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Do you save time or money? Coupons 101

Published August 18. 2010 05:00PM

Coupons can be a great way to save money or a waste of time depending on your shopping habits. Do you use coupons effectively?

At the Frugal Foodie house, we have a Sunday tradition. I like to sit at the kitchen table with sale fliers and the Sunday coupons. After going through the fliers and circling items that look promising, I turn to the coupons. I cut out any coupons that match the week's sales, or that offer a discount on items that we use frequently in our house.

While I have continued this method for the past three years, we have slowly cut back on our coupon use. As a result, our weekly grocery bill has fallen. Surprise!

Would you benefit from clipping coupons? Or is it time for your household to stop chasing sales and discounts?

Use coupons if you have self-control and know how to spot a bargain.

Coupons can be a great tool in your money-saving toolbox. When you use coupons to buy an item that you would normally purchase, you can save a lot of money! If you're able to pair a coupon with a sale, your savings will be even greater.

As odd as it sounds, it does take self control to use coupons effectively. It's easy to think of coupons as "free money." But many coupons are good for only the newest and most expensive products. Would you by this item if you weren't saving $1 with a coupon? If the answer is "no," think twice before you buy.

Of course, there are times when a coupon or sale can bring the price of an item well below its normal cost and it might make sense to buy an item that you wouldn't normally purchase. I bought a set of five-blade razors last week for 99 cents. These razors normally cost $10, but they were on sale for $5.99 with a $5 coupon. Would I have splurged for the ultra-fancy razor at a normal price? No but it was a great bargain, and much less expensive than my preferred brand.

Skip coupons if you can't resist a "great deal" or can find better prices on generic products.

As I mentioned before, it does take self-control to use coupons effectively. My biggest downfall was using coupons as an excuse to buy things. If my favorite shampoo was issuing coupons, I would buy a few bottles. It was a great price because I often paired coupons with a sale, and I rarely paid more than $1.50 for a $4 bottle of shampoo.

After taking advantage of one too many sales, I realized that I was getting caught up in the "great deal" and buying things that I didn't need. I now have enough shampoo to last at least a year or two talk about a waste of money and storage space. I've stopped clipping coupons for products that I tend to overbuy. When I open our last bottle of shampoo, body wash or laundry detergent, I'll start looking for coupons and sales again.

Finally, don't forget to compare prices before you buy. The hottest, newest products may go on sale and have coupons but that doesn't mean that they will cost less than a similar generic. Do your homework before you buy!

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