On a July shopping trip to CVS, Kiersti Torok racked up a total of nearly $163 — but only had to pay around $30, thanks to her coupons. During another August shopping trip to CVS, her store coupons brought her $130 total down to about $26.
It’s easy to see why the 32-year-old mom of two loves couponing: it’s helped her save over $1,000 on groceries and household items, such as laundry detergent and body wash, so far this year. That includes around $780 in savings at CVS and another $550 at Dollar General, as of July.
Torok isn’t a couponing newbie. She first learned about it from her mom when she was a teenager. During the 2008 financial crisis, her parents lost their jobs and struggled to make ends meet, so her mom took a couponing class at a local community college to learn how to save money.
Although her mom struggled at first, she eventually got the hang of it and turned it into a fun activity for the two of them, Torok says.
“Every Sunday we’d get up, we’d get $1 McDonald’s coffee, go to the dollar store and get newspapers, and clip the coupons in the car while listening to Backstreet Boys,” she tells CNBC Make It.
From there, the idea of couponing “clicked” for Torok, and she used coupons to save money throughout college, and after marrying her high school sweetheart and becoming a mom of two.
Kiersti Torok, a 32-year-old mom of two, says coupons help her to save money on household essentials.
“When the [Covid-19] pandemic hit, I was couponing because both me and my husband lost our jobs. So, it was kind of like a full-circle moment,” she says.
Many of her friends and family were facing similar financial situations in 2020 and began asking her for couponing tips.
“I had a lot of friends and family who were like, ‘We’ve lost our jobs,’ ‘We’ve been laid off,’ ‘Can you help me coupon?,'” she says. “I was sitting at the table texting out deals every Sunday to people because they were trying to figure out how to save money on essentials.”
From there, she got the idea to start posting Facetime-style videos on TikTok so she could easily share discounts and deals with a wider audience. She also started breaking down her savings on her website.
Today, Torok regularly shares her coupon saving tips and shopping hauls with her more than 3 million TikTok followers.
One strategy that helps Torok maximize her savings is “stacking” coupons. Although an individual coupon may only be for $1 or $2 off, layering coupons can help bring down the overall total by a significant amount, she says.
It all comes down to planning. Torok typically checks a store’s app for deals before she starts shopping or, if she already has the items she wants in her cart, she’ll scan them to see if there are any coupons available.
Torok regularly shares couponing tips and deals with her 3.1 million followers on TikTok.
“I promise anybody can do it,” she says.
Since she isn’t loyal to certain brands and doesn’t have skin sensitivities, Torok is able to buy the cheapest version of whichever product she’s shopping for at the moment, she says.
Saving money on generic items helps her afford other products that may not be on sale, such as her kids’ favorite snacks.
If you want to start couponing, Torok’s No. 1 piece of advice is to start small.
“Pick one store, pick one deal, do one deal a week, get your feet wet and slowly learn the process,” she says. “You’re much more likely to be successful with this long term if you start slow.”
Start by downloading the app for a store where you frequently shop. Then, take a few minutes to see if any coupons are available for items you’re already planning to purchase.
“It’ll take you five minutes to go through your whole cart and scan and clip the coupons,” Torok says.
Torok typically checks a store’s app for coupons or scans items in her cart to see if any savings are available.
While an individual coupon may only get you $1 or $2 off, the store’s app can usually help you stack deals to further reduce your total.
When you get to the register, you simply watch as the coupons work their magic. “They scan one barcode and that’s it,” Torok says. “It’s just so simple.”
As many Americans cut back on spending due to inflation, Torok wants people to know that they’re not “stuck” paying those higher prices. Couponing doesn’t have to be complicated and can be an easy way to help your budget stretch a bit further, she says.
“This is achievable and attainable,” she says. “I promise you can get this and figure it out and save your family some money.”
DON’T MISS: Want to be smarter and more successful with your money, work & life? Sign up for our new newsletter!
Get CNBC’s free Warren Buffett Guide to Investing, which distills the billionaire’s No. 1 best piece of advice for regular investors, do’s and don’ts, and three key investing principles into a clear and simple guidebook.