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Couponing: Final tricks, tips and hints

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By Beth Braden

In the past three weeks, we’ve examined the ins and outs of saving money with coupons. I hope you’ve found the coupon crash course helpful and relevant. For our final week, we’ll go through my final list of tips and tricks.

* Coupons are a great way to try out a new product at a discount price, but this is also where you can run into trouble. Don’t buy things just because you have a coupon. If you wouldn’t normally use it, don’t buy it just because you can get a good deal. That won’t save any money.

* Always check coupon policies. Planning a grocery trip around coupon combinations that aren’t possible could really wreck your budget and lead to frustration for you and the cashier.

* It is my personal conviction that just because you have enough coupons to clear out a store’s stock of cereal or canned vegetables doesn’t mean you should. Sales are cyclical and you should only buy enough of an item to get you through to the next sale. Besides being courteous to the other shoppers, it saves you from having to find places to put 40 cans of green beans. Do you really want to store food in your linen closet?

* I mentioned printing coupons in a previous column, but there’s an advanced piece of advice that goes along with printing coupons. Typically, you can print coupons twice by hitting the back button on your browser. It may not always work, but when it does, it’s a sweet bonus.

* Many places online will sell you coupons for what they call a “clipping fee.” This is almost always a bad idea. The coupons could be counterfeit or otherwise altered and then unusable at the store. Why pay to save money when you can gather the coupons for free?

* Know what your coupons are for so that if the cashier has problems or questions, you can help explain. This will also help if a manager is needed to help complete a transaction.

* If you feel that a coupon was turned down unfairly, ask to speak with a manager. Being calm and friendly will get you so much farther when there are questions or problems.

* If you want to purchase an item at a sale price, but the store is sold out, ask for a rain check. This will allow you to purchase the item as the sale price with coupons at a later date. In some instances, a manager may even allow you to make a substitution.

* Check out some coupon bloggers. My favorites for our area are www.couponkatie.com and www.southernsavers.com. Both women have coupon match ups for stores each week, and you can subscribe to emails about good deals found around town and on the web.

* Start out small. Don’t expect to go into the store and save half off of your bill the first time out. Set little goals that you’ll save x amount of money, or use x amount of coupons. Once you’re comfortable with the process on a small scale, go for bigger and better shopping trips.

* Don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t pan out immediately. It can take several trips before you feel like you’ve got the hang of it.