INDIANAPOLIS — Even if your shopping lists are staying the same, your bill is not.
Prices are up 7.5% this year over the same time last year, which means even the basics are eating up more of your budget.
Here's how you can try to take back some of your bucks, according to professional couponer Christina Huffines.
Why is she a pro?
Huffines started couponing almost a decade ago after a divorce left her tight on money.
"I was going to food pantries for my kids and I, and I realized in the food pantries, you can get a bag of food, but you couldn't get like toothpaste, laundry, soap, shampoo, conditioner," Huffines said, "so I had to find ways to save money."
She got so good at couponing that she started Dotted Line Divas. It's a nonprofit couponing group that uses donations to buy hygiene products for people in need.
Now, Huffines fills shelves with hundreds of hygiene goods for those in need.
"These are items that food stamps don't pay for," she said.
What's her secret?
Huffines said when it comes to couponing, work smarter, not harder.
She suggests joining couponing Facebook groups, web sites and blogs.
"I coupon for 250 families a month and I only spend 20 hours-plus now on couponing because I've just followed all the other smart people," Huffines said.
Her favorite "smart people" include:
Huffine also posts her transactions on the Dotted Line Diva's Facebook page.
The sites show readers how to stack savings. Stacking techniques combine store sales and store coupons with manufacturer coupons and cashback apps.
"Ibotta or Receipt Hog and those, you take pictures of receipts, and you take pictures of the products, and then you get money back for what you're spending," Huffines said.
Her spending goal per item? Under a dollar.
Huffines said couponers buy things when they are on sale, not when they're needed. As a result, you will need to shop differently.
As for the time involved, she suggests setting aside a few hours a week.
What is she buying?
Huffines said a small bottle of All laundry detergent sells for around $4.99 full price.
But during Kroger's Mega Event, Huffines said sale prices bring the price to $1.99 a piece. Then, she has a $1 off coupon, bringing the price to 99 cents.
As for body wash, Huffines said a bottle of Suave goes for $2.99 full price. During the Mega Event, it's 99 cents. She adds a 50-cents-off coupon, bringing the final price to 49 cents.
Toothpaste and toothbrushes she can usually get for free.
A tube of Crest 3D White, Huffines said sells for $4.99 or $5.99 full price, but during the Kroger Mega Event, it's $1.99. Then she usually has a $2 off Crest coupon, making it what she calls a "penny moneymaker."
If you want to learn more, Huffines teaches free couponing classes that are open to everyone.
Classes are on the second Saturday of each month at 1:30 p.m. at Mercy Road Church Northwest at 9511 Angola Court, near West 96th Street and Michigan Road. If you would like to attend, you can RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.