Couponing expert learned her craft out of necessity

By Jon Bauer Herald Writer

Maryann Collier didn’t start couponing to save a little bit here and there on her family’s grocery bill.

She did it to help save her home.

“I’m a mom to five kids, 8 to 18. My husband is a truck driver, and the same day we bought our house he was laid off,” Collier said. This was Longview in 2008, a town heavily dependent on timber and trucking.

“We worked way too hard to lose everything that we had saved for and built, so I decided to start couponing,” Collier said.

The Colliers were already accustomed to economizing during her husband’s short layoffs over the winter months, but this was different. And unemployment checks only went so far with five kids.

The family cut back, Collier said. Date nights meant putting a little money in the gas tank and going for a drive.

Her children and husband had to buy into couponing ethic.

“My kids are funny. They know it’s not going into the cart unless there’s a coupon for it,” she said.

But Collier soon realized that she had a knack for couponing and filling up a shopping cart for a few bucks.

“I started a website and it blew up for there,” she said, and it included being featured in an episode for the fifth season of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” in which Collier threw a birthday party for her 12-year-old daughter, funded mostly through coupons.

Couponing requires more than clipping and saving.

“I’m a binder girl,” she said. Newspaper inserts and flyers are kept together. “You only cut when you know you going to use something that day.”

Three more rules:

Buy items when they are at their lowest possible price.

And only buy what you will actually use.

“That’s the trap many fall into; they buy pet food and they don’t have any pets.”

It’s also good to have a place to put stuff. Collier estimates she has about $30,000 worth of items in stock at home. Some in a room upstairs and more in half of the family’s two-car garage, allowing her to buy items in bulk and take advantage of savings.

And now with three — and soon four — teens in the house, inventory control is important.

“We have a padlock on the ‘sugar shack’ where we keep all the good stuff,” she said.

It’s not effortless, but it works, and couponing has allowed her family to eat well, even while her husband was laid off. Nor did the family have to set aside giving to charity, a practice that is important to them. Collier said they were able to donate $30,000 to charities while her husband was laid off.

Jon Bauer: 425-339-3097; jbauer@heraldnet.com

Clip and save

Maryann Collier is scheduled to outline her methods for couponing during two free, one-hour seminars at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Holiday Inn Express, 8606 36th Ave. NE, Marysville. The seminar is sponsored by The Daily Herald. Register for a seminar at www.HeraldNet.com/smartshopper. Space is limited.