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Ask anyone in Williston who the reigning Queen of Coupon royalty is and without hesitation the name Jennifer Goode Jones comes up.
Jones, a Realtor, traffic school owner, wife and mother of two, began looking two years ago at ways to save money.
After a lot of reading and research, she set out to put her newfound knowledge to the test by coupon clipping and redemption.
Within a few short weeks, her grocery bill was cut in half. Three months into the endeavor, she was saving 80 percent. Today, Jones can boast she not only saves money–she makes money–all through couponing.
In fact, if a value could be placed on her two-year savings, Jones guestimates it could be as much as $30,000.
“You get out of it what you put into it,” she said.
Jones said she spends about 20 hours a week amassing coupons, researching sales and organizing her finds so she can be a better shopper.
An hour or more is spent on the computer, reading coupon blogs to discover where the best sales and coupons are.
“For example,” Jones said, “you can go to iheartpublix.com and not only does it tell you what Publix offers, but there are links to other sites and blogs.”
In the beginning, Jones printed a lot of coupons and offers from her home printer. The savings from those deals more than paid for the ink and paper used to print them, she said.
Today, she is an avid clipper of coupons from SmartSource inserted in her local paper and the Chiefland Citizen.
Sunday afternoons are devoted to the week’s clipping and organizing, and often it becomes a family affair as her husband and children join in the assembly line production of cutting and sorting.
The rest of the time though, it’s all on her.
“It’s all about priorities,” Jones said, adding saving money is now a major priority of hers. She admits she has given up most of her television time for couponing, but that’s all she’s given up and the rewards are well worth it.
So much in fact, that Jones can’t possible use all the items she acquires. That’s where the giving begins. In addition to several church food banks, regular donations are made to Tri County Pregnancy, the local domestic violence shelter and to a retirement community in Tampa.
“You have to stay consistent with it,” Jones said. “If you miss getting the paper one week, you miss your filing and lag behind. It’s really about consistency. There are new coupons daily.”
Jones says there are no excuses not to use coupons.
“It doesn’t take a lot of math skills,” she said. “I would advise first timers to get written copies of stores’ coupon policies, start reading blogs and start saving money.”
You also have to plan your shopping, Jones said, by reading circulars and know what’s going to be on sale and when, since most items cycle.
In just a few short weeks, consumers not only save money, but can take advantage of sales and coupons for future purchases.
Her best tip: You can use both a store coupon and the manufacturer’s coupon on the same item. Example, if a store has peanut butter on sale for $1.99, and there’s a store coupon for 50 cents and a manufacturer’s coupon for 50 cents, you only pay 99 cents for the $2.99 peanut butter.
Also know that some stores, like Hitchcock’s double coupons, thereby increasing the savings.
And the savings you earn can help buy items that don’t have coupons.
If you’re not into extreme couponing like Jones, try Charon Croft Benton’s method.
“I’ve always couponed,” Benton said, “but not to the extreme.”
Benton, a mother of two boys who lives in Williston, began seriously using coupons a year ago and in fact, was taught the ins and outs of the system by Jones.
The Benton grocery bill is about $150 a month, she said, and that’s a significant savings for the family.
Benton, who only invests about three hours a week into couponing, said she enjoys the deals she gets and looks forward to the savings.
“It’s like a game to me,” she said, “to see just how much I can save.”
Over the course of the past year, she has saved about $1,000, she said.
Start small, she advises, and don’t be overwhelmed by the coupon royalty of the world.
“Pick one store to redeem your coupons at first, and then add other stores as you become more familiar with the process,” Benton said.
“Everyone has time to save money, and if you say you don’t, you need to make the time.”