A couple of weekends ago, I was playing host to what I like to call “Auntie Jo Camp” for my nearly three year-old niece, Mackenzie. We spent the weekend watching Frozen, playing on her swing set, making frequent trips to the park and eating peanut butter sandwiches.

All of the activity had tuckered us both out, and as I watched her drift off to dreamland one night, I went channel surfing for a program that would provide the background noise I need to fall asleep.

I landed on TLC in what seemed to be a marathon of Extreme Couponing and thought it would provide me with a peaceful (I don’t watch scary things before bedtime) melody that would put me on the course to my much-needed REM cycle.

I was totally wrong.

As the people who were avid coupon clippers, also known as “couponers”, shared their stories about how couponing changed the lives of their families and themselves, I found myself using the corner of the sheet to dab tears away from my eyes. Many of the couponers shared stories about their lives before couponing in which their families were going to bed hungry or they were on the brink of foreclosure.

After making it through a financially difficult period of their lives, many of the couponers now use their couponing talents to help others by stocking local food shelves with groceries and household items as well as teaching others tips and tricks so they can do the same.

I was inspired.

After “Auntie Jo Camp” ended due to the arrival home of Mackenzie’s parents, I turned my attention to the Sunday newspaper waiting at home for me and made sure to clip every coupon out of the inserts. I organized the coupons by category and started scanning the ads to find advantageous coupon opportunities. When I found items for which I had both a manufacturer and store coupon that were on sale, I added it to my list.

As an entry-level couponer, I went on my first haul.

My savings averaged out to only be about 65%, but it was a start. I had picked up items my family members use such as body wash, hand soap, toilet paper, laundry detergent, toothbrushes, etc…because we’re all on budgets and this was a great way to help them stretch theirs.

I am also using the coupons to help people I don’t know by leaving coupons with items for which they would provide a discount; it’s an easy way for me to Plus It Forward.

I will get better at couponing, and as I do, my intention is to help more people save money on items they buy, and hopefully, I can have a lot of items to donate when Affinity Plus partners with Second Harvest in December to collect food and household items.

I like to think of it as Plussing It Forward one coupon at a time.

If you have a Plus It Forward story you’d like to share, visit the Plus It Forward website at www.plusitforward.org; or if you want to sum your story up in 140 characters or less, take to Twitter and use the hashtag #PlusItForward.