Since appearing on TLC's Extreme Couponing, this Detroiter has turned saving money into a career
"atience" is the essence of bargain shopping, says extreme couponer Faatima Evans. In the living room of her northwest Detroit home, Evans' daughter, Kela, and student, Johnita, take in the day's lesson while clipping coupons before a trip to Meijer on Eight Mile Road.
"Learn the store's policy," she says. "The store's policy is like the store's bible. And just like the Bible (brings) you closer to Jesus," the policy brings you closer to the sales.
Since appearing on TLC's Extreme Couponing, Evans has made a career of being thrifty and teaching others to do the same. She offers six-hour lessons on couponing for $120 or $70 each for groups.
At Meijer, Evans makes her apprentice Johnita carefully read each coupon twice before selecting an item.
"When I take students out, the biggest thing is reading," she explains-for fine print, product quantity restrictions and more. It's difficult at first, and Evans wasn't always an expert. She had time to learn after a surgery.
"I had two months to recover and I said, 'I'm going to teach myself to do this,'" says Evans. "I kept messing up and messing up." But soon she became as good as the couponers on the show.
She remembers, "At the end of every Extreme Couponing episode, it says if you're interested to contact them." Evans sent a video of her lowering an $800 grocery bill to $50 with coupons. The producers called that same day.
"I couldn't believe it," says Evans. Her first episode aired June 2011. And she did three more, including a Christmas special and Extreme Couponing All-Stars.
"I'm still the same person," says Evans, save for the occasional gawking fans. "People will only see you for 15 minutes and think they know your entire life."
Contrary to what folks may think, Evans' home isn't stuffed with piles of items she got on the cheap.
"Some people become hoarders," says Evans. She keeps her goodies stashed in a small, tidy room in her basement. "I just buy what my family needs."
She also gardens. "It saves money and it tastes better too," says Evans. But some items just aren't meant for discounting.
"I'm a meat snob," says Evans. "I only like to buy my meat from Whole Foods. Meat at some stores is really gross."
Couponing is still her bread and butter. And it's the best way to get those items for cheap! Trying to keep her notoriety under wraps, she carries her coupons in a small purse pouch in stores instead of her usual three-ring binder. "Everybody knows who I am, so when I go into the store I want to be inconspicuous."
In the checkout line at Meijer, Evans calculates the bill before and after discounts to about $20. The total is $29.59 from $74.86. Johnita forgot to add two items to complete a coupon.
"You make mistakes in the beginning, but it's OK," Evans says. "You learn what not to do." And you can't put a price on that.
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