Lifestyle: Saving cents makes sense

By Alyssa Small

For the Bozeman Daily Chronicle

Published Saturday, July 2, 2011

Keri Traver pulled an envelope filled with paper-clipped coupons from her purse and placed them on top of her groceries.

Guiding her cart to the self checkout in Bozeman’s Albertsons, Traver methodically organized her coupons for Dannon yogurt, McCormick marinade, Twizzlers, Oreo Cakesters and Oscar Meyer sausages She . then flagged down an employee and said she would need assistance with approving her coupons for several transactions.

Seventeen purchases later, she walked away with a 94-percent discount on her groceries. She then shopped at three other Bozeman stores and bought $525.67 worth of items — all for less than $20.

Traver is an extreme couponer — Montana style.

The birth of the TLC network’s show “Extreme Couponing” has inspired a handful of shoppers in the Bozeman area. The shoppers stock coupons to save money Angie Clay, a Belgrade mother of three, decreased her monthly shopping bill from $600 in December to $150 last month. She clipped coupons from newspapers and printed coupons online.

“There are blogs out there that do all of the work for you,” she said. “You don’t have to spend hours and hours on finding coupons in order to save money.”

Clay said she spends about 30 minutes a week clipping coupons. She said it pays off in the end.

“People say they don’t have time to coupon, but really, they can’t afford not to coupon,” Clay said.

The perfect couponing candidates are daycare providers because they have more mouths to feed than the average family, Clay said.

Leslie Atkins of Belgrade is a stay-athome mom of two. She also watches other kids during the day.

She started couponing to save $50 a month on groceries. On her first trip with coupons, she saved $65.

Atkins said couponers shouldn’t buy food that no one likes just because it’s a deal. Instead, she plans meals for two weeks and knows what to buy at the store.

“I like the challenge of it,” Atkinson said. “I’m not going to be someone who hoards a bunch of food and stores stuff in their garages and under their kids’ beds. I try to be a little more moderate.”

Cyndie McKay of Bozeman said she donates excess food. She recalled a day when she gave her neighbor bags of pasta and cereal.

“They didn’t believe that we could get anything significant from couponing, so I decided to give them a bunch of the food I got for free because we had plenty already,” McKay said.

Heather Jacks of Belgrade said she plans to take carloads of groceries to the food bank when her stockpile grows.

Jacks, a mother of two boys, said couponing has taken away any fear of running out of food. She said she has no problem having her sons’ friends and baseball teammates over because she knows she can feed them for pennies. And her sons are learning from her couponing.

“My youngest, he’s 8, said he saw his teacher throwing away coupons at school,” she said. “He stopped his teacher saying, ‘Mr. Quam! That’s a coupon!’ He took those coupons home, and we got Cheetos for him with those coupons.”

Some couponers said their families thought they were crazy when they started. They said their families have since seen the light.

“She loves it, and I love it,” said J.J. Jacks, Heather’s husband. “There’s no grocery budget anymore. It’s real money that we’re saving.”