Expert Interview with Kaley Ehret on Coupons and Deal Hunting for Mint

With Cha-Ching on a Shoestring, Kaley Ehret finds and shares some of the best deals on the web. But when she started, it was as much about necessity as it was about saving. Kaley sat down with us to talk about couponing and saving money the smart way.

How did Cha-Ching on a Shoestring get started?

I used to hate couponing. Then in April of 2008, my husband joined the ranks of the unemployed when he was suddenly laid off from his job at a local college. Prior to that time, I considered us to be pretty frugal, but I was convinced that when God was handing out the couponing gene, he had skipped over me.

When I realized that we had no idea how long we would be without an income, I decided I had no choice but to dive headfirst into this world of couponing, freebie finding and deal hunting. Before long, I was completely hooked.

Do you have to be extremely organized to use coupons?

That was the image that I had of couponers before I became one and one reason I was intimidated to even try couponing. But the truth is that in this day and age, there are so many tools and resources and blogs that are willing to do most of the work for you that couponing has become simple enough for everyone to try - no matter your degree of organizational skills.

What misconceptions do you see out there about couponing?

With the onset of the Extreme Couponing show a few years back, a new image of couponers was created. The show painted a picture of couponers that was...well...extreme. They featured people who made couponing a full-time job, dedicating hours upon hours each week to planning and carrying out their shopping trips and paying mere pennies for hundreds of dollars worth of groceries.

Then, we got a glimpse into their pantries, which displayed rows upon rows of cereal boxes, mustard bottles and processed foods. The show could have easily been mistaken for an episode of Hoarders.

In reality, most couponers do not have the time or desire to dedicate their lives to finding deals. In fact, people are often surprised to discover that I only spend about 20 minutes a week clipping coupons and planning my shopping trips!

Couponing no longer means just saving money on processed foods, either. More and more companies are offering coupons for fresh produce and organic items. And while saving 80% or more on groceries is a possibility for couponers, it is not the norm. The average couponer simply has a budget and knows how to stick to it!

Do you use any apps or tools to get the most out of your coupons?

Yes! There are so many useful apps to help with couponing and saving money.

Apps like Ibotta, SavingStar, Checkout 51, and Receipt Hog help you stretch your coupon savings even further by scanning receipts or clipping eCoupons.

The Favado app is my favorite app for helping to match coupons to your local store's sales each week. You can even compare prices on specific items to find out which store in your area has the best deal that week.

What makes a useful coupon? When is it not worth clipping out?

I actually use the no-clip couponing method. In other words, I only clip coupons when I have found a deal and plan to use them. In this busy stage of life, saving time is as important to me as saving money!

I also prefer this method because it keeps me from buying something simply because I have a coupon for it. I know that I'm getting a great deal because I have already done the work of matching the coupon with a sale.

If you could go back in time and tell your younger self one thing about saving, what would it be?

Great question! Looking back, I recognize that even as a kid, I loved counting up my pennies and saving toward goals. I would tell myself to embrace that inner money-saving diva because someday it would not only help our family survive a financial crisis, but also lead to awesome opportunities!

For more from Kaley, and the latest deals she's found, follow her on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.