One Mom's Not-So-Extreme Guide to Couponing

Free baby wipes and 10 cent mustards are out there. You just need the right coupons.

Free baby wipes and 10 cent mustards are out there. You just need the right coupons
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There are plenty of excuses for not couponing: I'm busy running a business. Clipping coupons takes too much time. My kids have allergies or diabetes, so I have to be extra careful about what I buy.

All of these could apply to Kasey Knight Trenum, but none of them have stopped her. This Cleveland, Tenn., mom runs the popular couponing blog and has a book, "Couponing for the Rest of Us: The Not-So-Extreme Guide to Saving More," coming out this week.

U.S. News recently spoke to Trenum about why she started couponing and how coupons help her give back to the community:

Why did you get into couponing?

I got into couponing about five or six years ago, not because I thought it was going to be fun, because I had to. My family went through a series of events that financially was very devastating. I quit my job to have our second child. I wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, and we started building houses on the side.

We built the first house, and it sold before we finished it, and we thought, 'That's fabulous, we'll build two next time.' We did, and those houses sat for over two years. So including the house that we lived in, we had three houses. Then my father was sick with brain cancer, and the day after his funeral, my husband lost his day job.

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We had cut out our vacations, gymnastics, everything that we could possibly cut out of our budget, but at the end of the day, they didn't pay any of the three mortgages that we had. So I started researching ways to save money. Because I had tried couponing before, and it didn't work for me, I really didn't want to try it again. But as I did more research, I started to figure it out and started saving my family real money.

What's an example of one of your best couponing finds?

I am not, by any means, an extreme couponer, so my goal really isn't to save 90 percent, or 95 percent or 100 percent. But there is a store probably a mile from where I live, and they had a store coupon available on their website where I could go every single day and get a pack of baby wipes and two jars of baby food for free.

I just remember thinking, 'Why is this parking lot not full? Because I know that there are children in my area that are needy, and parents that are struggling financially and how do they not know about this?'

Tell us about some of your not-so-extreme couponing strategies.

You have to shop differently. When people go grocery shopping, they might wait until they run out of something, then put it on the list. If they can find a coupon that matches up with it, that's great, but they don't save a lot of money that way because it doesn't match up with the grocery store's sales cycle. There's about 10 to 12 weeks when the price of an item is going to fluctuate dramatically. Cheerios may go from $1.99 to $4.99. Toilet paper may go from $3.99 to $6.99.

Typically, for me, whenever I needed something, it happened to be the highest price, and if you're waiting until you need it, that coupon is not going to save you that much money.

[Read: A Beginner's Guide to Online Couponing.]

So by learning to shop by what you use instead of by what you need, when you see an item on sale at its lowest price and you pair that sale with a coupon, you're going to get that item for the absolute lowest price.

You have a section on your blog that talks about giving back to your community through couponing. How can couponing help you give back?

When we were in that place when we had three houses for two years, and my husband didn't have a job and I started couponing, what I quickly discovered is that when items were so cheap or free, even without a job and three house payments, I was able to get extra every week to give.

Instead of waiting until Christmas or Thanksgiving, it's great to be able to look outside of your family uses when you look at a grocery list. I don't have babies to diaper anymore, but I watch for sales, and when diapers go on sale, we go ahead and buy diapers and we can donate those to our church nursery. We have a really good friend who's a single mother that we donate diapers to.