Kasey Trenum gets paid to buy toothpaste.
"If anybody is paying for toothpaste, don't ever do it again. I make 16 cents on every tube," said Ms. Trenum.
A self-described "coupon queen," Ms. Trenum leads a class in coupon economics at the First Baptist Church in Cleveland, Tenn.
As part of the two-hour coupon class hosted this week by the church, Ms. Trenum explains the intricacies of coupon clipping, from blinkies, peelies, mannies and catalinas to sale-stalking strategies
Although the church expected only about 75 participants, more than 225 people registered for the church's morning and evening sessions, according to Tara Waldrop, minister of childhood education.
It must be a sign of the times, she said, because many participants told her they were trying to pinch pennies as tightly as possible in a tough economy.
"In the past, there used to be a stigma with using coupons," she said. "It's not there anymore. Now you're celebrating when you see each other save."
Ms. Waldrop explained how she shopped around to find deals multiplying the coupons' effectiveness by combining them with sales and other promotions.
She explained one scenario where she was able to by frozen pizzas on sale with a coupon at only one-third of the original price. She also discussed finding a manufacturer's coupon on toothpaste that allowed her to buy a tube for 25 cents.
Ms. Trenum one-upped her, saying she found a toothpaste coupon online for more than the price of a tube and got a 16-cent overage credit from the store.
"I'm going to have to find out where she got that coupon," Ms. Waldrop said.
The instructors identified newspapers, mailings and Web sites such as southernsavers.com and funandfrugal.com where clippers can find the coveted deals.
According to the Promotional Marketing Associations Coupon Council, manufacturers offered more $350 billion in coupon savings in 2007, with 90 percent of all manufacturer's coupons issued in the United States delivered through Sunday papers. In Sunday's Times Free Press, for instance, there are $1,062 worth of coupons.
The price-cutting pupils took notes and gasped when the three instructors revealed binders of baseball card organizing pages stuffed with coupons.
"I was amazed by their system," said Ginger Savage, of Cleveland.
Christy Gardner, also of Cleveland, said the class's timing was perfect.
"Many people who have lost their jobs or their homes, they need those resources to get it back together," she said. "This is a great way to do that."
Cleveland resident Kelly Thompson, another instructor, told shoppers not to worry that they are somehow ripping off local stores or manufacturing companies.
"They're not out there saying, 'Let's put out these coupons to be nice,'" she said. "It's a business decision."