With Christmas just weeks away, the high streets are filled with festive shoppers buying gifts and on the lookout for a bargain.

One shopper who has had her gifts organised months in advance is savvy saver Emma Mumford.

Otherwise known as the ‘Coupon Queen’, 21-year-old Emma, of Alton Pancras, near Dorchester, left her job to become a full-time ‘extreme couponer’.

One year on, she now has a following of almost 80,000 people on Facebook and more than a million hits on her devoted couponing website.

After becoming ill from the stress of debts, Emma turned her life around when she saw a TV programme about the extreme couponing trend sweeping the US.

However, she never imagined how popular her money-saving hobby would become in the UK.

She said: “I thought it would just save me a few pounds here and there, I didn’t think I would have a business from it or have the support that I do.

“I never imagined that there would be so much interest in it, and that so many people would want to know about my life and how I coupon and save money.

“I used to work at a bank in Dorchester and unfortunately with my ex-partner finances were really tough, I took on a lot of his debt and it was a do-or-die situation. It was we eat or we don’t eat.

“That’s what really spurred me on. I saw the Extreme Couponing programme on TV and I thought ‘How are these Americans doing it?! Thousands of dollars worth of groceries for absolutely nothing’.

“I thought there must be something here in the UK that can help me so I just went online, found a few sites and started from there and then it just grew.”

In the past year, Emma estimates she has saved around £16,000, but believes there is a stigma surrounding bargain hunters. “I think a lot of people have this idea that it is too much hard work, they see it as quite cheap, there’s a bit of an aura around it.

“But I’m trying to change that because it can be glamorous. I’m not just couponing Tesco value things, I’m couponing holidays and a lot of luxuries.

“I try and show people that it is just a little bit of work in the beginning but eventually it will come to you.

“A year ago all I could see was debt, with no way out. Now my life is a lot more positive. I may still be living at home with my parents but my main priority was getting out of debt and now I can look to the future knowing that I can afford a mortgage, I can put money away now.”

An annual Christmas spending survey by the Money Advice Service revealed that around 1.2 million Brits were planning on using a pay day loan to pay for Christmas, and a further 16 million were relying on credit cards to cover their festive bills.

Emma said: “We have done a few questionnaires and a lot of people say they have taken out pay day loans, which I really wouldn’t advise because there is so much APR on top.

“One of the best things to do is just to be a bit forward thinking and save throughout the year.

“Christmas is expensive for everyone, no matter how little or how much you spend. Shops and the media have made it such a massive thing that everyone feels the pressure to get people loads of presents and make it extravagant.

“If you can get as much savings as possible it makes it a better Christmas for everyone.”

Emma’s tips for festive savings

1. Shop around: Don’t buy from the first shop you look in. If you have a smartphone take a look online at other stores and for online discount codes before buying anything.

2. Don’t be afraid to haggle: I used to be a nervous haggler until using a website’s online chat to ask if they had any discounts – which resulted in a £65 discount off a top-brand product!

3. Be a new customer: This is only applicable to online shopping but I have saved a lot of money with ‘New Customer’ discounts by using alternative email addresses.

4. Start early: August/September is the best time to begin Christmas shopping as this is when all the sales begin.

5. Sign up to freebies: I post ‘Freebies’ daily on my website and these are great for full size and travel size products which work well as stocking fillers and don’t cost anything! These can take up to 30 days to arrive so don’t leave it too late.

6. Leave the food until last: When it comes to food, leave it until the last minute. Vegetables will always have discounts. Plus, try signing up to review websites. I’ve signed up to a review panel for Tesco and we will be pretty much getting all our meat for free.

7. Save all year round: Saving a little bit of money throughout the year can really help at Christmas. Just £10 a month will give you £120 to spend.

8. Shop online: Online shopping is great for saving and all from your own home. Many shops offer loyalty boosts, such as Tesco Clubcard, discount codes and flash sales.

9. D.I.Y Christmas cards and wrap: This is the first year I have made my own and I got the bulk of my goods in the Hobbycraft September sale. It is great fun to do with kids and offers a fantastic personal touch. I have saved up to 50 per cent on cards and wrapping paper.

10. Christmas treats: Supermarkets have great offers on Christmas treats such as chocolates and drinks and many coupons can also be used in conjunction with these deals.

  • Visit excoupuk.com for Emma’s daily coupons, deals and tips