Jessica Hacker lives a rural lifestyle in Caldwell, Idaho, with cows, horses, chickens, pigs, cats, dogs and a few humans, including her husband and four children. Jessica is an ex-title agent who now stays-at-home; something she accomplished by learning couponing skills. Perhaps that's why Jessica was featured on TLC's "Extreme Couponing."
1. How did you become interested in coupon clipping and when did you start?
A few years ago, my husband and I bought a new washer and dryer set. The store had a promo in which you received a one-year supply of Tide if you bought certain sets. So we bought the set, I sent in my purchase information and, honestly, thought a huge box full of bottles of Tide would show up at my house. Funny, I know! Instead, a small envelope containing a booklet full of coupons for one FREE Bottle of Tide showed up. I held onto those coupons for months and finally, the week they were set to expire, I thought I would give it a shot. I had never used a coupon and just couldn’t comprehend the store allowing me to walk out of there with these items for free. They did! I was amazed and immediately went home to start searching into this whole coupon thing. I was hooked!
2. What’s your most embarrassing coupon moment?
My very first coupon binder was just a plan old binder (no fancy zipper binder just yet). As I was grabbing a cart, a gentleman handed me a few coupons and said “Don’t want to lose your way home huh?” I looked at him very puzzled as he pointed toward my car. I had been carrying my binder upside down and coupons were falling out, leaving a trail from my car to the store. Needless to say, that day I used my Register Rewards to buy a zipper binder.
3. How much time per week do you spend clipping coupons, searching for deals, etc.?
For myself, I spend about four hours a week clipping coupons, finding deals and planning my shopping trips. It's easy to allow couponing to run your life, but I make a point to be in charge and make couponing work for me, not the other way around. My family comes first!
4. How do you organize all your coupons?
I use a binder and baseball card holders to organize my coupons by 36 categories. I love this method because, no matter what store I'm in, if I see a good deal on an item, I can quickly flip to that category and see if I have a coupon to match up with the deal.
5. Where do you find most of your coupons?
The majority of my coupons come from the Sunday paper. My general rule is one paper per person in your family. I also print coupons from manufacture websites and Facebook. We're in a very digital age and the manufactures are not wasting any time reaching out to consumers.
6. How has couponing affected your family and friends?
Couponing has been a blessing to my family. Before couponing, my husband and I were making great money. I worked in the Title Industry and he is a self-employed contractor. When the housing market crashed, it affected both of our jobs. Thanks to couponing, we're able to still take care of our family’s needs and I was able to quit my job eight months ago. Couponing allows me to buy better products then I ever did before, it allows me to help out my friends and family that are also hurting, and it has allowed me to make generous donations to my community!
7. What’s the best tip you can give to someone interested in becoming a couponer?
Start small; don’t feel the need to hit every store to get every deal! You'll only exhaust yourself and get discouraged. I always suggest picking one at a time and learn everything about them, including the store coupon policy, the store ads, do they offer store coupons that you can stack with manufactures, etc. Once you're confident with that store, move on to another one.
8. What’s the best shopping trip you ever had? How much were you able to buy for what price?
The shopping trip I did for TLC’s Extreme Couponing was the largest single shopping trip I've ever done. It's what I like to call “The Perfect Storm.” My store had amazing sale promos going on. I had store coupons, manufacturer coupons, double coupons and Catalinas. I bought $680 worth of groceries for $6.46, which included six gallons of milk, 7 pounds. of hamburger, and my produce for the week. I then got $4 in Catalina’s to use on my next purchase and also submitted for $30 in manufacture rebates for some of the items I purchased. In the end, I made $27.54 on that trip.
9. Do you have any favorite types of coupons, i.e. printable, grocery, online, Catalina, etc.
My favorite coupons are Catalina coupons. This is because they're free store money! I can use them to help pay for items I would buy regardless of a coupon, like milk, meats and produce!
10. What things do you most frequently get for free by using coupons?
I do have a list of things that I will NEVER pay for again! These things include toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, medicine, dish soap, face wash, dryer sheets, deodorant, feminine products, body wash, paper plates, mayo, mustard, ketchup, BBQ sauce, seasonings, protein bars, yogurt and creamer, to name a few.
11. Do you ever find yourself buying things you don't need, just because you have coupons? If so, what do you do with those things?
I never buy just to buy unless I can make money on the deal. In my area, I have to pay sales tax so it doesn’t do me any good to buy something because it's free when, in reality, it's not free for me because of the tax. For example, a few weeks ago I bought Depends and Polligrip; I don’t use either but I made $5 for buying them and then donated those items to a local Senior Center. It's a win/win situation! I can then use that $5 to buy milk for my family.
12. Do you think you’ll always continue to live a "coupon lifestyle?"
I could never go back to paying retail for anything. Before couponing, I was spending $800 to $1,000 a month in just groceries. I now spend less than $160 a month on groceries, toiletries, medicine, cleaning products and diapers for a family of six! I can use that extra money to pay bills and doing fun things with my family! Couponing is a lifestyle change that I've made for my family and will never go back!