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Super shoppers find ways to save big in the Crossroads

By ALLISON MILES
Dec. 29, 2010 at 6:29 a.m.
Updated Dec. 30, 2010 at 6:30 a.m.

Top: Dedicated shoppers stood in line for hours at Target, mostly staying warm and dry under their blankets and umbrellas waiting for the 4 a.m. opening. Customers willing to endure the long wait on Black Friday were able to get a head start on Christmas shopping.

TIPS FROM PROSWhen it comes to coupons: Start out small. Clipping coupons can become overwhelming if you try to do too much at once. Pick one store and follow its ads. When you get used to that, then start with another store.

- Sandy Mageluzzo, coupon clipper and consignment shop owner

When it comes to shopping for used items: Don't rule it out. You can often find good-as-new items for a fraction of the price. And, oftentimes, you'll find items you wouldn't see in average retail stores.

- Charlotte Tomlinson, owner of South Texas Liquidators

When it comes to Black Friday shopping: Go early and go prepared. You'll want something to snack on and having a tent and umbrellas also helps when you run into inclement weather.

- Marissa Villarreal, Channelview shopper

Sandy Mageluzzo hasn't paid for laundry detergent in a year. Probably longer than that.

But don't worry. It's all on the up and up.

Mageluzzo is one in a rare breed of super shoppers, those people who scope out the best sales to save their family some green.

The Port Lavaca resident's saving method of choice? Coupons.

Her paper-clipping ways began when her husband was laid off from his job in 2005.

"At that time, all his unemployment was just barely meeting our utilities," she said. "I thought, 'I've just got to do something to put food on the table for my family.'"

She took to the Internet, where she found advice on couponing and other deals. She eventually developed a system where she clips out bargains and combines them with in-store discounts to get the best-possible savings.

"There was a buy-one, get-one sale for Purex laundry soap and Walgreens was running a buy-one, get-one in store on the same product," she explained. I took their sale with my coupon and got two free bottles for every coupon I had. I ended up with eight free bottles."

It takes a bit of research, Mageluzzo admitted.

Some stores allow shoppers to combine manufacturers' coupons with in-store coupons, for instance, while others don't. Some places even double or triple coupons from time to time.

"I watch the sales at Kroger in Rosenberg," she said. "If the deals are good enough, I'll make the drive. I've even convinced my husband that, even when you add the gas costs in there, it's worth it."

The savvy shopper, who once taught a coupon class, said she plans to continue her coupon-clipping ways.

Today, she is an administrator for HotCouponWorld.com, a site that passes on information regarding the best available deals and allows members to swap coupons. She also tries to pass on her skills to her children.

"Even if you're saving 20 cents here or 30 cents there, it adds up," she said. "It really does make a difference."

Coupons aren't the only way for shoppers to save.

Charlotte Tomlinson owns South Texas Liquidators, a Victoria store that sells everything from accessories to furniture and home decor. Most of the store's offerings are gently used.

Tomlinson said the store sees its share of bargain-hunters, many of whom are looking for collectibles or out-of-the-ordinary gifts.

"People don't always think to come to stores like ours," she said. "But it is cheaper. We're an everyday garage sale."

For Marissa Villarreal, the "super shopper" gene is in her blood.

The 17-year-old Channelview resident spends the day after Thanksgiving each year storming Victoria stores for Black Friday deals. She learned it from her mother, Esmeralda Villarreal.

"That's where we get the big stuff like computers or gaming systems," she said. "We shop in Victoria because we're there for Thanksgiving, but also the stores aren't as busy as in Houston. A lot of the people are nicer, too."

It all begins a few days before Turkey Day, she said, explaining that she and her family start pulling together ads.

A certain amount of homework goes into the shopping technique, she said, explaining they want to know where the best deals are and when the stores open.

For 2010, her most sought-after item was a laptop computer because she will soon enter college. She wanted a good deal on a good brand, she explained, and found that deal at Best Buy.

"We got in line at 7 a.m. the day before," she said, adding she went prepared with a tent and snacks to weather the night. "It wasn't that bad, but it got windy. The tent provided some warmth."

The price-savvy family doesn't limit the sprees to Black Friday, however. Marissa said they head out to stores any time they find a good deal, especially for after-holiday sales.

"My little sister's birthday is a week after Christmas, so that helps," she said. "We also get things for next year."

Marissa said she plans to continue searching for deals well into the future, but admitted there are others out there even more price-savvy than herself on Black Friday.

"Walmart," she said. "That's where the real extremists shop. They can get crazy."

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