Recently, I was lucky enough to chat with one of TLC’s Extreme Couponers, Michelle Waggoner. She and her husband Cory donned camo and grease paint to battle it out with other superhero, supermarket savers last December on Extreme Couponing All-Stars. But you should know that they’re superheros in real life too, teaching couponing classes in their community and donating essentials from their mammoth stock pile to feed families in need. Even though Michelle is a wife and busy mother of two, she finds time to coupon so effectively that she’s creating a debt-free, abundant life for her family. What’s so great about Michelle is she’s a sort of “holistic” couponer – her website, thecoupongirlz.com, is filled with tips on how to simplify your life and save outside of couponing – by discovering delicious, budget friendly recipes and creating your own staples, like dish soap, out of stuff you already have in your home.
Here’s what Michelle had to say about her couponing philosophy:
MM: How did you start couponing?
MW: I started couponing a little over 4 years ago after I quit my job and became a stay-at-home mom. We struggled after going down to one income so I wanted to find some way I could contribute. I saw a story about these people that were saving a ton of money with coupons and I didn’t believe it. I decided that was something I could try, so I gave it a shot and here we are.
MM: How has couponing changed your life?
MW: Couponing has impacted us in a big, big way. We have changed the way we buy everything and the way we live our lives. We’ve gotten through some tough situations, been able to give more than we ever thought possible, been able to help people make changes to their lives, and even been able to start a business and create a DVD to help teach others to save with coupons. Our goal is to become and then live debt free and couponing has been an important part of our plan to get there. It’s been such a blessing.
MM: What is the best/most memorable purchase you’ve made with coupons?
MW: Other than the two shopping trips for the TLC shows, the coolest purchase was actually done by my kids. I was getting a product that, with the coupon, had significant overage. So I let them each pick out a toy. I had them each checkout with the item and their toy and use the coupon. They each got a couple of dollars back even after the overage. That was pretty cool and they were really excited.
MM: What’s the number one myth about couponing you’d love to debunk?
MW: That people don’t have time to coupon. The Wall Street Journal did a story back in 2010 showing that clipping coupons for one hour could yield approximately $100 in savings. $100 for one hour of work couponing. That’s a pretty good hourly rate. I’m sure most people spend more than an hour each evening in front of the TV. Why not clip coupons, while you’re watching TV, and save enough money off your grocery bill to pay the cable bill? People make time for the things they think are important. So if saving money, or having more money in your budget for other things is important, then people need to make time to coupon.
MM: What’s the top piece of advice you’d give new couponers?
MW: Two things. First, start small. Try couponing at one store, or focus on just a couple of products at first. It seems like people think they need to be able to save 95% on their shopping trip right out of the gate to justify using coupons, which is absolutely not the case. Any savings is worth the time and effort. Second, pay attention to when you’re using your coupons. Be sure to use them at the best possible time; when the product goes on sale.
MM: How do you get the whole family involved in couponing? How can couponing become fun and
educational for kids?
MW: Couponing for us is a family affair. My kids are 8 and 5 and most weeks they help sort and stack the coupon inserts while my husband and I separate the inserts and cut out the coupons. It’s just part of what we do in our family routine during the week. The kids go shopping with me all the time and when I need to break up my order into separate transactions, they each get their stack of coupons and the amount of cash they’ll need to pay for the transaction and I let them checkout, too. They love it because they get the opportunity to do “grown up” things.
My kids are learning at a very young age how to manage money and how to be savvy shoppers. They know we don’t buy snacks or toys without coupons. I hope they will see us being that way and that’ll stick with them throughout their lives so they’ll be able to avoid some of the same issues we’ve gone through.
MM: How do you envision the future of couponing with mobile and digital technology?
MW: I think mobile and digital technology is going to continue to increase their role in the couponing world. More and more people are using smartphones and tablets for everything in their lives. Non-smart phones are becoming more obsolete every day, so it makes sense that mobile couponing is going to evolve.
MM: What other methods besides couponing do you use to save?
MW: We aren’t just frugal when it comes to grocery shopping. We’ve taken those skills and ideas and transferred them to other areas of our life as well. We plant a huge garden with my parents to have fresh produce all summer long, but we also try to preserve as much as we can to get us through the rest of the year. We hunt and fish, raise chickens for fresh eggs, raise cows for fresh beef and even make our own laundry and dishwasher detergent.
Make sure you “like” Michelle on Facebook, follow her on Twitter, visit thecoupongirlz.com, and take advantage of Michelle’s coupon advice, updates + delicious frugal recipes and DIY money-savers (like her formula for DIY laundry detergent!)