When her husband suffered a large pay cut in 2009, Kati Keifer knew she had to do everything she could to save money.
She picked up a part-time job at her church, while James Keifer started delivering pizzas.
In the end, it was her coupon-clipping skills that helped the family put food on the table — cutting their monthly grocery bill from $600 to $200.
Now, scouring for paper discounts is second nature to Keifer. But for the former accountant, couponing is about more than dollars saved. It's a higher calling.
A devout Christian, the 34-year-old mother of four started the faith-based truecouponing.com in 2010 to share her secrets with friends.
"I felt like the Lord was specifically directing me to tell people about those financial principles," she said. "It's not because I came up with this plan. It's because God put math in my veins."
And area churches are taking notice. Over the past year, True Couponing has grown from tips to a constant network of workshops around Tampa Bay. She has traveled from her Brandon home to churches in Lutz, Pasco, Tampa and Sarasota. She was scheduled to talk Saturday with members of the Center for Manifestation in east Tampa.
Octoriya Robinson, the outreach director at Brandon's Shiloh Restoration Tabernacle, says she scheduled a True Couponing workshop because she believes "God wants to bless his people."
"He'll use discounts and different things," she said. "The better educated we are to make better-educated decisions on our finances — I think it's a means of God's blessing people."
At the Center for Manifestation, deacon Danny Vickers spoke of the couponing workshop in similar terms.
"We're inviting anyone that wants to be delivered from ignorance," he said Thursday, before the Saturday workshop. "We're learning that people are weak in a lot of areas."
Keifer also teaches people to give of the abundance they reap from coupons to others in need. True Couponing donates to several local charities, and she encourages couponers to do the same or increase tithes to their churches with the money they save.
Her motto is "Savings for yourself, blessings for others," she said, referencing Luke 6:38: Give and it will be given to you.
True Couponing's workshops aren't limited to churches — Keifer has held sessions at libraries and community centers — but at every stop, she lets participants know that "Jesus is your free coupon to heaven."
"The whole reason for that is because I just feel that God allowed me to learn (couponing)," she said. "I felt like the Lord wouldn't want me to hide it."
Keifer's workshops are free. She couldn't afford $5 for a couponing workshop when her husband took the pay cut in 2009, so she doesn't feel right charging others.
Armed with a PowerPoint and a stack of newspapers, she tells people how to maximize their coupon savings and how to change the way they think about grocery shopping (buying items when they're on sale rather than when you need them is a big step).
She has also worked with the corporate departments of chains including Publix and Winn-Dixie to draw up a set of guidelines on couponing.
"The cashiers get a little finicky. You can tell they're kind of like, 'Oh, no, not coupons!' " she said, laughing. "So I've worked with the corporate offices to formulate a list on how to hand coupons to your cashier."
These days, Keifer is looking to expand her workshops to St. Augustine, Jacksonville, Naples and Fort Myers. She has already held sessions in Orlando and Sarasota and is beginning to offer Spanish-language workshops.
"It affects everyone," she said. "If you're well-to-do you can save a little more and get some more toys, and if you're really in a hard spot, it will help bring food to your table."
Aubrey Whelan can be reached at (813) 226-3446 or firstname.lastname@example.org.