As a requirement for high school graduation, seniors have to complete a project in whatever subject they please and later present what their goals were, what they learned and how they plan to use what they learned in the future.

After considering many ideas, I decided on extreme couponing.

I was first intrigued by the idea from watching the show “Extreme Couponing” on TLC. My mother and I enjoyed watching episodes, wondering how it was possible for someone to buy so much stuff for so little money. The episode that got me hooked featured a woman buying groceries worth $8,000 and only paying $80!

I then took up some personal tips from aunts of mine who were mediocre extreme couponers. They have bought so much that they have had to build extra space for all their products. Luckily, they did not have to spend more money than they saved.

Once my senior year of school began last fall, and I knew my project would have to be completed by February, I created a plan of what my goals would be and how I would complete them. My first concern, however, was how I was going to get coupons.

Since all the money I was spending on couponing would be tallied, I tried to find the best solution for spending the least amount of money. I used coupons that are included in the Yakima Herald-Republic’s Sunday newspaper.

My next step was to match my coupons. I collected sets of about four of the same coupons. I then would cut them out and organize by date and category, which I would then put into my handy-dandy coupon binder. For any extreme couponer, their coupon binder is essential to keep organized and be able to plan shopping trips.

My first goal was to learn some major rules of couponing for five major stores. I decided to only learn and shop from Wal-Mart, Dollar Tree, Target, Walgreens and Rite Aid. I learned the easiest stores to work with are Wal-Mart and Target, given that they accept Catalina coupons — the kind shoppers typically receive at cash registers after making a purchase. Both Wal-Mart and Target do price matching, too. On the other hand, there were some occasions at Dollar Tree where products could be purchased practically for free, minus the tax.

I also learned the rules that apply to extreme couponing in the state of Washington. Unlike some states where taxes do not have to be paid, making it possible to purchase a product for free, Washington residents must pay sales tax.

My second goal was to plan a shopping trip and buy products worth $300 and only spend $150. Although I made more than just one shopping trip, I improved on my goal: I bought products worth $450 and only spent $130. The products I purchased ranged from laundry detergent, hair care, personal hygiene and dental hygiene to food products.

My intention throughout my shopping experiences was to donate everything to my church’s local food bank at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Sunnyside, so I made sure all products would be accepted.

My third goal was to present classes at St. Joseph’s food bank teaching people everything I knew about extreme couponing. Since I don’t know all there is to couponing, I gave them the basics to get them started.

In January, I presented three classes to different audiences. Although I did not have as many attendees as I would have liked, I was lucky enough to get about 10 or more people at each class.

Though there are still many things that can be learned, I am glad to say I will be able to take this skill with me to college this year and definitely break the standard of becoming a “broke college kid.”

• Abby Ramos, who graduated from Sunnyside High School in June, completed her participation last month in the Yakima Herald-Republic’s Unleashed journalism program for high school students. She will start her freshman year at Western Washington University later this month.