Thanks to these tough times using coupons has never been more popular. Shows like TLC's Extreme Couponing feature families who've developed super coupon skills and save hundreds of dollars at the grocery store. But there's actually a crime wave being linked to coupon mania.
Police are reporting a rash of newspaper thefts from newsstands and believe it or not, right from people's doorsteps. Thieves are actually stealing newspapers so they can use the valuable coupons found inside.
Coupon clipper Cybil Hudson from North Texas was arrested after police say she stole coupons from a newspaper stand. She's charged with fraudulent destruction or removal or concealment of writing for taking more coupon inserts than she purchased.
If convicted, she faces up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. She denies the charges.
But Jill Cataldo, known as the Queen of the Coupons, understands why coupons are in such hot demand.
"When the Sunday paper shows up at my house, it is the equivalent to me of someone throwing $200 right at my driveway," said Cataldo.
Using coupons in store or at table, Cataldo is the world's premiere coupon expert. The mother of three from Chicago has developed a coupon strategy to slash grocery bills dramatically. She attracts sell-out crowds at her coupon workshops and has a six-month waiting list just to get a seat.
"It's become hip. It's become cool. There's no stigma anymore to using a coupon," said Cataldo.
INSIDE EDITION went grocery shopping with Cataldo to see her in action.
Her first tip: Buy in bulk if the sale price is right.
"One of the things we do as coupon shoppers is we do stock up a little bit during good sales," said Cataldo.
She gets cereal that's usually $5 a box for just 99 cents.
Her second tip: Look for produce coupons. Yes, they really exist. As long as the produce has a brand name you can check online for special deals.
"I like to look on their website and on their site they have 50 cents off each of these," Cataldo explained.
She got strawberries that are normally $2 a pound for $1.50.
Tip number three: Try coupon stacking. That's when you use a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon together on the same product.
"The Pine-Sol will be free today because of the coupon I got from the manufacturer, and we like free things," she said.
That's a saving of $3.
Also, keep those coupons from the register.
"A lot of times people will throw them away. You don't want to throw them away. I've got $10 - $12 here to spend," said Cataldo.
Before Cataldo went shopping she went online, which is her last tip. Use the internet to track sales.
"There are a lot of tools online that we use. Coupon databases match up lists that tracks the sales for us," she said.
So what was her grand total? Her shopping cart was filled with about $150 worth of groceries. But after handing over her stack of coupons, Cataldo's total was only $41.19!
"I cut over $95 off the bill with coupons," she exclaimed.