Six-foot-tall storage cabinets line the interior of Tina Mossman's enclosed front porch. Most are stuffed with food, some with cleaners and personal care products. Each is locked to ward off ravenous teenagers or those who may leave the meticulously arranged shelves in disarray. All are a testament to her organized Promo Code talents.
Two rooms away, rests her multi-page inventory list. The contents of each cabinet inscribed and updated frequently. Beside the files are two 3-inch-thick binders packed with coupons, envelopes packed with pre-sorted clippings, copies of each store's coupon policy, a printed grocery list, and a printer on the verge of needing an ink swap for the second time in a week.
Mossman is an extreme couponer, a moniker she wears like a badge of honor. The Hudson mother of six swears it's an obsession. It feeds her soul and her family's stomachs (cheaply). Last year, she saved her family $22,000 between sale price discounts and coupons.
"It's like a drug addiction," claims Mossman, who estimates she has a stockpile valued in the tens of thousands. "This is my drug."
The birth of Mossman's addiction began like many others. During the Great Recession, her husband lost his job. Her family of five lived off savings for six months, until her spouse found new employment. But as she watched her accounts creep closer to zero, Mossman made a choice.
"I decided then that I had to do something in case it ever happened again." She explored coupon websites and taught herself the art of stacking coupons with sale prices.
"When I first started, I was buying things I didn't even use," she admits. "That's when I decided to come up with some kind of system." Her filing technique and storage cabinet scheme was born. Before long, she was paying around $50 a week for carts brimming with $200 worth of goods.
In 2011, as she was regaining financial footing and honing her couponing skills, tragedy struck. Mossman's sister died unexpectedly at the age of 36. Mossman took guardianship of her sister's three children, caring for them, as well as her own three.
Once her grief subsided, Mossman recommitted to couponing. With five teens, one child and a husband to feed, smaller grocery bills were imperative.
There are two characteristics that any coupon ace needs to possess, Mossman says.
The first, patience. "You have to make sure this is what you want to do."
The second, organization. "If you don't put your coupons away when you get them, you probably won't get it together."
Depending on how extreme you aim to be, help from family members or friends can't hurt. Mossman's young niece often makes the trek with her to ShopRite for lofty purchases. The purpose is twofold. The 11-year-old can help push a cart (typically two are used), plus she has a second Price Plus store loyalty card. ShopRite typically allows four like-coupons per transaction, two if they are running a triple coupon promotion. With two cards, they can split the order, and use twice as many coupons.
"I've had people stand behind me in line and clap," says Mossman, who admits to feeling bad for the shoppers who get stuck behind her in line. But she always shows them the stack of coupons and warns them that there have been times when checking out took close to an hour.
"I feel bad holding people up, but this helps my family."
Mossman does more with her coupon prowess than just stock her shelves. She routinely donates items she knows she won't use (like glucose monitors) but can get for free to those in need. Family members will often "shop" her cabinets if they are in a pinch. Plus, she's even started offering coupon classes in her home and via webcam for a nominal fee.
Couponing has become a way of life, but it can be admittedly consuming, Mossman says.
"I took December off. It was just too much, but by the end, I was getting anxious and ready to start again," she says. "It's hard to stop once you start doing this."Next week: Mossman will share some of her super-couponing tips and tricks. My best shopportunities:
ShopRite: Stacking manufacturer coupons with ShopRite e-coupons is a great way to save a tremendous amount on a single product. The store does allow this. Last week I picked up a another pack of Mini Babybel Cheese for 99 cents after stacking an e-coupon and a manufacturer coupon, each for $1. I also took advantage of the store's deal last week on Musselman's Applesauce. On sale for $1.29 each, I used three $1/2 coupons, so I took home six for $.79 each.