Be coupon savvy without being extreme

By Lisa White

Today, everyone is looking to save a buck. With the growing popularity of shows, blogs and websites devoted to coupons, it's no wonder this paper 'money' has been in the spotlight recently.

But if you don't want to go Dumpster diving, soliciting neighbors or spending hours online searching for coupons, is it really worth taking time out of your day to save some cash?

As a dedicated coupon clipper, I believe it is. You don't have to take couponing to the extreme to get a good return on your time investment.

Even taking into account the price of a Sunday paper, where you typically find between one and three coupon flyers, I've saved anywhere from $5 to $20 a week clipping coupons. I've found it's worth spending 30 minutes on a Sunday searching flyers for products I already use and organizing my clippings by category.

Yes, there are those die-hard savers and zealots on television that will go to great lengths and spend inordinate amounts of time acquiring coupons. These coupon kings and queens think nothing of spending six hours or more organizing the hundreds or thousands of coupons they obtain and then taking many more hours to find sales that correspond with coupons each week. These people will even take multiple trips to the same store, or many stores, to stockpile items they purchased for practically nothing or received free due to multiple discounts.

If that is your goal, then stop right here.

For those that don't have an extra room dedicated to storage shelves that can stockpile months' worth of groceries, keep reading.

If you're looking for easy methods to save a few bucks each week on items you already buy, here are a few tips to get you on the coupon train and keep you on board.

  1. Subscribe to your local Sunday newspaper. This is the easiest way to obtain coupon flyers. Although you will be paying for the paper, this cost will be more than offset by the bevy of coupons you'll find inside each week.
  2. If you're willing to spend some extra time each week milling around the Web for savings, be sure to check out free couponing sites. Coupon.com, couponcabin.com and couponmom.com are a few of the many websites that provide coupons at no cost. Be aware that many of the sites may offer identical deals.
  3. Get an organizer specifically designed for coupons. Make sure it is easily transportable and segregates your clippings by food category for added convenience. This will help you quickly locate what you need, when you need it.
  4. Be diligent about weekly clippings. It's preferable to cut coupons right before a shopping trip. By doing this, the available coupons will be top of mind when you're browsing the store aisles.
  5. Regularly purge expired coupons. While some stores may accept expired coupons, most have stopped this practice. Rather than getting stuck with an item you thought would be discounted at checkout, discard expired coupons before your shopping trip.
  6. Don't forget your coupons. This may seem obvious, but it's easy to forget these money savers when you're in a hurry to get the shopping done. I place mine with the cloth grocery bags I am more apt to remember to tote along.

Saving money with coupons doesn't have to take hours or multiple trips to the store. By spending just a few minutes once a week, your savings can add up quickly. Even in a good economy, it's time well spent.