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Herald’s Amy Radford is the coupon queen

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Posted: Friday, August 19, 2011 8:35 am

Nestled in her home in a Herald eucalyptus grove, she sits. She is armed with a pair of scissors, a stapler, two weeks worth of newspaper ads and a big red binder.

Amy Radford was out of town last weekend, but it’s time to catch up. She neatly organizes her pile of ads. Her fingers quickly and effortlessly group repeat ads together and staple the corners. Scissors glide through the paper quickly. Then, another staple secures similar ads together so they won’t be lost or out of order.

She does this again and again, until the half-inch pile is gone. Now it is time to sort, pulling out what she needs and organizing later.

Within the plastic-protected pages of the red binder are categories. She hasn’t yet invested in the baseball card pages, as some couponing divas do. And she isn’t into saving stockpiles of items that will last for 44 years in storage.

Radford began clipping savings coupons in April. It was around that time that the support staff supervisor of 11 years for Child Action, Inc. received notice that there were would be cutbacks. In June, the mother of two was laid off from her job. She quickly got resourceful. She had to.

“I saw how much people were saving (with coupons), and I looked into it,” she said.

The Sunday routine begins with a trip to the Dollar Tree.

“You won’t believe how many people come out for that $1 Bee. You have to be there early to get yours,” she said, talking of just one way she picks up coupons.

But Radford is excited to get her discounted Sunday ad-filled newspaper delivered to her home with multiple copies, thanks to websites like http://www.myfrugaladventures.com">www.myfrugaladventures.com.

The smart shopper then heads out and uses as many of the ads as possible. She’ll be out for a couple of hours, hunting the best deals on health and body products. She admits grocery couponing is more difficult, but doable.

“You learn how the cycle goes. Sometimes deals come along every three months. Sometimes six. It just depends on what it is,” she said.

Radford advises people to start couponing by printing their store’s policies. Although it hasn’t happened to her, Radford’s cousin encountered an episode at a big-box store where both the clerk and manager were not aware of couponing policies. The cousin ended up getting a call later apologizing for their error.

“It’s good if you keep it with you just in case,” she said. “It’s exciting to be saving. It is a bit of a challenge. But you can get things for free.”  

Her husband, Ryan, sees her couponing skills paying off. 

“He gets excited for me,” she said.

She can pick up his Twizzlers for about 25 cents a package by using the in-store rewards, plus her coupons. During their recent shopping trip, she even saved on beer. Her husband grabbed an 18-pack, but Radford looked over at the prices and saw that they could buy the 30-pack for less per beer.

“I can’t pay full price anymore,” she says with a laugh.

And sometimes, when there is no coupon, all you have to do is ask.

Radford had taken her car in for the its smog check. She looked online but couldn’t find a coupon. When she asked, the shop gave her $10 off.

“It never hurts to ask,” she said. “It’s money going in your favor. It’s fun. It’s legal.”

“I don’t ever have to buy Band-Aids again. When I go to CVS, I scan my card at one of the red kiosks. Sometimes there are special deals on Sundays and Mondays like get a free box of store brand bandages and a Carmello. Now I have Band-Aids in the house, the cars, my purse,” she said

Radford would rarely enter the big-name drugstores, because she felt that their prices were much higher that other retailers.  

“It’s just not the case. When you use the reward cards and the coupons, it adds up,” she said.

You can find food products at the drug stores like chips, macaroni, cheese and drinks. Part of the compromise is trying off-brand items, though Radford has found that she likes some better.

On a recent trip to Target, Radford picked up four deodorant sticks, normally about $3.89, for the price of the sales tax after coupons and the $5 gift card she received with her entire order.

“If you save 50 percent on your entire order — that is awesome,” she said.

Contact photographer Jennifer M. Howell at jenniferm@lodinews.com.

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