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New coupon exchange group bonds over bargains sherry.haaima@metroland.com

EMC lifestyle - Super shopper Nancy Thompson once walked out of Walmart with a whole chicken and salad for dinner and a $200 gazebo, all for the grand total of 34 cents. Thompson, who formed the West Carleton Coupon Exchange Group earlier this year, said she was thrilled with the deal, which she scored thanks to coupons and a Walmart Mastercard points system. Thompson has learned the ropes of extreme couponing, a phenomenon that is growing in popularity and is described by many and profiled in a television series, and has made a huge difference in her family’s budget. “I was always a savvy shopper,” said Thompson, who lives with her husband and two children near Middleville, and does most of her main shopping in Carleton Place, particularly in Walmart. Enjoying the satisfaction of a good deal is something she comes by honestly. “I spent a lot of time growing up with my grandma, who raised her family during the Depression. She was always finding ways to save,” said Thompson. And since she retired from the government due to a medical issue, she has the time to do the research and online

Submitted

N a n c y Thompson has cut her grocery bill by almost 70 per cent. At left, Thompson shows off her coupon books.

work required for extreme couponing. The first meeting of the coupon exchange was held in March and while about 10 members make up the group, only about three regularly attend meetings and Thompson hopes that will change as people learn of the huge savings and fun that is to be had. “We’re still a tiny little group,” she said. “Essentially, what I’m trying to do is educate people about coupons and show them that you can get things in Canada for free.” The group offers the chance for coupon afficionados to trade coupons, network and share tips about savings and price matching. Price matching, which is a practice some stores adopt of offering the same sales as their competition upon presenta-

tion of the flyer or coupon, is a great way to get deals, said Thompson. And even with price matching, the deals at some stores, including Walmart, can be better, so the shopper must be aware of going prices. “You still have to dot your i’s and cross your t’s,” said Thompson. “What you really benefit from is when stores have so-called super deals and you have coupons on top of that.” The proof is in the savings. “When I started what my family calls ‘extreme couponing’ I was spending on average $800-$1,000 per month on groceries. Now when I’m down on supplies and if I’m really doing a big stockup, I might spend $350 per month.

It has really benefitted us significantly,” said Thompson. And it can’t be often that Thompson’s kids look in the fridge and complain there’s nothing to eat. With two freezers completely full and a stock room filled with food and other household supplies, the family is well prepared for just about anything. And how do store officials and cashiers react when they see her coming? “They’re pretty good,” says Thompson. “And I respect the rules. If it says one coupon per customer, that’s what I do. They are quite receptive. In my area, I’m not the only one who does it.” Checkout requires patience, however, as evidenced at her

weekly trip to the shops over the weekend. “When I went on Saturday it took about an hour to go through the cash,” she said. SAVING TIPS

In terms of tips for the buying public, Thompson reminds shoppers that cereal boxes in particular carry coupons for free items like bananas. Hamburger helper, also, has coupons for $3 off ground beef, so your meat is free. Another little known tip, said Thompson, is the Scanning Code of Practice (SCOP), a voluntary code to which nearly every major retailer in Canada adheres. If the scanned price of a non-price item is higher than the shelf price or any other displayed price, the customer is entitled to receive the first

item free, up to a $10 maximum. “They have to give it to you for free,” said Thompson. Among the websites and resources that have been helpful to those in the group are the EMC’s monthly coupon insert Smart Source, and websaver. ca, save.ca and gocoupons.ca. Also, said Thompson, Smart Canucks is a fabulous resource for coupon information, networking and fabulous people. For now, the group usually meets at Buster’s in Carleton Place, but as members join the meetings can be changed to suit everyone’s location at some point. Group members grab a coffee or pop and sit down to get to business. “It’s a social time, as well,” said Thompson. The next meeting is July 25. To find out more, email jasperanchar@yahoo.ca.

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July 19, 2012

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