Ask Jean Thursday: Crazy for Coupons - Jean Chatzky - Making money make sense
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Ask Jean Thursday: Crazy for Coupons

clipping coupons“I’m constantly looking for ways to reduce my bills. I always read about how consumers save hundreds each year by using coupons. I clip the ones I find in my Sunday paper, but I’m not saving nearly as much as I know I could be. Where else can I find coupons? How much can I expect to save?”

-Janet, New York

Coupons, it seems, are everywhere these days. One look at today’s New York Times piece about the “Clip and Save Renaissance,” and you’ll see that in the past year using coupons has become, dare I say it, the cool thing to do.

According to the Promotions Marketing Association, consumers are saving $3 billion per year by using coupons. But how can you get your slice of the pie? You’re on the right track clipping the coupons you find in your Sunday paper (that’s where 90% of coupons are found, according to the PMA). But, according to Charlie Brown, co-chair of the PMA Coupon Council, there are lots of other places you could be looking. “One of the largest sources of coupons is in the store itself. About 5% of coupons are distributed there. Some stores have them where they’ll print it with the deli meat or cheese. You’ll see them on the package themselves,” says Brown. Surprisingly, Brown says that only 30% of these in-store coupons are ever cashed in.

Scouring the web for coupons can also net you some great deals. “The Internet is a huge growing source. There are very legitimate sites that are set up only for distribution of coupons,” says Brown. Sites such as RedPlum.com, Coupons.com, and CouponShack.com all offer coupons on everything from groceries to apparel. One of my favorite tricks to get discounts or coupons when shopping online is Googling the item I want to purchase along with the words “promotion code,” or “discount.” If you don’t have a specific product in mind and are just looking for the discounts in general, PromotionCode.org is a great place to start.

If you want to get the most out of coupons you’re going to have to put in a little bit of legwork. “Our studies show that if you spend less than 10 minutes a week, you can save about 7% on your grocery bill. Those that invest 20 minutes a week can save up to 20%,” says Brown. Say you spend about $80 a week in groceries. By spending twenty minutes a week couponing you could save $16 a week. That’s $64 a month. Even better, it’s $768 a year.

Once you’ve got the coupons, don’t forget to implement a little bit of strategy. “I recommend organizing your coupons according to the way that you shop the store. Within that segment put the ones that expire first at the beginning of the group,” suggests Brown.

Lastly, coupon stacking is also a great tactic. When you stack your coupons, you’re using more than one coupon on an item to multiply your savings. The rules on this will vary by store, but I’ve found that most retailers will allow you to do so

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