Shopping with Kathy Spencer might just be enough to blow your mind. “A dollar off any, and these are a dollar, so it’s free,” Spencer says she’s a self-proclaimed extreme shopper and author of “How to Shop for Free”, and can navigate a grocery store like no other, in a record time, with a surprising amount of money, surprisingly small that is.
“So this whole order will come to nothing,” Spencer says, heading to the checkout. What would have cost you and I about $60 dollars, doesn’t cost Spencer a penny. In fact, Market Basket in Rowley is paying her 42 cents. It’s a huge haul for the mother of four, all thanks to coupons and good planning. Her weekly grocery budget is just $4.
So spending $4 a week on groceries for most, might sound insane. If you’re like me, I don’t have the time or the energy to put into doing something like this, but keep in mind Spencer is an extreme couponer. It doesn’t have to be that way. You can take just a few minutes every week to find a few coupons and save a bundle.
What Spencer does may not be for you, but saving some money is well within your grasp. Let’s take an average family of four. On a moderate budget, the government estimates you’d spend around $211 on groceries weekly. By using Spencer’s methods, you can start to save 10% on your bill every week and work up from there. That’s more than $20 the first week and more than $1000 every year. So how do you shop without the extreme part? Spencer says first, get organized, make a budget and a shopping list. Then start looking for coupons. “They’re virtually everywhere. At the deli, the meat, once you start training your eye you’ll see, they’re pretty much everywhere,” Spencer says, and what couponds she doesn’t get in the store, she finds in free Sunday papers. She holds on to ads, and doesn’t waste time clipping a coupon until she knows she’ll use it. Spencer says you can even buy certain high value coupons pre-clipped, on ebay. Combine a manufacturer’s coupon worth more than a product on sale, and at certain stores, they will pay you. “You actually make, not actual cash, it’s basically like monopoly money. The store play money, but you can use it to buy other things, stock up on articles that are harder to get like meat, produce, beer, whatever it is you want and stockpile it that way,” Spencer says. The key is to be patient, combine coupons with sales and find what items might be free or near free, then stock up on that item. If you can get your hands on more than one coupon, that means getting more, without spending more, and coupons without size restrictions help you get more for free. Toilet paper and toothpaste are two things she says are pretty easy to find free if you find the right deals.
Spencer has a closet full of non-perishable items in her home. Everything from light bulbs and mashed potatoes to peanut butter and water. What she doesn’t use, she gives away. “I get whatever I need for my family, and if I have more coupons, I’m going to get the rest. My reason is in this economy, there’s so many people who need help if you’re there and it’s free, get extra and donate it,” Spencer says. Spencer has become such a coupon guru, she wrote a book, and even has her own website, howtoshopforfree.net. It’s free to join, there are coupons, links and chat boards to help you along your way. In this economy, Spencer says it’s a community that’s growing fast.