Everyone is looking for creative ways to save money. This preference for thriftiness has led to a trend of extreme couponing. It seems everywhere you look these days – on TV, in magazines and in books – people are giving detailed advice on how to save money and get free goodies with coupons. The only problem with these “extreme couponers” is that they spend as much time hunting discounts as you spend at your full-time job. They also tend to hoard items and use the entire house to story what they bought in bulk.

If you want to save money on coupons while leaving the “extreme queens” behind, follow these steps.

Aim for 2-4 Hours a Week

Limit your couponing to 2-4 hours a week. If you devote a minimum of 2 hours a week to meal planning, coupon cutting and research, you can save anywhere from 40% to 70% of your bill. That adds up to thousands of dollars of savings each year.

Organize

To make your process efficient, make sure you:

  • Keep your coupons in an index or binder
  • Meal plan
  • Keep a list of sales and matching coupons in order to maximize the discount
  • Use the internet

The Basics

Subscribe to your Sunday newspaper for the ads, eliminating your need to search out the paper each week. Although there are hundreds of sites for couponing, keep your time in check by visiting the heavy hitters only: coupon.com, couponcabin.com and couponmom.com. These sites are completely free. Don’t get obsessed by the many other sites that exist, since many/most offer identical coupons.

Don’t sign up for sites that require you to pay.

Always visit brand websites for products you regularly buy. They sometimes have coupons direct from the manufacturer. Since product accounts regularly communicate on social media, feel free to interact with them and request a coupon. Many will mail you a big stack of great discounts.

Only cut the coupons on the day you intend to use them. This makes it easier to remember which coupons you are using, which again ensures that you don’t waste time.

Purge your expired coupons regularly, including getting rid of those you probably will never use.

Make sure you have a portable binder or coupon box to make access to your coupons a snap.

Price Match

Price matching is one of the best tools you have for saving money. Most retailers, including Wal-Mart, Target, Staples and Walgreens – now price match. Be familiar with their rules:

• Print out the store’s guidelines and bring them with you
• Print out the competitor’s ad to make sure it’s easy for the store to verify price
• Make sure the competitor’s price is recent, usually 7 days old or less
• Research the prices online to find the best rates.

Price matching will help you make the most of the discount structure, particularly for the big ticket items that are often cheaper on Amazon.com. Local retailers don’t want to lose your business, so always visit the store before ordering online.

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