Tuesday, 09 October 2012 09:01

Couponing group works to help others

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The women helping run the Couponers for Charity group, based in Medicine Hat, includes from left Dawn Austin, Jennifer Jacobsen, Bonnie Emerson and Robin Martha. Unavailable for photo was Echo Artemenko. The women helping run the Couponers for Charity group, based in Medicine Hat, includes from left Dawn Austin, Jennifer Jacobsen, Bonnie Emerson and Robin Martha. Unavailable for photo was Echo Artemenko. Photo by Rose Sanchez

A love for finding a deal and the desire to help those less fortunate brought a group of Medicine Hat women together to form Couponers for Charity.

Since it was established at the beginning of June, interest in the group has risen to the point that similar groups are starting up across the country.
“We all met through forming the group,” says Robin Martha, who along with Bonnie Emerson, Dawn Austin, Jennifer Jacobsen and Echo Artemenko, administer the Couponers for Charity website and Facebook group.
Martha regularly shops using coupons and ends up with extra items she can’t always use. She’ll often give those items away. She was shopping in London Drugs, toting her coupon binder with her, when she met Jacobsen. The pair, seeing they had couponing in common, struck up a conversation and a friendship was formed. They began to trade coupons with each other and then later met up with Emerson and Austin online through their common interest — saving money.
Martha says she was hooked on shopping with coupons once she watched the American show  Extreme Couponing.
“The first time I saw it I was hooked,” says Martha. “A friend said years ago that I should use coupons. Little did I know then how much you can save.”
When the four decided to share their interest in helping others and start up the Couponers for Charity Facebook group they didn’t think they’d get more than 30 members. Now they are sitting at more than 300.
Their goal is to help others in need through donating new products that have been obtained by using coupons. With the support of the public they hope to help one family and two charities each month. With about 35 various charities in Medicine Hat, it won’t be hard to find one to assist.
The idea of the group has taken off like wildfire and as of August there were similar groups forming in 12 other cities across Canada.
‘We support them and answer their questions,” says Emerson, who has more than 20 years of experience using coupons. She has so immersed herself in the couponing world that she updates numerous websites and Facebook pages with information about daily deals. She also operates her own website, Canadian Coupons n Freebies as well as a blog and teaches others how to make the most of coupons.
As the Couponers for Charity administrators, each woman brings her own skills to the table. Some do more online work to gather coupons or donations, while others will pick up coupons or do the shopping.
All of the woman actively use coupons themselves, clipping, swapping and sorting them into their binders so they are easy to find and use. It’s all about saving money as the need to do so is why most of them started seeing the value of using coupons in the first place.
“My goal is, if I can get it for free, great, but it’s more just to save money,” says Austin. “I don’t pay full price for anything other than produce.”
Martha says she often will get at least one item for free, especially if she’s been able to use multiple coupons on a sale item.
Many people find starting the process of using coupons to be daunting, but after a little work and organization, these women spend only a few hours a week on the hobby.
Emerson, who has spent two decades learning the ins and outs of couponing, wanted to share her knowledge with others.
“I got tired of people asking me where to find deals,” she laughs. She started up Canadian Coupons n Freebies. “I enjoy helping people learn how to save money. It drives me crazy when I see people pay full price.”
When she first started her Facebook page she had 1,000 followers within a month and that grew to more than 5,000 within two months.
Jacobsen also started up her own Facebook group — Medicine Hat Coupon Trades Group — as a way to help people more easily trade coupons. She saw how much she could save by purchasing items using coupons and used her newfound savings to pay off all her debts.
Austin also started using coupons to help save money. She had her first child and didn’t want to return to work full-time. The only way was to save money and she does it through couponing.
When Emerson first started couponing 23 years ago she didn’t know anybody else who was using coupons. It was also a lot easier.
“There were hardly any rules and there were double and triple coupon days at least once a month. Now all the stores have policies about how each coupon can be used,” she explains.
Although more complicated, the savings are worth the work of using coupons. Emerson says the average savings the first year a person takes up couponing can be about $10,000.
The goal of Couponers for Charity is to help others and the women are inviting as many southeast Alberta residents as are interested to help them.
“The more people we have, the more we are able to give back to the people who need it,” says Martha.
Anyone wanting to learn more about using coupons or follow and help the group can do so by visiting the website at: www.couponersforcharity.weebly.com or the Facebook Group at: www.facebook.com/groups.couponersforcharity.

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Rose Sanchez

Assistant Managing Editor

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