Coupon Parties Big on Fun and Savings

Just a year ago, Chrissy Pate and Kristin McKee were two Kansas City, Mo., moms struggling to reduce their grocery bills. The two friends collaborated and managed to cut those bills in half. And today, they're sharing their new-found knowledge with others — hundreds of others.

As they learned how to get groceries cheap — or even free — Pate and McKee started blogging about their biggest bargains.

Their families are similar -- husband, two kids, two dogs each. They laughingly admit that they competed with each other to see who could spend the least.

"Yeah, a little bit," Pate told "Good Morning America."

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"Our husbands were more competitive about it in the end than we were, I think," McKee added.

They started telling other friends about the great deals they were getting and those friends told more friends. Soon, people were asking Pate and McKee to teach them how to save big on groceries and the coupon parties were born.

The women call them Be CentsAble Workshops. It costs $25 to attend, and they say their guests will make that money back in their first shopping trip.

Layering Savings

How do they do it? By layering several savings strategies together.

"This is really important," Pate told about a dozen people at a coupon party in Lee's Summit, Mo. "You don't just take your coupon out of the Sunday paper and go use it because that's what the manufacturer wants you to do."

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Instead, she said:
First you should look for sales.
Then check to see if there are coupons for those same sale items.
Better yet, go to a store that gives double coupon credit.
Best of all, combine the manufacturer's coupon with a coupon offered by the store.

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Trickier Coupon Tips

The tips get trickier — and more lucrative — from there. For example, if a coupon is good for an entire line of products, match up the bar code, not the picture.

"A lot of people take that coupon in and they match up the picture," Pate said. "The manufacturers know that and they put the most expensive item on there."

By matching up the bar codes, you will often find the coupon is good for less expensive items, and thus represents a larger percentage savings off the price.

If something is buy-one-get-one-free, you can still use two coupons because technically you're buying two products.

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"And, if you have a buy-one-get-one-free coupon, and it's a buy-one-get-one-free sale, cha ching! -- you can get them both free," Pate said.

Her favorite example is that she once got six big bottles of Pantene shampoo for free using this trick.

Here's a fun one: Say you have a store coupon for $5 off a $20 purchase and you also have some individual product coupons.

Hand over the $5 off coupon first while your total is more than $20, then use the other coupons to lower the total even more.

"If I gave them all of my other coupons first, they'd say, 'You can't do that,'" Pate said.

Helping other families

Taking notes in the audience were Tiffany and Adam Speck of Raytown, Mo. The Specks have four kids under age 6, two with severe food allergies. Even though Adam works three jobs and they live in a tiny 900-square-foot house, they are struggling.

"I've certainly gone without food a night or two so my kids could eat," Adam Speck said. "It is a struggle, in this economy, to try to make ends meet."

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