Many college students use coupons here or there, or wait to buy things on clearance because every little bit counts.
However, one Central Michigan University graduate decided to take things to the next level.
Shelby Thornton could be classified as an “extreme couponer.” That is, she uses combinations of coupons, sales and knowledge of store policies to generate massive savings for herself on everything from groceries to clothes.
“I’ve always been frugal and I’ve always been interested in couponing for as long as I can remember,” the Mount Clemens native said, having used coupons for nearly a decade. “When I came to college, I knew I would have to be even more careful with my money. That’s when I really took it to the next level.”
Thornton runs a popular Facebook page titled, “I want coupons and free stuff.”
She also teaches mini-classes on couponing and budgeting to members of the community. Her page, which she started in January 2013, already has more than 3,100 likes.
“I started my blog last January because my friends and family were always asking me what my secrets were and how I saved so much,” Thornton said. “I took it even further then and started teaching classes about couponing and showing people how easy it is and how they can manage their money.”
During an average shopping trip, she saves around 80 percent of the total bill and never pays the full price for anything. Her finest moment was a $400 shopping spree at Meijer, which ended with her walking out of the store without paying anything for the massive haul.
What’s her secret?
“I’m always thinking about it. I can’t go into a store without checking out the sales and deals, and I always bring my coupon book with me,” she said. “I’d say I spend around 10 hours a week looking for coupons and clipping them out.”
Thornton said coupon clipping is an activity that isn’t time-consuming or difficult.
“Just taking a few minutes a day or clipping out a few coupons while you’re sitting there watching television at night can help,” she said.
One of the fans on Thornton’s Facebook page, Holly native Roberta Bourque, said the money she saved thanks to Thornton’s guidance has made a difference in her life.
“I used to just coupon occasionally, but started doing it seriously now and (Thornton’s) advice has been very helpful,” she said. “I’m saving at least 50 percent or more on each of my shopping trips now.”
CMU graduate and Elsie native Heather Brya said Thornton has helped her greatly.
Thanks to Thornton’s guidance, Brya said she will never have to pay full price for groceries again.
“I’ve had to call her a few times in the middle of a shopping trip to ask her about couponing and she even helped me plan a few grocery lists because she is that passionate about saving money,” Brya said. “Because of Shelby, I will never pay full price for groceries again and for that, I am thankful.”
Thornton, who has harbored a love of couponing and retail sales since she was small, said she was self-taught in the art. She had always been fascinated by not only the savings on the consumer end, but how stores make the most of coupons as well.
Thornton graduated in December with a degree in advertising and landed a position with an ad firm working with their coupons and sales department.
“My passion for couponing actually did help me land my dream job, too,” she said.