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Published May 19, 2011, 08:32 AM

Little pieces of paper can pack a punch at checkout

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - Clipping coupons was a weekly ritual for many of our mothers and grandmothers but hardly practiced by younger generations. But the recession saw a huge growth in coupon usage made easier with tools like the internet. The once dying hobby has now turned into a full-fledged sport for many households, even inspiring a reality TV show.

More people are realizing these little pieces of paper can pack a punch at checkout and its not just casual clippers emerging. Many people have turned couponing into a sport, investing enough time and saving enough money to even consider it a part-time job. At workshops like these, they learn the craft.

JENNY SCHMITT - 1st Time at Coupon Workshop: "I'm a mom of 4 so I'm trying to save money here and there and with prices going up this is going to be a pretty big deal."

WHITNEY GROSSMAN - 2nd Time at Coupon Workshop: "I go shopping every week now and I save about $100 every week on a shopping trip from various stores that I go to, so it's awesome savings."

Amanda Amundson and Carla Thiele founded Valley Deal Seekers a couple years ago. They've got couponing down to a science, and now are teaching others their strategies.

I wanted to see these tricks in action, so I asked Amanda and Carla to take me shopping with them to see just how much damage we could do with the coupons. Ready ladies? Let's go."

Their biggest savings strategy involves matching in-store sales with grocery chains that also double coupons everyday. They may save big bucks now, but the hunt for the great savings started out small as one coupon deal led to many.

AMANDA AMUNDSON - Valley Deal Seekers: “One day I saved over $600. Carla saw my car-full that I paid $63 for and she came on board and we decided to start the website so we could help our friends do the same."

Now both women spend a few hours a week looking for and sharing their deals.

CARLA THIELE - Valley Deal Seekers: "I try to print off of coupons.com, red plum, smart source off the internet."

The ladies also look for rebate offers and even sign up directly with vendors like Procter and Gamble and Kraft, often getting offers to try their new products for free.

These ladies make it looks easy, but they've had plenty of practice. If you want to get into couponing, they recommend starting slow and planning out meals. You'll want to stock up on deals as they come along.

AMANDA AMUNDSON - Valley Deal Seekers: "Then pretty soon you'll find that most of the stuff you're going to use for your meal plans are already in your house and you only have to start purchasing things that are 75% off, free, 90% off.”

The moment of truth comes at checkout...

"This can be the most gratifying and the most nerve-wracking. The total was a little over $117 with both transactions.”

And then after rebates and after coupons you spent how much?

“A little over $10. So that's over my 90%, so I'm happy.”

Carla's damage was about the same, over $100 in groceries for about $11. It’s just a typical shopping trip for her.

Carla and Amanda's next couponing workshop is June 6th at Breckenridge Middle School. For more details and plenty of tips, visit www.valleydealseekers.com.

There's no doubt, the popularity of couponing is growing. That's evident at The Forum. The newspaper used to get a couple requests every few months for their extra coupon inserts. Even though they can't give them away, more and more people are asking for them.

ALEX LARSON - Forum of Fargo-Moorhead: "It’s probably been almost once, twice, three times a week."

If you are trying to load up on coupons, The Forum's Wednesday and Sunday papers always offer the most inserts.

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