By Zack Peterson
The effects of the recession have had everyone scrambling for footing.
Between high unemployment rates, gas prices and budget cuts, it’s become imperative to pinch every penny, even with simple day-to-day chores like grocery shopping.
That’s where Tracy Shaw comes in.
Shaw, a local of Land O’ Lakes, utilizes coupons to save money, particularly when it comes to weekly grocery shopping.
“I try to help people save money with things that you can use,” Shaw said. “I’m a stay-at-home mom with two kids, and the only reason I can continue to stay at home is because I use coupons.”
Shaw claims the use of coupons has made it possible to save upwards of 80 percent off her weekly grocery-shopping bill.
“My grocery budget has changed dramatically,” Shaw said. “It’s now only $40 thanks to coupons. If I can do it, then anybody can do it.”
For the most part, Shaw shops at Target and Publix, but anywhere she goes, she applies five basic tips.
1. Be prepared
“It sounds simple,” Shaw said. “But it’s actually harder when you try to accomplish it.
“Know what’s on sale. If you run into the grocery store on your way from somewhere or you think you’re just going to run in and grab one thing, what happens is that you end up doing that five times a week and each time you spend a quick 20 bucks, a quick 10 bucks; then all of a sudden you spend 100 bucks and you don’t have any idea what you bought.”
2. Make a list and stick to it
Shaw emphasizes that shoppers must stay true to their lists, despite all the objects that may look appealing.
“Those other things are all going to go on sale eventually,” Shaw said. “Just wait.”
3. Have coupons ready
“I don’t want to do anything crazy when I’m in the store,” Shaw said. “I want to have it there and situated so that when I get up the cash register, I can just hand it to the cashier and I’m done.”
4. Stack coupons
Both Publix and Target have store and manufacture coupons.
Store coupons don’t have barcodes on them, and instead have an LEU number which makes the coupon only usable at a particular store.
However, according to Shaw, Publix will also accept store coupons from other competitors.
“For example, this Publix (off Collier Parkway) will take Publix, Target, Winn Dixie, Sweetbay and Fresh Market coupons.”
Manufacturer coupons are typically the coupons found in newspapers or the ones shoppers have the ability to print from online.
When shoppers stack the coupons together to be used at the same time, the real savings begin.
“You can use both store and manufacture coupons on one item. And then, if you’re in a buy one, get one free scenario at Publix, you can use four coupons. So sometimes, you can even make money on a transaction,” Shaw said.
5. Stockpile goods
Shaw encourages buyers to buy enough of a product to make it to the next sale cycle. These cycles are typically six to eight weeks long.
“You don’t have to be extreme and buy rooms full of things. You just have to have enough to make it to the next sale cycle,” Shaw said. “You always want to buy enough when it’s on sale so that you’re saving your money.”
Shaw notes that this tip dramatically decreases the amount of money spent on groceries.
“If you buy what you need every week, you will spend $100-$150. If you buy what’s just on sale and you have your stockpile in place, I guarantee you can spend at least half that,” Shaw said.
However, Shaw stresses that her methods are not similar to the “extreme coupon movements.”
According to Shaw, enthusiasts of the extreme coupon movement spend six to eight hours a day dealing with coupons and buying food that they may not even ever use.
“I’m just here to help people save money on their groceries so that they can utilize money on other things,” Shaw said. “I only spend an hour to two hours max on the weekend organizing my coupons and I save 60, 70, 80 percent on my grocery bill? I would do it.”
Shaw shares her success with the community by blogging on her website, www.havingfunspending.com and by giving “coupon talks” throughout areas of the community where she explains the method of saving money with coupons through “introduction to coupon sessions.”
“I’m trying to show people that it’s fun,” Shaw said. “I truly believe that we’ve lost something over the last ten years. You know, people don’t say thank you anymore; people don’t open doors anymore. Everybody is so concerned with where the world has gone that we forget about the people around us. I think if I can tell one person about this, then maybe that one person will do it, and maybe that one person will tell someone else and hopefully there will be a domino effect.”