During the economic down-turn, many shoppers are looking for ways to stretch their dollars, especially when it comes to grocery and toiletry expenses. Area shoppers attended a class Saturday night in hopes of learning how to maximize coupons in order to save money.
"Before (the economic down-turn) it was not cool to coupon," said Frugal Friend owner Elizabeth Pickett "Some one made the comment that it is cool to coupon now. It is almost like a fad. It is the difference between this economy and where we were five years ago."
Pickett said she understands what it is like to be behind a couponer at a checkout and often offers to let others ahead of her in line.
"Now they are saying 'No, go in front of me; I want to watch and see what you're doing.'"
Pickett explained that while savings can be great with coupons, the savings are more practical than shown on reality T.V shows.
"All that is so rigged," Pickett said. "It is staged. Those are also professional couponers."
Pickett said professional couponers make six figures a year.
They run professional websites and they are in with the manufacturers and grocery stores.
"All the items are pre-ordered and arranged for that show," Pickett said. "For instance, how many times have you gone to a store and seen a thousand tooth brushes in a bin? Stores do not keep that much stock on hand."
Pickett's stockpile is not as extreme as those shown on television.
"The stock piles they have make them look crazy," Pickett said. "But they were told to stockpile like that, to make it look ridiculous.
"What they don't show at the end is all of that stockpile being donated to a food bank," she continued. "Instead of buying 1,000 tooth brushes why not get four for your family. If you can get them for free, why not get four more and donate them to a charity?"
Frugal Friends has teamed up with other couponers, consignment shops and hospice to help get free products to people who can use them.
"Just in Shreveport this past week apartments have burned and several people lost their living space and everything in it," Pickett said. "So I teamed up with a consignment business in Shreveport and put it on Facebook, to gather donations for those families.
"I would not have been able to help out two years ago on our income," she continued. "So it allows me to do a lot of things that I couldn't do before."
Pickett said that shoppers can often get free items by couponing.
"Even if they don't need the item, if it's free why not take it and give it to someone else who can use it?" she said. "For instance, if a store is going to give me a free blood glucose meeter, why not take it and donate it to a hospice or a doctor's office?"
Pickett has been couponing for two years and has been in business for one. Before couponing she taught for six years.
"I get to do what I like to do, which is teach," she said. "I think it is perfect for me because I get to stay at home but I also get to teach, and I do love teaching."
Approximately 10 years ago Pickett was diagnosed with eye melanoma. Five years later the cancer metastasized and spread to her lymph nodes and lungs.
"There is no protocol, no treatment, so they sent me home and gave me three weeks to three months to live. And told me I could never have another child. So here I am five years later and pregnant."
Pickett said their family was flooded with medical debt, and she really wanted to stay home with her child during this time. She needed to find a way to cut costs and save money. She said this is a way to do it.
"A friend told me you should start couponing," Pickett said. "I thought, like many people do, 'Oh ugh, get 10 dollars off a hundred dollar bill, you spend four hours clipping coupons, and it is a whole lot of trouble. Plus the person in line behind you hates you.'
"Now that I have couponed, I think I will always do it," she continued. "Even if we came into a lot of money, I don't see myself ever paying full price for anything again."
For more information visit Frugal Friends on Facebook.