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How to use coupons to save you thousands of dollars

A few months ago, I wrote about how I hate clipping coupons — in fact, it’s one of the top things I said I won’t do in the name of frugality. But lately I’ve been rethinking my position.

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A few months ago, I wrote about how I hate clipping coupons in fact, it’s one of the top things I said I won’t do in the name of frugality. But lately I’ve been rethinking my position especially because my mother-in-law, a die-hard coupon clipper, has been bringing me these amazing coupons for discounts on diapers for the kids (they are so expensive and we go through so many of them!).

Because it’s not something I am very good at, I turned to Cassie Howard for help and tips on how to find my inner coupon clipper (and save big $$). She’s owner of Mrs. January, a Canadian deals blog that posts coupons, freebies, and frugal living articles. I asked her for advice on how to get started, and some tips for my readers who are already big coupon clippers.

Q: I hate clipping coupons. Plus, even if I have coupons at home I can never find them when I need them (let alone remember to bring them to the store!). What advice can you give me to get organized? 

A; I really don’t like clipping coupons either. I hate it, actually. However, I know that clipping coupons saves my family thousands of dollars every year and that, to me, is worth the annoyance of clipping. The best way to organize your coupons depends on how much you want to use them. If you want to go extreme, I strongly recommend the binder method. Keep it in your vehicle so that you never forget it when you go out. If you’d rather scale back a bit, I suggest a simple accordian file. These can be found for a buck or two at the dollar store and can often fit in a regular-size purse or handbag.

Q: Where should look for coupons? Do I have to fill my house with paper fliers or is there an easier way? 

A: There are so many venues to find coupons. Try tearpads in stores, coupon inserts in the newspaper (every three to four weeks), emailing the company directly and asking for coupons, printable coupons (see my list here), online coupon companies (see them all here) you can even find coupons in magazines sometimes. Personally, I find the most coupons on tearpads in stores. I try to hit up a few stores once or twice a month for the sole purpose of looking for coupons. I do best at Metro, Rexall, and Shoppers Drug Mart, but coupons are in other stores as well.

Q: How much can I save? Have you ever tracked your savings monthly, or even yearly? 

A: How much you can save varies and will be different for everyone. It all depends on how much effort you put into couponing. So far, in 2011 I have saved $3243.07 in coupons and $933.82 in mail-in rebates. 

Q: What’s the biggest coupon buy you’ve ever bagged?

A: One of the best hauls I’ve ever had was buying 108 bottles of Green Works dishwashing liquid for less than $3.00. They were on sale for $1.50 and I had a bunch of coupons for $5.00 off any 3. That means, I MADE $0.50 for every 3 bottles that I purchased. This overage went towards the tax. That’s a savings of over $300!

Q: What do you think of coupon sites like Groupon? I sometimes think these sites can lure people into buying stuff they don’t need on impulse.   

A: I love sites like Groupon and Wag Jag. I think they are great! Of course, you have to be careful about impulse buys. I only allow myself to buy something if I have enough money in our budget to cover it and it is something we need or have wanted to buy for awhile. For example, the other day I bought a spa package for my mom’s birthday. I’ve always wanted to treat her to a spa day, but could never afford it. Thanks to Groupon, I saved 50 percent and my mom is going to have a great birthday.   

Q: Some of my readers are pretty hardcore coupon clippers any advice for them if they want to take it to the next level? 

A: Keep on saving! Remember to pick up anything you can that is free, even if you don’t want/need the item. There are many food banks and shelters that would love those items. I recently picked up over 30 bottles of barbecue sauce that we could never finish by the expiration date, and am donating all of them. Instead of those coupons going in the trash, I used them to help those less fortunate. It’s a great way to pay it forward!

How much effort do you put into couponing? How much do you think you save every month? Please share your thoughts here.