By MAUREEN PICHÉ
PYRITES – A self-taught couponing expert who has been teaching others in the North Country how to save at the register has a big incentive to learn new ways to be frugal—raising 12 children on one income.
Candy Foote has recently been making appearances at local libraries to talk about how to work the Internet and other resources to save, and even make, money with coupons.
People are excited to learn her tricks—in fact, she drew a crowd of about 40 at a Morley Library meeting, which in turn spurred creation of a coupon exchange club there.
“I was surprised to see many of them were men,” she said of the turnout. “I asked if their wives had dragged them there, but they said, ‘No, we’re interested.’”
Foote has also written a book, “Strategic Shopping,” available on her own website candyfoote.com for $10 or for $7 on Kindle.
Coupon clipping is just one of the tools this stay-at-home mom, along with husband Judson, use to economize. Not long ago, they lived off the grid in a Hermon farmhouse—solar power, battery-operated appliances, a generator backup, a woodstove and old-fashioned cook stove and no running water. They gardened and kept a few livestock.
The family now lives in the house Judson grew up in, across the street from the log cabin Candy grew up in. “I guess we’ve come full circle,” she said. “When we moved here, some of the kids complained there wasn’t enough work to do!”
They have more of the amenities now, such as running water, electricity—even a TV—but they still have a few chickens in the yard and Judson gardens, when he’s not at his job at St. Lawrence NYSARC training clients how to work or doing occasional handyman jobs.
Candy also has the responsibility of overseeing the home-schooling of her children, something she began doing 20 years ago. “I love that I have this one-on-one time with my family,” she said. “You can make it individualized based on each child’s ability, so they’re not labeled.”
The children all have an active roll in helping out around the house, chipping in when something needs to be done, with the older siblings watching out for the younger ones.
“People ask me, ‘12 kids! How do you do it?’ and I’m thinking, ‘Two kids! How do YOU do it?’”
Foote said she started couponing more than 20 years ago, but with a growing family (oldest now 27 and youngest 4), she didn’t have much time for it. In the last three or so years, she’s gotten back into it and learned all the tricks that technology now provides.
“I tell people in 15 minutes they can really be saving money,” she said.
The trick is to be observant and ask questions of businesses. She said Walmart has a coupon policy if the item costs less than the value of the coupon, they pay the difference, either toward the rest of the bill or in cash.
She frequently emails companies, explains she’s raising a “mega-family” and asks if they could send coupons. Some businesses turn her down, but others send high-value coupons or free item coupons, she said.
She recently received a coupon for $5 off organic carrots. She took it to Walmart, bought carrots that were priced at $1.78, and she pocketed the rest.
Many drug stores will apply manufacturer’s coupons along with store coupons on one product. Register rewards coupons, which are given to you after purchase at the register, can be used to make your own deal another time.
She also frequents websites such as couponmom.com, dealseekingmom.com and moneysavingqueen.com.
Some of these sites list all the stores with sales of the week and match up manufacturer’s coupons with the stores. She said they even calculate how much you’re going to spend (or make), and where you’ll find the items in the store. They also have special categories that will take you directly to the manufacturer contact form, which only takes a minute to fill out.
Foote said she hopes to expand the number of classes she offers in the county, and is currently working on setting them up in Norwood and Brasher. She also wants to improve her website. “People from as far away as Syracuse have called me,” she said. “People are really interested in saving money.”