Coupon Queen Melissa Garcia
Promoting Smart Shopping as a Ministry
Everyone loves to save money, but for Melissa Garcia, finding a bargain has become her passion — and her ministry.
About 10 years ago, shortly after Melissa and her husband, Daniel, were married, they made the decision that she would be a stay-at-home mom. To help offset the income loss, Melissa began clipping coupons.
“He thought I was crazy when I first started,” Melissa said. Daniel would be embarrassed at the grocery store when she would pull out coupons, but as the savings started adding up, he became a supporter.
“One day I asked him to help me carry in the groceries and I had about 15 bags,” Melissa said. As the couple unloaded sack after sack, Daniel asked how much she’d spent, afraid their checking account might be drained. Melissa happily replied that the store had paid her 15 cents.
“After that he was sold,” Melissa said. “Now he cuts coupons too.”
Slashing the grocery bill is a family affair for the Garcias as 9-year-old daughter Taylor and 6-year-old Ryan help with cutting and sorting coupons.
“They know if Mom has a coupon for fruit snacks they are going to get those,” Melissa said. She’s also happy about the hands-on economics lesson they are getting every time they buy something. The Garcias use the time together as an opportunity to touch base and keep their family connected. “It gives me a chance to ask how their day has gone,” Melissa said.
In recent months, saving money has become even more critical to the Garcias. Daniel was diagnosed with Ankylosing Spondylitis, a degenerative disease requiring him to take shots that cost the family $500 each month – after insurance.
During the last four years, Melissa has gotten media attention for her shopping sense and has started sharing her secrets with others.
“I saw a need for it,” Melissa said. People were asking her about “couponing” and how she does so well. She started helping friends and family use coupons and eventually set up a website that explains how everyone can be a “Coupon Queen.”
At www.morestealsanddeals.com, Melissa offers insight and advice on saving money. Volunteers help her run the website and share news of sales and bargains. Melissa doesn’t charge for the information on her site, but accepts donations to help defray Internet expenses.
Basically, Melissa cuts out every coupon then waits for the item to go on sale before she buys it. By combining coupons with store sales, she gets the maximum savings and often pays only pennies for an item.
A cash register receipt revealed that during a recent trip a local store, Melissa got $32.70 worth of items and only paid $1.55. She’d bought shampoo and conditioner, pain reliever and hair coloring. The items were on sale and she also had manufacturer’s coupons. Additionally, she had store coupons.
Melissa likes to shop at stores that offer savings cards. They track her purchases and her receipts come with coupons printed on the bottom for her next purchase. Melissa’s $1.55 receipt showed that her year-to-date savings as of April were $1920.24 — and that’s just at one store. She estimates she’s saved a total of $3,000 this year on her purchases.
The Promotion Marketing Association, a group that tracks coupon usage, reported that in 2004, American consumers saved a total of $3 billion by using coupons. That number may sound staggering, but another $315 billion in manufacturer’s coupons went unredeemed.
Melissa stockpiles non-perishable items like soap, shampoo and cleaning supplies whenever she has coupons and the item is on sale. She stores them in a small building Daniel built behind their house just for that purpose. Stockpiling allows Melissa the luxury of time to wait for both a coupon and a good sale before she makes a purchase, but it also allows her to use her smart shopping as a ministry.
Melissa provides all the cleaning supplies and nursery items for her church, Edmond Road Baptist. She also keeps the church’s missionary cottage stocked with items for the missionaries.
In addition, Melissa’s website visitors adopt a family each year at Christmas. Members of the website collect donations of food, clothing and toys for a family in need.
Giving is something that seems to come naturally to Melissa, and she credits her mother with instilling that desire within her. Melissa said she hopes to pass that trait on to her children.
“There are so many people here who need the help,” Melissa said. “There have been times when I’ve left food on people’s doorstep because they need help, but are too proud to ask.”
Melissa is very excited about having the resources to help others. “One person can make a difference,” she said. “It is all about starting with one and it spreads.”
For more tips on saving money, visit Melissa’s website: www.morestealsanddeals.com.
MELISSA’S COUPON SECRETS
Cut out all coupons. Even if it is something you don’t plan to buy, you can trade the coupon with someone else or give the coupon or the item away.
For maximum savings, wait for the item to go on sale and use a coupon.
Take all your coupons with you every time you visit stores. (You might just need milk, but something you have a coupon for may be marked down to the point you would get it for free or nearly free.)
Most stores will do price matching. If you see an item in an ad, but you don’t normally go to that store, take the ad to the store you shop at most often and ask them to match the price. It saves time and gasoline.
Retail stores are reimbursed the face value of the coupon, plus eight cents, so don’t let a cashier give you a hard time about using coupons.
If you e-mail manufacturers with comments about their products and include your mailing address, they will often send you coupons.