Coupon expert to share her savings secrets

Rachael Mercer of McDonough will give a coupon workshop on Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. at Trinity Baptist Church in Conyers.

Rachael Mercer of McDonough will give a coupon workshop on Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. at Trinity Baptist Church in Conyers.

As a teenager, Rachael Mercer shopped for the family's groceries after school while her mom worked. Mercer's mother gave her coupons to use and told her she could keep any money she saved.

"One week I saved $17 and bought a blue and white polka dot dress," Mercer said.

Now a mother of four herself, Mercer is a dedicated coupon user, and has parlayed her couponing expertise into a business -- Saving Centsably.

As part of her business, Mercer offers couponing workshops and she'll be visiting Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road in Conyers, on Jan. 21 at 2 p.m. She'll offer a host of tips on how to save money on everything from bread to Braves games.

The cost for the workshop is $10 per person and includes a three-hour presentation about couponing and a handout outlining couponing strategies and websites where coupons can be obtained.

"I talk about how we can change the way we shop, the type of coupons there are and how to use them most efficiently," Mercer said.

Mercer will discuss how to pay less for groceries, entertainment, movie rentals, professional sporting events and prescription drugs. She'll also review consignment and thrift store shopping.

"That's how I clothe my children," said Mercer of the discount apparel shops.

Mercer said that one couponing strategy is to stock up on items when they are on sale.

"A lot of times it's almost like teaching them to think outside of the box," Mercer said. "There's just no need to pay full price for anything. That's kind of my motto."

Mercer said couponing saves her family thousands every year. She calculated her 2011 grocery bill at $2,104 with a purchase value of $6,551.

Mercer said she's not fanatical about couponing, but she is diligent. The stay-at-home mom cuts her coupons while watching television with her husband at night. On the weekends, she'll enlist her children to cut coupons or weed out expired coupons from her collection.

"The more time you put into it, the better your results. There will come a point, if you are couponing regularly, that you know how to do it. It's like a snowball -- once it starts rolling down the hill, it gets bigger and bigger."

A McDonough resident, Mercer said she started her business after giving coupon programs free of charge to fellow church members in 2009.

She developed a website, www.savingcentsably.com, and has given about 30 presentations in churches, homes and other locations throughout Georgia.

While she's held a lifelong interest in couponing, Mercer's efforts increased significantly with the downturn of the economy.

"We were all kind of silly with our money until about a few years ago and it came so easy, and now, it's not so easy," she said.

Trinity Baptist Church member Jennifer Killnan, an organizer for the church's workshop, said she wanted tips on how to coupon more effectively, and find out where and when to catch the deals.

Killnan said about 30 people have signed up for the workshop, which is open to the general public.

"I felt like it was a way to help the community to save money, because money is tight," she said.

To register for the workshop, call Trinity Baptist at 770-922-8944 or register at the door the day of the event.