Macedonia -- For an entire week, Pamela Davis planned her trip to Target with the goal of saving as much money as possible by combining coupons with the store's sales. At the end of her trip she walked out with $100 of merchandise she purchased for $70. Little did she know that two years later, she would be spending the same amount for more than $400 worth of items and appear on Season 4 of TLC's Extreme Couponing.
"I starting couponing around fall 2009 when I was pregnant with my youngest daughter because I wanted to save money," Davis said. "I couldn't imagine having another kid and not being able to save money on groceries and all the baby expenses."
While couponing to the extreme was a new concept for Davis, she said she has always been a financially cautious person. With four children -- a 19-year-old, 11-year-old, 7-year-old and a 3-year-old -- Davis said couponing has been a huge factor in supporting her family.
"When I got married and we had this splendid family, you have more kids who are going to college and you constantly think of ways to maintain your lifestyle with a bigger family," she said. "That's kind of where couponing lent itself."
To be a contestant on the show, Davis said she had to demonstrate her ability to save at least 80 percent on her shopping bill. Before Davis started couponing, she said the monthly budget for her family of six was about $1,200, which she cut down to $250.
Davis said she has at least 1,500 items stocked in a corner in the basement that range from razors and deodorant to hand soap and food. One of her proudest couponing moments was purchasing 100 tubes of toothpaste for free.
"It's all about matching up a sale price with a coupon value," she said. "The toothpaste was on sale for a dollar and I had a coupon that was 50 cents off. Then, the store I shop at doubles coupon values."
Even though Davis stocks up on sale items, she said she still keeps a variety of foods in her pantry that includes everything from peanut butter, almonds, canned goods, hot sauce and jarred peppers to boxed goods like cereal, potatoes, pancake mix, pasta rice and Hamburger Helper meals.
Davis said she acquired the 100 toothpaste coupons from a network of people who collect coupons for her. Her aunt goes door-to-door collecting coupon books from neighbors in exchange for the ability to shop in Davis' "grocery store."
Once Davis began collecting 75 to 100 coupon books per week, she started a filing system, which now includes about 60,000 coupons. At first, she said couponing was comparable to a part-time job because she spent so much time organizing coupons and matching them to deals at the stores.
"Time is money. Don't waste too much time couponing or buying things you don't need," she said, adding that acquiring an excess of items is unavoidable, but it's important not to go overboard.
From couponing, Davis said she started an online business to help others learn the trade. One of the biggest questions people ask her is, "Is couponing hoarding?"
"There is a thin line between couponing and hoarding," she said. "I could have bought 10 tubes of toothpaste instead of 100. It becomes addictive."
To combat acquiring too many items, Davis said she regularly makes donations to charities.
"That's the great thing about couponing," she said. "There's so many opportunities to give."