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My super-couponing challenge on 'Nightline' - Jill Cataldo

With coupon shopping growing in popularity, new coupon users are learning the ropes every day. Many go on to become Super-Couponers. Some go beyond, into extreme couponing.

What's the difference? Many of you may have seen it firsthand when I was featured on the national news program, ABC's "Nightline." The show gave me and another shopper $50 and sent us to our respective supermarkets.

Shopping on television can be a lot of fun! Any time I'm approached about doing a segment like this, I try to follow a few personal guidelines. One of the most common beliefs among new coupon shoppers is that they cannot eat well and save money. So I like to demonstrate deals on produce and meat, areas where many people have difficulty finding savings.

I also try to focus on minimally processed foods and healthier products. And, I aim to prove that even when local supermarkets don't offer double coupon promotions (mine do not) shoppers can still cut grocery bills dramatically.

For this national segment, my cart was representative of what many families might buy each week. I purchased 14 pounds of fresh produce and eight filet mignon steaks that cost me just 50 cents each after a fabulous coupon deal. I also included seven boxes of healthy cereals, eight 100-percent juices, organic milk and a case of 80 badiapers that was a steal at $5.99 – with a coupon, of course!

the end, my $118.84 bill dropped to $50.61 with coupons, and I received $20 back in Catalinas for a discount on my next shopping trip. Catalinas function just like gift certificates for the store, so essentially, I paid $30.61! It was a beautiful trip.

The other shopper in the segment bought more than $500 worth of items for around $30.

How did he do it? While I'm a Super-Couponer, he's an extreme couponer – and there's certainly a difference. His shopping cart was full of high quantities of the same items: 82 packages of tuna, 24 cans of tomatoes, 16 packages of ramen noodles and what the network correspondent described as "a lifetime supply of air freshener." Many people wrote to me after this segment aired to ask how such savings were possible.

Shopping like this is absolutely possible. As I've stressed since the inception of my column, anyone can be a great coupon shopper! The difference between a Super-Couponer and an extreme couponer is the word "extreme."

To buy in large quantities, you need many, many multiples of the same coupon. Most extreme couponers use a clipping service. They pay a small amount of money (usually 10 cents or 15 cents per coupon) to have coupons cut and mailed to them. For this news segment, the other shopper posted on his web site that he had ordered 250 identical 55-cent coupons for tuna. Another difference: his supermarket doubled coupons, making that tuna free with coupon overage to apply to the other groceries he was purchasing, an excellent way to bring the entire end total down.

Let it be clear that I have nothing at all against the other shopper. His home stockpile of products was impressive, to say the least! But my focus as a columnist and coupon workshop instructor has always been to teach couponing from a more moderate perspective. Not everyone wants to pay for individual, clipped coupons or store massive quantities of groceries at home.

In my experience, most coupon shoppers want to save money simply and easily, as I do. With my coupons and Catalinas, I enjoyed about 75 percent savings on my "Nightline" shopping trip. I'll happily take that any day of the week.

If you'd like to watch this news segment or view my shopping list and receipt from the trip, visit www.jillcataldo.com and click the "Television" link at the top of the page.

Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her web site, www.supercouponing.com. E-mail your own c.