Not too long ago, Stacy Lambert listened to the familiar beep of the cashier's scanner as it met her groceries at the end of the rolling belt.
Six boxes of Hamburger Helper, a package of ice cream cones, four tubes of biscuits, a pound of seedless grapes, two pizza dough crusts, shredded cheese and eight bags of frozen vegetables.
Twenty-three beeps in total.
The screen showed $55.63, but she wouldn't pay that. Manufacturer's deals, store specials, and a small stack of coupons brought the bill down to $5.52. After the cashier handed her the receipt, Lambert lingered at the checkout.
"You have to wait for them," she said. "The best ones are even slower."
Out slides $9 in Catalinas from the machine, coupons given at the checkout to reward consumers for buying specially promoted products. Lambert will use them during her next shopping excursion.
"It was a nice little flurry," said Lambert, of the different deals and rewards she received after taking advantage of manufacturer's specials, store sales, and coupons. "I made money on that trip."
Lambert's story, told at a recent meeting of the newly formed coupon club in her Moss Creek neighborhood, was met by the satisfied smiles of its members, all eager to learn the tricks of saving.
Two years have passed since the economy first stumbled, and many of the cost-cutting measures that people took up back then show no signs of fading.
According to the Promotion Marketing Association's Coupon Council, the sharp rise in coupon use first reported in 2008 has only increased each year. Americans redeemed 3.2 billion coupons in 2009, and the first half of 2010 has outpaced last year's first half, with Americans cashing in $2 billion worth so far this year.
Moss Creek's coupon club members represent a wide range of people, from those married with kids to the retired. But they all share a common interest in saving money.
Tiffany Jones, 30, a typical coupon clipper, said she saves just a few dollars each grocery trip.
"I cut them out and I use them when I go to the grocery store," she said. "But right now I'm just saving six or seven dollars."
She shows up at the meeting to see if she can save more. She has come to the right place.
In the elegant clubhouse with a stone fireplace, the group sits around the large polished tables with a bag full of scissors, all ready to cut into the Sunday newspaper's glossy, colorful middle.
As they pass coupons, Lenora Taurel, 34, tosses around lingo like coupon stacking, super doubles and stockpiling. She has only been couponing since April, but a peek at her last grocery receipt shows $800 in savings so far this year.
Half of her savings, she said, comes from stockpiling, a practice of buying weeks worth of items she regularly uses when they go on sale.
"Usually down South, the sales are repeated roughly every six weeks," said Taurel, who studies grocery store advertising patterns like the stock market.
Jones walks away with a few new tips, and a few more clipped coupons.
"It takes work," said Taurel. "It does. But why pay more for something than you have to?"