A good place to start is your (snail) mailbox. Remember all that junk mail you regularly throw out? You might as well throw away your hard-earned money. Next time, at least leaf through the coupons to see whether you can snag some great deals on products you already purchased. Don't be dismayed if you don't immediately find them - they'll likely be hidden among the "must-have" ads for patio sun canopies and air fresheners.
Pay Attention to “Real” Savings
Which brings me to an important point: Don't fall victim to buying something just because a great coupon exists. Before you buy, consider whether you really need the discounted item. My husband used to jokingly ask me, "How much did you save us today?" I was shopping the sales and using coupons for my purchases and assumed I was saving money. However, my haul was rarely an accurate depiction of what we needed. I'd walk into a store meaning to spend about $25 on home essentials, but would leave with a bill almost double that. I fooled myself into thinking I'd saved so much money. Don't fall into this trap. Before you buy something with a coupon, ask yourself a few questions. Would you normally purchase it? Is it a staple that's sure to get used? If not, think long and hard about whether it has a place in your house – or your budget.
Once you are comfortable using paper coupons, I strongly urge you to explore the wonderful world of online couponing. The day I discovered it existed was the day life got easier and my dollar stretched further. My husband stopped teasing me when he saw my emails touting real savings on products we actually needed. Even with the declining price of gas these days, I'm hesitant to go to the store for much outside of buying groceries (and even that is one of my least favorite tasks, ranking right up there with pumping gas and going to the dry cleaners).
I do most of my shopping online, and reap huge savings. I'll shop at my favorite store, free of the enticing brick-and-mortar displays, and add only the essential items to my online cart. Plus, price comparing is easier online than in stores. Once my shopping is complete and before I enter my payment information, I'll go to a couponing website to see what I can save. Most of the time snagging free shipping is standard, but sometimes I can score site-wide coupons for 20 percent off (or even more). It's really that easy and all goes back to the question: Why spend more?
Beware the Cost of Bulk Buying
But another word of advice – beware of buying in bulk just for the sake of "increasing your savings." In other words, don't be misled by those extreme couponing shows on television. It isn't about multiplying your coupons to see how much you can save off the retail price or spending the hours to see how much you can get for "free." After all, time is money. Odds are you will end up paying a lot up front to stock up on, say, paper towels. Yes, you'll use them, but paying that much at once isn't likely to be kind to your monthly budget. Buy what you need and save while doing it. It's really that simple.
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Odds are you've started the year with a list full of New Year's resolutions that might include weight loss, travel plans, getting a new or better job or volunteering more. Regardless of what they are, if saving money isn't one of them, then add it to your list now. Unlike some of the other popular resolutions, saving money is one that's hard to disagree with and easy to stick to. After all, why choose to pay more if you don't have to? To set yourself on the right financial foot, I'll focus on one essential piece of a successful budget: couponing. It's free, easy and yields savings almost instantly. In other words, to make saving money work in the New Year, your best tool is coupons. And never underestimate the value of good old common sense.