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My Kansas City: Coupon queen Ericka Chatman, 27

Ericka Chatman, 27, and her coupon binder.

Special to Ink

Ericka Chatman, 27, is a coupon queen. She started clipping coupons a few years ago when she was working part time, attending school full time and active in the military. Her pennies were few, and her expenses were high.

Armed with an eight-pound coupon binder, Chatman said she paid only $5 for $165 worth of products on her first trip to the store. Now she said she doesn’t shop without coupons. Her strategic shopping trips have grown to inspire friends, family and followers of Chatman’s coupon blog, erickasaves.com. These are her five best ways to save money in Kansas City

Kmart

Some of Chatman’s best deals come from Kmart. She is a member of the Shop Your Way Rewards program that sends her e-coupons and allows her to accumulate points that can be applied to her store total during checkout. Chatman’s biggest point of savings is when she hits the $25 total and is able to double at most five coupons.

She recently rang up a total of $109 at Kmart. After coupon deductions, her total was $9.77. She applied a $5 Kmart gift card for an even lower total of $4.77. Then she sent in a mail-in rebate for one of the items and actually added $3 to her bottom line.

Shopping trips that make money are worth the effort it takes to coupon, says Chatman, who initially spent five to eight hours per week looking for deals. Now, Chatman clips for only two hours.

Shell

Chatman uses the Shell Fuel Rewards program to get discounts on gas when she dines out at her favorite restaurants. She recently went to Minsky’s Pizza with her family and spent approximately $50, which gave her a 10 cent discount on gas. She says she likes the program because the points don’t expire and can be combined for more fuel savings.

Dollar Tree

Buy your Sunday newspapers here for a buck, says Chatman who, along with many other coupon clippers, often arrives when the doors open at 10 a.m. Chatman says that you can buy up to three papers in order to combine coupons. She also shops the aisles in the discount store for name brand items that she buys with manufacturer coupons for additional savings.

CVS

For Chatman, CVS is a dream store. She uses her CVS ExtraCare card to obtain coupons at the “red machine” or coupon center at the entrance of CVS stores. Then she combines store deals with store coupons and manufacturer coupons to score amazing deals on toiletries, medicine and household items. With these purchases, she accumulates CVS ExtraBucks that can be used toward future buys.

She recently walked away from CVS with a $3.26 total for six items that would have cost $50. She admits to a growing supply of toiletries in her hall closet, but she often lends them to friends and family in need. “Most of them were free,” says Chatman, who claims to have saved $1,782 from shopping at CVS in the past year.

Home improvement stores

On Saturdays, Chatman can often be found in an apron at Lowe’s or Home Depot. Both stores offer free workshops and seminars for DIY homeowners who want to tackle new projects such as interior painting and kitchen updates without hiring expensive help. “These are hands-on workshops with good instructors,” Chatman says. “I just went to one on landscaping and loved it.”

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