 hours a week plus managing her website, www.heathershints.com, which provides visitors with printable coupons, local store matchups, basic information about couponing and store policies, and a schedule of upcoming classes she gives on couponing, leaving website visitors with the simple tasks of printing and clipping coupons, and planning meals and grocery lists. While couponing has become a part-time job for the Huntsville stay at home mom, that's the whole point -- doing the work so you don't have to.
"It's like working for yourself," said McIngvale, who estimated it may take the average person two to three hours of couponing and planning a week to save upwards of 50 percent on their grocery bill. "Think of how much money your monthly grocery budget is. Divide that by half. What could you do with half that money?"
Dunivant, Spidel and Terek attended one of McIngvale's local classes, where they learned the difference between store and manufacturer coupons, when to use what types of coupons, how to pair them with items on sale, and even what order you should hand them to the cashier.
"It's a great way to save money and it only takes a small amount of time," Spidel said. "Yeah, it may be only a 50 cent coupon, but when you can double it and find the item on sale, and then do that 30 to 40 times within a grocery purchase it really adds up and adds up fast."
"In these times, I don't think any time is wasted if it can save you money," Terek said. "With the money that is saved, other items can be purchased or the dollars can be put into the savings account. We all need a little cushion. I don't foresee the economy getting better any time soon. What can be saved today can be used tomorrow."
While television shows like "Extreme Couponing" have become part of pop culture, McIngvale said couponing doesn't mean you have to go to excess with your savings and stockpile, but rather, tailor your saving experience to your family's needs.
"It's not as crazy as it seems on TV," McIngvale said. "That is called 'extreme' couponing for a reason. You can still save just as much money as they do and not be crazy."