'Coupon Queen' shares tips and tricks

LOS ANGELES "I'm just picking up this because I happen to have a free coupon for it," said Susan Samtur. Samtur, known as the "Coupon Queen," is a master of pinching pennies.

"Start off with the flyer," says Samtur. "It tells you what's on sale."

Samtur's kingdom is the grocery, where she says manufacturers give you breaks if you do your homework. So grab your coupons, flyer and club card and keep your eyes open.

"I have everything in a very easy to access system and it's a time-saver, and a big money saver," says Samtur.

Most shoppers get that coupons and flyers are helpful, but it's coordination that offers a price-slashing combination.

"In a store like [Albertsons], there are maybe 40,000 or 50,000 different products that you have to look at, but if you can zero in on those items that you want, those items that are on sale and the items for which you have coupons," says Samtur. "Every minute that you spend in a store you are spending money as well as time."

It really is about organization. One smart idea is dividing the store on paper into key areas so she knows what's on sale before she goes.

"I call it my 'category system,' where I have health and beauty aids, dairy items, frozen foods and so on," says Samtur. "It makes my shopping much, much quicker."

Correlating coupons for products in those areas, along with plotting the store's layout, is extremely helpful. Being careful to make her shopping list the day the circular comes out, like many, she shops when convenient and wants to be ready.

"So 15 minutes, I'd say, of preparation time will save you at least a half an hour in the store," says Samtur.

Other tips? Be flexible with brands: Don't buy just because it's on sale. And buy only what you need. Shop alone for ultimate concentration and buy for family or neighbors, sharing the cost to take advantage of big bulk items.

After using her Albertsons club card and coupon combo, Susan spent just $6.39 on a bill that would regularly be about a $160. But remember, she's a pro!

Her advice to the novice is to take baby shopping steps.

Start small and if you can build that 10 percent savings up to about 50 percent or so, if you spend $5,000 in a year, you're saving $2,500. But don't make it overwhelming, where you're saying, "It's too much, I can't do it." Because as soon as that happens, you're going stop altogether.

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