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The Coupon Lady

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On Feb.13, 2011, my first article appeared in The Augusta Chronicle. That article ran as an advertisement, and it introduced me and my family to the Augusta area. I would like to say thank you so much to my family and friends for an amazing first year.

I also thank my husband for understanding when I put the details of our lives into print in an effort to help others understand what couponing has done for our family, in hopes that it would encourage them to do the same.

I want to also thank The Augusta Chronicle’s LaTina Emerson, who “discovered” me at a local event and shared my name with the right people.

My name is Carol Gunter. I have been happily married to my college sweetheart for the last 12 years, and I am a stay-at-home mom to a 7-year-old boy and a 3-year-old girl. My husband and I are natives of Alabama but have lived in Augusta since late 2002.

My coupon story begins in 2010. My husband and I had taken a class to “live like no one else” and made the decision to have a goal to become debt-free. At the time we made this decision, I was working two part-time jobs. Things started to look good.

Then we were hit by a curve ball. My son had been struggling in kindergarten, and by the end of the school year, we had made the decision to home school. Unfortunately, that meant that I had to quit both my part-time jobs so I could concentrate on teaching him.

As a result, I started looking for ways to cut back on our spending. At first, we started doing the simple things, including shutting off our home phone line and just using our cell phones. We completely cut off our cable for a while.

Then we started looking at ways to trim one of our biggest expenses – our food budget. At first I thought I was already doing all the right things. I bought store brands as much as possible and I menu-planned to control spending. But I rarely used coupons

Then I saw a YouTube clip of a news segment about a lady in Florida who had gotten a bunch of free stuff using coupons. In that clip, I heard the narrator use a strange term, “extreme couponing.” Intrigued, I searched online and a few Web sites popped up. Immediately, I was hooked.

I read everything I could about it and started my own coupon binder. In a few months, my grocery bill had dropped by at least half. Once our savings system, plus coupons, got going, we discovered we were actually doing better financially than when I was working! We used our savings to pay off our smallest bill, and then the next and the next!

Once I got into couponing, I started bragging about the savings to everyone I knew. I taught anyone who would listen to me – friends, family, even some of my high school classmates through messages on Facebook.

In the fall of 2010, we saw that the Junior League was holding a “Kids in the Kitchen” event at Fort Discovery.

We jumped at the chance to do anything fun and educational (not to mention free) with the kids. At the event, I recognized Emerson, who writes The Pinch.

I introduced myself as a fan of her articles and then I asked her a question that had been on my mind, “Why doesn’t The Augusta Chronicle consider a Sunday-only subscription for couponers?” I had to explain that I got four newspapers each Sunday for couponing and that frequently my area would have missing inserts, and I knew that subscribers were guaranteed to have their inserts.

I remember saying “I wish I could have all four delivered to my door so I don’t have to hunt them down.”

Emerson took my information and told me that she thought someone would contact me shortly. I thanked her and left the event.

Honestly, I just thought that maybe someone would call me about the subscription idea. I was floored when the newspaper called me back. Not only did The Chronicle want to create a multiple subscription plan, but the paper also wanted a local person to do a column about extreme couponing and teach people in the area how to do it!

I accepted and became the Augusta Coupon Lady. The rest is history.

I want to thank each and every one of you for reading my column each week, and I hope that this year will continue to be as wonderful as my first year.

FREE COUPON CLASS

On Thursday, Feb. 9, Carol Gunter will teach a free coupon class about buying groceries at drugstores. The class, for ages 12 and older, will be held from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at The Augusta Chronicle News Building, 725 Broad St. Seating is limited; to reserve your spot, log on to smartshopper29.eventbrite.com.


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