SWARTZ CREEK — Gone are the days of flaunting an extravagant price tag for a superfluous purchase. The hard-hit economy has competitive shoppers on a mission to get the best deal, and shows like TLC’s “Extreme Couponing” has bargain hunters across the nation competing for bragging rights.
Warning: saving big bucks can become quite addictive, and in some cases lead to hoarding, obsessive compulsive disorder and insanity! For the most part, it is very rewarding, however time consuming and takes practice, research and dedication.
“Extreme Couponing” showcases couponoholics clearing shelves with no reservation to customers to follow, purchasing several dozens of newspapers for coupons, and even diving in dumpsters to scoop up some for free.
There are people with 50 bottles of dish soap, a life-time supply of perishable ketchup that would never be consumed by the expiration date sitting in a pantry, and one couple who picked up 150 free candy bars after their “buy 2 save $1” coupons were doubled. Talk about necessity. Other stock-pilers had boxes of cereal and such under their beds, as there was no room left in their cupboards, pantries or basements.
“I think it’s all for show,” says Shayla Merinsky, owner of the coupon club SavingsMania. “I don’t know any store that’s going to let someone buy 1,100 boxes of cereal. I don’t know any store that allows 100 of the same coupon. Michigan has a limit; it’s usually three.”
She said she agrees there should be a limit and it should be what your family needs and that beginning couponers in their “honeymoon phase” often get caught up in the excitement of getting things next to nothing or free before they realize they really don’t need 50 boxes of pasta and donate it.
Merinsky started SavingsMania in Aug. 2008, but has been doing it for 11 years already for her family.
“A friend of mine’s mom was big into couponing and I saw her stockpile of stuff and thought she was crazy. She gave me tips and more and more people started asking me for help when the economy downturned. My mom said ‘you should teach a class.’ At the time I thought that was funny,” Merinsky said.
In 2009, SavingsMania began utilizing the AmericInn hotel on Hill Road in Flint Township. Classes are also available through Swartz Creek Community Education.
Last week Natalie Mott taught the SavingsMania class at the Mary Crapo School for savings-minded shoppers. She explained the “art of cutting,” organizing and obtaining coupons. She also told where and how to print free coupons, order coupons and even purchase coupons on eBay.
SavingsMania has done a lot of fundraisers including the PTA, Relay for Life, POM squad, and food drives where they have filled pantries too.
“Yes, I buy more than I need for my family, but I’m donating a lot,” said Merinsky. “The rules have changed. They took expired coupons before. They didn’t have limits (quantity).” Regardless, she assures, “The stores want us. The manufacturers want us using the coupons.”