Art of the Deal 

Life in a couponing world

Sarah Barrand

Laurie Pearman

Sarah Barrand

Getting a deal has become a competitive sport. No longer is clipping coupons the territory of little old ladies—it's a technology-driven, no-holds-barred, to-the-victor-goes-the-savings obsession that has even spawned its own verb: "couponing."

When the economy hit the skids, more people allowed their pride to take a back seat to financial smarts, and in response, coupon/deal/savings websites and tools have popped up at a dizzying rate. From apps that alert you of the latest deal to websites that serve as both aggregator and guide through the discount arena, there are plenty of ways to save a few bucks and do it easily.

"Thrifty has to be a lifestyle," said Treasure Valley resident Sarah Barrand, who along with her husband, Matt, started athriftymom.com two years ago. The site has had more than 5 million visitors, and thanks to Barrand's coupon acumen, the family saved more than $8,000 last year alone.

While you don't have to head to the store with a 5-inch binder of strategic savings under your arm like Barrand does, there's always room to save a little cash. She recommends websites like hers, which do a lot of the hard work for you. Barrand and her husband scour in-store specials, coupons, online deal and assorted promotions, then match them up and tell you how to get the best buy. Fabulesslyfrugal.com is another Boise-based site that culls coupon deals for shoppers.

Social media sites like Facebook have allowed manufacturers direct access to consumers, and the site is home to some exclusive deals, as are individual company websites. Citysmart.com, groupon.com and livingsocial.com offer a selection of targeted deals each day in specific cities. Twitter is the domain of other group deal programs, including Dealchirp, which sends alerts to members.

Boise Weekly is even on the deal trail with not only a special promotions page on boiseweekly.com, but with the BW Card, which offers card holders deep discounts at participating businesses.

If you're still intimidated by the art of the deal, Barrand even offers free couponing classes—most routinely fill up with more than 230 participants and a long waiting list. Barrand does have a word of warning for those uninitiated in the world of the coupon: take baby steps.

"People can get really excited about getting a deal," she said. "They really go after it, but then they can hit coupon burnout. It's like a bad fad diet."

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