Look at coupons as "free money"

Using Coupons to Save

by Lisa Leslie-Williams


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Coupons are a great resource for saving money. Think of coupons as "free money." Would you walk by a dollar on the ground without picking it up? So why would anyone pass up "free money" in the form of coupons? The great thing about this method of saving money is that it is very easy and requires no special skills to get started. Items required for coupon clipping are a pair of scissors and the desired coupons. Gather your tools and start clipping!

Generally, it is also a good idea to have some method of organizing coupons. You can purchase a coupon organizer (typically found at craft and department stores) or create your own method of organizing your "free money." Once you have clipped your desired coupons, place them in a coupon organizer or place them in labeled envelopes. Titles for your envelopes can include "Today's Coupons," "Beverages," "Snacks," "Health," "Beauty," "Frozen Foods," "Cleaning Supplies," "Cereal," "Entertainment," "Dining," "Dessert," "Pets," "Soups/Sauces," "Condiments" and "Dairy."

So where can you find these valuable items? They are all around you. If you like a particular brand or manufacturer, a visit to their website may also reveal coupons. Websites are great sources. Typically, you have to provide an email address or sign up for a newsletter in order to receive the coupon. Sometimes, manufacturers will even offer free samples.

Tip: Did you know you can use more than one coupon on the same item? Use a manufacturer's coupon in conjunction with a store coupon for even more savings.

Besides manufacturer websites, some of the biggest sources of coupons include SmartSource and Redplum. These companies provide coupon inserts that can be found in your local Sunday paper, making it well worth your purchase. However, if you don't usually buy the Sunday paper, don't fret! Some neighborhoods provide residents with free (well, you paid for it with your county tax) local county or city papers and some editions are full of coupons.

Companies deliver deals right to your mailbox. Examples of offers include deals on automotive care, household maintenance, local drug stores and pizza parlors. Look out for special sales and promotions as well! If you live nearby two or more different grocery stores or retailers, you may become the unexpected beneficiary of a "price war" in your neighborhood. Over the course of one month, my family saved $50 on our grocery bill as a result of a "price war." We were knowledgeable about the coupons because we had checked our "junk mail." So instead of tossing out those papers that gather at your front door and in your mailbox, sort through them. You may be throwing away your "free money."

Tip: Look out for merchants that double and sometimes even triple your coupons' value.

Yet another source of coupons is the Entertainment Book. There is a book for most major cities. Although I typically I do not believe in paying money to save money, this book is a great value. These books can start anywhere from $25 to $50 or more. Do not let the price be a deterrent. Often times, the Entertainment book website offers discounts off the regular price and may even offer free shipping. In addition, waiting to purchase this book three to four months into the year can be well worth it. The further into the year it is, the more discounted the book typically becomes. I encourage you to visit the book's website to get a preview of some of the discounts available in your area. Discounts include restaurants, movies, dry-cleaning, grocery stores and even amusement parks! I have found that the book often pays for itself after one or two uses. My primary piece of advice, however, is to never pay full price for the book.

Magazines are also a source of "coupon goodness." Who would have thought your magazine subscription would offer more than just relationship advice and celebrity gossip? If you order magazines or casually pick up one at your favorite store, count on saving money by clipping coupons, but don't buy magazines just for coupons. If you read them anyway, magazines are a great source of "free money."

I love a good bargain, so I never overlook store sale papers. I know that some shoppers may consider sale papers as mere distractions to the ultimate goal. But please trust me on this. You simply have to grab the sale paper at the entrance of the store. You might feel ridiculous if you later realize that you could have saved 10% on a recent shopping trip because there was a coupon or special in the store circular. Some department stores even offer shoppers gift cards for purchasing certain items or for using their pharmacy to fill a prescription. The only way to be aware of these specials is to read the store circular or sale paper.

When using your "free money," there are some important points to remember. Be sure to check the expiration dates on your coupons. One exception is the bedding and household apparel store, Bed, Bath and Beyond. It does not matter how old the store coupon is, this retailer will accept it.

You may use as many store coupons as you have items to purchase (one per item). As with any coupon, always be sure to look for restrictions and specifications. Most importantly, only clip coupons for items that you already use. Buying an item solely because you have a coupon will cost you more money in the long run.

Tip: For extra savings, match your coupons with store sales for rock bottom prices!


Lisa Leslie-Williams- The Domestic Life Stylist, is an expert at suburban living and family home management. With over 10 years of experience, Lisa brings a fun, energizing and savvy approach to life at home.

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