Patience, price-matching keys to back-to-school shoppingWritten by Sarah Ottney | Managing Editor | firstname.lastname@example.org
Like most area parents, Joni Meyer-Crothers of Sylvania has back-to-school shopping lists to tackle before fall — but she’ll probably spend far less money than most.
“I have four right now going to school and we spend $15 per child at the most, and that’s mainly the backpack they want,” Meyer-Crothers said. “We do mostly penny deals.”
Meyer-Crothers is an “extreme couponer” frequently featured in the national media, including TLC’s “Extreme Couponing,” “The Today Show,” “Rachael Ray,” “FOX News” and AOL’s You’ve Got.
She and her husband, Jamie Crothers, have seven children ranging in age from 6 to 25. She started couponing to save money on groceries after Jamie was laid off from his automotive job, and it has grown to become both a passion and a lifestyle.
For back-to-school shopping, Meyer-Crothers recommends looking online for deals.
“I use a combination of print and online coupons, but usually around school time, you’ll find more online,” Meyer-Crothers said.
Her own website, www.freetastesgood.com, features daily deals on back-to-school items. Type “Back to School” in the search bar or click the “Back to School” link on the right-hand sidebar.
“As coupons come out, I’ll be updating that all the time,” said Meyer-Crothers, who also has a Facebook page, “Saving and Sharing for Christ.”
Another good website is coupons.com, Meyer-Crothers said.
“People are going to want to check them daily because it can change every day,” she said. “As it gets closer to school, they will start adding more.”
Print online coupons even if you don’t plan to use them right away, Meyer-Crothers said.
“Even if you’re not going shopping that day, print it out because usually they only allow a certain number to be printed,” she said. “By next week it might be gone, or even the next day.”
Comparison shopping between stores can sound daunting, but many couponing blogs will do the price-matching for you, Meyer-Crothers said.
“You don’t have to go through all the ads to save money,” she said. “It’s all spelled out for you in most of the blogs.”
Walmart will price-match any store’s coupon as long as it carries the item, she said.
“That’s a huge benefit because then you don’t have to go to all the different stores,” Meyer-Crothers said.
Walmart is the only local store that will actually pay shoppers for purchasing certain items, Meyer-Crothers said. For example, if an item costs $1 but the shopper has a coupon for $2 off, not only will the item will be free, the shopper will get $1 in change.
“That’s huge,” she said.
Another tip for back-to-school shopping is to partner with other parents.
“If you each take a store, you can get all the same deals, but it makes it easier on you,” she said. “Not only money, but time is precious for everyone and you want to make sure you are making the most of both.”
It’s more cost-effective to do back-to-school shopping gradually, Meyer-Crothers said.
“People want to do it all in one day, but that’s not going to save a whole lot of money,” Meyer-Crothers said. “They’re probably going to spend three to four times more. You really want to start now and do it up until school starts. Most people are going to the store once a week anyway, so by the time three to four weeks are up, you’ll have all the school supplies you need. People can save at least 75 percent if not more if that’s how they shop at school time.”
Besides keeping her own family’s expenses down, Meyer-Crothers is passionate about helping others do the same.
Her next couponing class will be 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Aug. 11 at Sylvania Area Family Services, 5440 Marshall Road, Sylvania. Cost is $10 and five nonperishable food or hygienic items. Space is limited to 40 participants. Participants must preregister by visiting freetastesgood.com. Type “Sylvania Area Family Services” into the search bar to find registration information.
Giving back is another passion for Meyer-Crothers, who regularly donates groceries and items to local charities. She also partnered with Toledo Free Press last year to take a local mother on a holiday grocery shopping trip.
When back-to-school shopping, pick up a few extra sale items if possible and donate them to local charities or school supply drives, Meyer-Crothers said.
“My big thing would just be when getting out there to think about kids that don’t have a lot,” she said. “Most people can afford to pick up a few extras, so give back and help somebody else out.”
Participants at Meyer-Crothers’ most recent couponing class were asked to bring school supplies to donate. The collected supplies will be given away to more than 200 Sylvania area children at a carnival hosted by Sylvania Area Family Services and North Point Community Church, said Dottie Van Drieson, social services coordinator at Sylvania Area Family Services.
“Every time she has a class, whether it’s here or if it’s local, the food comes back to us. For one of the ‘Extreme Couponing’ shows she did, all the food came to us,” Van Drieson said. “She’s been very kind and generous to our organization. It really helps us. At times when our pantry is getting low, she brings in food and we’re able to feed 10 to 20 families with what she brings in.”
Meyer-Crothers’ next big project is a how-to book on extreme couponing for TLC’s Discovery Communications due to be released this winter by Penguin Books.
“I just finished my last chapter, so it’s getting very exciting,” Meyer-Crothers said.
For more information, visit www.freetastesgood.com.