CAPE GIRARDEAU — Amy Woodall of Whitewater, a mother of four children, has an addiction.
She regularly goes into peoples' homes to talk to them about her addiction and to share her story in hopes that others can learn from her experience.
Woodall isn't an alcoholic, nor a substance abuser. Her addiction is coupons, and she's out to get others hooked on coupons, too.
"I like meeting new people and just getting everybody to save money," Woodall said before the start of one of her coupon classes in the home of Kasey Grubb of Cape Girardeau.
Woodall spent about 40 minutes with Grubb and two friends educating them on coupon strategies before embarking on a field trip to a couple of local retailers to put into practice the things they learned.
Woodall said her love of coupons began in 2008 when her husband David missed four months of work from his landscaping business due to a life-threatening illness. With the reduced income, the pantry at the Woodall home started to get bare. She said she prayed over her cabinets, saying "never again will my cabinets be empty but full and overflowing," and asked God for wisdom on how to accomplish her goal. After Woodall saw a television news story about coupons, she started doing it herself June 1, 2009.
And although David Woodall is healthy and working again, Amy Woodall is still "addicted to couponing." While she credits faith with leading her to coupons, she is fully committed to spreading that gospel with anyone who will listen.
A major tool Woodall uses in getting the word out is her website, blessingsncouponing.blogspot.com, where she keeps visitors up-to-date on the current specials at area stores, free samples, printable coupons and other valuable information.
Woodall, who will be featured on the April 20 episode of TLC's "Extreme Couponing," said she spends no more than $150 a month on groceries for her family of six.
"I use coupons for everything," she said. "Groceries, laundry detergent, makeup, clothes, household cleaners, paper products — everything."
Woodall warns newcomers to coupons not to expect dramatic results at first.
"It takes several weeks and months of collecting coupons to be any good at it," Woodall tells her classes. "Within three to four weeks you're going to start seeing a difference in your bill."
She said a good initial goal is to save 50 percent.
The best sources for coupons, Woodall said, are the traditional ones, such as the Sunday newspapers and the direct mailings. She said she will often buy several copies of a paper just for a specific coupon if it is one that will save several dollars, and then she'll stock up on that item.
"Magazines are a great source for coupons, too," Woodall said.
She also has links on her website to print coupons from the Internet, sites like the Southeast Missourian's zip2save.com.
Organizing coupons can be a challenge at first, Woodall said. Couponers have different ways of organization, but after outgrowing a few methods, Woodall has settled on a three-inch ring binder and sheet holders like those used to store baseball cards. She sorts her coupons by product types, and sometimes breaks down those groups further by store.
Once you've accumulated a stockpile of coupons, how much you save depends on when and how you use them, Woodall said. It's best to use a coupon is when the item is at its lowest price, such as buy one get one free, or "BOGO" in coupon jargon. She also suggests shopping at stores that double the value of coupons.
She said couponers should be prepared to invest a little bit of time before shopping to be able to reap the big savings at the register.
She estimates that she spends about two hours per week clipping coupons and planning her shopping trip, even taking notes on how she plans to use the coupons.
Because she feels God has blessed her efforts, Woodall feels an obligation to use coupons to help those in need.
She and about a dozen of her friends recently spent a Saturday accumulating free merchandise using coupons.
They donated more than 300 pounds of food to BackPacks for Friday, a program of the Southeast Missouri Food Bank that sends elementary school students home on Fridays with a backpack full of nonperishable food.
While the financial benefits of coupons have been a blessing to Woodall, she said sharing with others has brought her the greatest satisfaction.
"I love meeting new people and getting into their lives," Woodall said, "and I let them into my life. Through the blog they learn all kinds of stuff about me personally, and I just love helping them to save money."