PASCO -- Get the lowdown on low prices with Karrie Truman, whose website, Fistful of Coupons, is helping area families learn tricks of the couponing trade.
Truman, a 33-year-old Pasco mother of four, started in January blogging about the deals she got by using coupons.
Since then, she has begun teaching two to three free classes a week at people's homes to explain the art of "couponing" -- and yes, she does use the word as a verb.
"Before couponing, I was easily spending about $400 to $500 every month," Truman said, standing in front of a class of eight women recently. "Now I am averaging $250 a month for everything. A family of four could easily do $200 or less."
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Josette Julio, a Kennewick mother of two boys, heard about Truman and her Web site through a mutual friend and invited Truman to her home to teach her and her friends, who also are mothers struggling with monthly budgets.
"I'm hoping to get some ideas on how to cut costs on groceries," Julio said.
Amie Crawford, a Kennewick mother of three, said she came to see if she could learn something new about couponing.
"Part of my job as a mom is to keep costs down for our family," Crawford said. "Our monthly food budget is $350."
Truman started out the class with a demonstration: A box of Post cereal's Honey Bunches of Oats generally costs $3, but people using coupons could get two boxes of the same cereal, a bottle of Windex, a bag of cookie mix, pasta noodles, one can of soup, some toilet paper, some dishwasher tabs, barbecue sauce and a toothbrush, all for $2.98.
The group appeared stunned.
Truman said the trick is using coupons from the Sunday newspaper, and to follow her rules for smart couponing. She used a pricing game to prove to her audience that sometimes you can get $50 worth of groceries for $1.
"As a general rule, you want to have one Tri-City Herald Sunday paper per person in your household," she said. "I have a family of six, so I have six Sunday papers delivered to my house."
Truman makes money from her business by getting a commission from the Herald for every Sunday paper she sells and from ads on her website. Her partnership with the Herald allows her to offer the Sunday paper for $1 instead of $1.50.
Coupon clippers shouldn't be daunted by the fine print, "Limit one per customer," Truman said, because what it really means is, "One per item purchased."
Truman swears there is no right way to organize coupons.
"I've done alphabetizing, big three-ring binder books, the box method," she said. "I gave up a lot of them."
Her new method discourages pre-emptive clipping. She encourages people to first study a printable list of all local coupon offers going on each week, which is available for free on her website.
Similar programs can be seen at www.thegrocerygame.com, which requires a monthly fee to access.
Truman's free list is updated every Wednesday morning and she guarantees she matches up the coupons perfectly so there should never be a foreboding "boop" instead of a pleasant "beep" at the register.
People can highlight the specific deals they are interested in at Albertsons, Fred Meyers, Safeway, Walgreens or Wal-Mart and then print out a list tailored to their needs.
The free services drew praise from Julio and her peers, as did other fun tips Truman shared at her class, such as how to not get embarrassed by using coupons.
"Always wait until everything is ringed up before handing the cashier your coupons," she said. "You do not have to scan the coupon right after the item. The cashier won't stress out and it takes a whole lot less time."
For those starting out, she recommends saving up at least three weeks worth of coupons.
"You're buying in bulk for these things so you don't have to buy them later," Truman said. "It's going to take you three to four months to see how much you save."
As for the free goodies she has stocked up over the past year, Truman finds different uses for them, such as using body wash as hand soap. Or she suggests putting together a toiletry basket for friends or donating the items to local shelters.
"Couponing has allowed us to give to organizations and it's been good to teach my kids that," Crawford said.
After taking the class, Julio said she was optimistic she could trim her monthly food budget.
"I'm now excited to print the list and sit down," she said. "The shopping list is really great to get me out of the store fast, which is a good thing when you have kids. It's a lot of good information."
For more information, go to www.fistfulofcoupons.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
-- Bethany Woo: 509-582-1465; email@example.com