VILONIA — Glenda Gore of the rural Vilonia area has ample amounts of toiletries, paper supplies, washing detergent and fabric softener at her house. With shelves neatly organized in one room, she refers to it as “GiGi’s Store,” which is stocked regularly by the coupon queen.
“As you can see, we’ve got plenty,” Gore said, pointing to the packaged toilet paper, disposable razors, laundry detergent and fabric softener — all name brands. “Help yourself to some. I give it to my friends and family. I love helping people. Everyone in my family calls me GiGi, the Coupon Queen.”
There are seven living in the Gore household. Counting, she said there’s her husband, Michael; their three children, Hannah, Casey and Josie Belle; her mother, Linda Brewer; and a friend of the family named Rimbey. The family, Gore said, has a stable income. Gore is a registered nurse, and her husband is a railroad employee. Brewer, who is retired, also contributes.
“We could make it fine without couponing, but when you save money, why wouldn’t you go the route of saving the money?” she asked.
Using coupons, Gore said, she spends only a fraction of what some spend. She scours, weekly, on the Internet and through circulars, and organizes by what is on sale. She spends about a day, she said, clipping, tearing and preparing. Then she sets aside several hours to shop and the rest of the day for putting away the supplies. The last two, she said, can be draining. Generally, when she shops, she recruits one or two of her family members to help push the carts, but no “little kids.” Her 17-year-old son, Casey, is her best collaborator, she said. The key to the entire process, she said, is organization.
“I have taught my family to do this and the right way to do it,” she said.
Gore doesn’t like paying full price for anything, and most of the time, her diligence pays off. A 3-foot-long cash register tape reflects that she walked out of one store, last week, paying a few cents more than $120 for $1,080 worth of merchandise.
Jokingly, she said, she almost killed her mother, dragging her along on a shopping trip last year. The two spent about three hours “power shopping” in one store before Gore’s mother had to be helped to the car.
“Come to think of it, my couponing probably saved her life,” Gore said, jokingly. The physical exertion, Gore said, resulted in her mother seeking medical care.
Blockages were found in arteries to her heart, legs and kidneys, and she underwent a procedure that involved placing stents in those areas, Gore said.
“If it hadn’t been for my couponing, she might not have realized there was a problem until it was too late,” Gore said, glancing at her mother.
Gore doesn’t mind sharing what she has learned. Ultimately, she plans to teach couponing classes during the summer. On that note, she said, anyone interested may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. She doesn’t have all the details worked out yet but plans to do so soon.
Before you go in, she said, know what you are going to buy, where it is located in the store, and have your coupon(s) handy. You should organize the items in your buggy, also, with full-price items in the front. Designate the back space for coupon shopping.
“And remember: with couponing, big is not always better,” she said. “You actually save more money buying the smaller packages.”
The best things to buy using coupons, she said, are razors, laundry products and paper products. One should also be willing to not always use the same products. However, there are a few brands, she said, that she is loyal to, including Wisk, Tide and Downy.
“We live for Proctor & Gamble coupons,” she said.
Couponing is similar to a game, she said.
“You end up playing against yourself, though. You challenge yourself to be better at it. You want to see how much you can get and see how little you can pay using coupons and price match.”
Coupon shopping has been a way of life for Gore as long as she can remember. As a young girl, she said, she stood and watched while her mother clipped, filed and cashed in coupons. Their house, she said, was full of Ivory soap, Wisk, Tide, Downy and Flex shampoo.
“She was a single mom raising three kids,” Gore said. “We were poor, but we were always clean and fed. My mom worked two jobs, and she never took government assistance of any kind whatsoever.”
There have been periods of time in her life when she has slacked off on couponing, she said, and periods when she has picked up momentum. A few years back, she said, she had a medical condition requiring her to be a stay-at-home mother for about three years while being treated and recovering. That was a period, she said, when she was the “ultimate coupon queen.”
When she went back to work, she said, she slacked off on couponing for a year or so. Last year, she said, she resurrected the practice and has been going full steam ahead ever since. Today, she said, it is more like an obsession.
“You make time for what is going to make you money,” she said. “This makes me money. This is a job for me that subsidizes my income.”
The family is also frugal in other ways. They grow vegetables during the spring and summer, and her husband hunts and harvests what he kills. They also recycle.
Gore’s current recycling project involves collecting 8-ounce, clear water bottles, which she hopes to use to build a greenhouse.
Just as witty as she is thrifty, Gore said she is a bargain shopper in every aspect of her life. Asked about her best bargain, she said it was her stepdad, Donnie, who recently died. When she was about 8 years old, she said, she went “daddy shopping.”
“I went down the road and got me a daddy,” she said, laughing heartily. “That’s the best bargain I ever got. He didn’t know what hit him.”
He was a “down-the-road neighbor” in a small town in east Arkansas where she grew up. Her mom and dad were divorced. Gore liked the neighbor. She invited him to go to the $1 movie night with her mother and siblings on the premise that her mother was extending the invitation. Gore went home and told her mother he asked if he could go along. The two dated about a year, Gore said, and she had a dad for the rest of her life.
“I won him over with my charm and my bargain movie,” she said. “Now, tell me someone that can top that story.”