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BOOK REVIEW: Authors share frugal tips in 'How to Shop For Free'

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Photo by Michael Buckelew

Every year, you say you're going to do it, but you never do.

Oh, sure, you have good intentions. You've made resolutions to that effect, you've made promises to yourself, vowed a follow-through, and failed. But this year, it's gonna happen: you're going to save some money.

But how? You've got to eat. Can't go naked. You have to get to work somehow. How does anybody save anything in this economy?

Believe it or not, some people save by getting their clothes, food, even gasoline for free. You can, too, if you've got the time and "How to Shop For Free," the new book by Kathy Spencer with Samantha Rose.

As a mother of four, Kathy Spencer knew her husband's income wasn't going to stretch far. While doing some research one night, she discovered a secret: by using coupons and other discounts, she could get groceries and incidentals for nothing. Sometimes, she could actually make money on the deal. She became "obsessed."

There's a little prep work to shopping for free, Spencer says. You need to know what kinds of coupons are available (and there are quite a few of them). You'll need to know where to get them (your newspaper isn't the only place). And you'll need to learn the lingo of couponing.

Once you've done your homework, Spencer says, make a plan. Don't get discouraged if you feel like it's going slowly; getting something for nothing takes time. The good news is that it won't take long to get hooked: saving money is addictive.

Find a spot to stockpile your freebies. Don't ignore any stores and never throw out coupons, even if you think you won't use them. Treat all coupons like cash, but learn the laws because "free" isn't worth jail time.

Know your store's coupon policy before you shop, be willing to argue -- nicely -- if your coupon is turned down, and learn how to stack coupons to get free groceries, baby items, clothing, prescriptions, gym memberships, pet food, beauty products, even utilities. Then, pay it forward by donating your excess to shelters, hospitals, or anyone who needs your bounty.

Tired of pinching pennies til Abe screams? You might not need pennies at all if you've got this book.

With an infectious enthusiasm, personal anecdotes, and weigh-ins from fans who've saved, Spencer and Rose explain how they regularly bring home food and other necessities without opening their wallets.

"How to Shop for Free" is an incredible book to have if your pockets are empty, but there are a few caveats.

In her zeal for the deal, Spencer advocates things that could make you uncomfortable and some that seem just wrong (pinching "peelies" without a purchase, for instance). The process obviously takes time, patience, and -- to get the best deals -- a big city nearby.

Also note: "free" doesn't always happen up front.

Still, how can you be without a book like this in times like these? You can't. That's why "How to Shop for Free" is a book you should resolve to get.

"How to Shop for Free: Shopping Secrets for Smart Women Who Love to Get Something for Nothing," by Kathy Spencer with Samantha Rose, copyright 2010 by DaCapo Lifelong, is 237 pages and sells for $14.95.

Contact book reviewer Terri Schlichenmeyer at www.bookwormsez.com.