Q&A with Consumer Queen Melissa Garcia

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Coupons are hot. No one knows this more than the Melissa Garcia, a.k.a the Consumer Queen, who runs the money-saving website of the same name. Garcia and her small staff of co-queen bloggers round up frugal tips, along with the week’s best coupons and deals at supermarkets, electronics stores, home furnishing outlets, and more. Garcia is also one of the Walmart Elevenmoms, a group of coupon-crazed Mom bloggers who regularly post money-saving advice at Walmart.com in one of today’s odd corporate-social media marriages. The Consumer Queen was nice enough to offer tips on using coupons like a pro.

Cheapskate: Could you offer a few tips for using coupons to the consumer’s best advantage? In other words, are there especially good places to get coupons, or easy ways to get extra-extra value out of them?

Consumer Queen

Melissa Garcia: 1. Look for coupons outside the Sunday paper. There are lots of other places you can find coupons. Look for coupons on store shelves, inside or attached to products, magazines, coupons by mail, and of course online. Some of these have a higher value, which equal more savings! I recommend getting the All You magazine because there are over $50 in coupons in this magazine! There is a special Deal where you can get 2 years for only $16.99 in June! You can also print coupons weekly at ConsumerQueen.com.

2. Look for Piggy Back Offers- Piggy back offers are great. This simply means saving multiple times with multiple offers with just one purchase. One of the Hottest Piggy Back offers out there is from Fast Fixin’. Fast Fixin’s has coupons on their website. Print the coupons and save on your purchase. Then cut the UPC code from the bag. For every 10 you mail in you will get a Free Product Coupon. (There is no limit on how many times you can do this.) Then cut the Home Team Rewards Label from the bag. Participating schools get $.30 for each label and they match the 1st $100. So while saving money you can help your local schools out too!

3. Take advantage of store coupons and look for unadvertised sales. Most people do not know that you can use a store coupon on top of a manufacturer’s coupon to maximize your savings. More often than not you can actually get stuff free! Look for unadvertised specials and clearance prices while shopping. Pair them up with coupons and you will find yourself racking up the free and cheap.

4. Get Organized. Organization is the key. Make sure you find something that is comfortable to use to store your coupons. I use a zippered binder and divide coupons up by categories. I use baseball card sleeves because I can usually fit 9 to a page so I can actually flip through and see what coupons I have at a glance therefore saving time and being able to take advantage of sales and coupons I didn’t know I had or forgot about.

5. Don’t forget coupons are not just for the grocery store. You can find coupons for just about anything. Restaurants, haircuts, dept. stores, kids activities, entertainment, auto care, and more!

CS: In your opinion, why is it that some people have an aversion to using coupons? Do you think they’re scared of being labeled as cheap?

MG: That could be one reason but most often than not people get frustrated because they don’t know the coupon rules or store policies. So … be armed. Know your store’s coupon policy. Believe it or not, some store employees and managers have no idea what their own coupon policy is, and this can leave you frustrated and embarrassed at the check-out. Most stores have their coupon policy online. Print this out and keep it with you when you shop. Pretty soon you will find you will have no problems shopping with coupons at your favorite store.

CS: When you see people shopping in the grocery store, what are the common mistakes you see that make you shake your head and wonder why they’re not doing X or Y to save?

MG: They do not price compare! Many do not even sign up for their store’s local savings card, which can give them significant savings! Of course the big one is that they don’t use coupons! A lot of times, I will walk up to someone shopping and say, “Do you have a coupon for that? I have an extra.” They usually act like they have struck gold with a big smile! I have not had one person turn one down yet! Saving money at the grocery store is easy. You just have to have the mindset that you want to save. Also, if you can, and sometimes this is a hard one, shop without kids. You will find you won’t buy as much and you won’t get that sudden urge to buy those expensive snack bags to keep your kids busy! Also, don’t be afraid to stray away from your grocery list! If you see that they are clearancing out your favorite brand, grab two or three and stock up so when you run out you are not forced to pay full price!

CS: What’s the most recent astounding deal you’ve taken advantage of?

MG: I got over $200 in groceries for $30 at my local Homeland store. You can watch the video here:

My best deal of all time is when our local Albertsons was closing and I got $1,880 in groceries for $19!

CS: How often do you shop at Walmart?

MG: I would say about half the time. Because I shop wherever the deals are. Since I live directly behind my local Crest Foods, I do shop there for quick trips. I shop Walmart especially when I need more items than just groceries. I have to say I really love the Pet Dept at Walmart. I can get incredible deals on high fashion doggy wear for my 2 chihuahuas and everyone thinks I spent a fortune on them. I do love Walmart’s groceries because they have a lot of brands I cannot find anywhere else and I can find alot of deals when I shop with coupons. I will say that a lot of my readers sometimes have a hard time using internet printables or other coupons at their local Walmart but through the 11 Moms program we are trying to help them work on this. I hope soon that Walmart can resolve this issue!

CS: (for a reason you might want to shop locally instead of going to Walmart, read this.)

CS: Do you get stuck with brands you don’t like solely because you have a coupon you want to use?

MG: Yes, if it’s free, I will still “buy” it even if it’s a brand I don’t use because I can donate it to someone in need or give it to a charity. Right now, I have a small Rubbermaid storage building that I store stuff in. I also keep stuff there that I donate to my church because they do not have the room to store it.