It's Monday. Have you clipped your coupons yet?
Thanks to TLC's show Extreme Couponing, the coupon phenomenon has gained traction with moms looking to decrease their food and personal care budgets.
The show follows shoppers' strategies to cut their total food bill from hundreds of dollars to almost nothing—in some cases ending up with a store credit—through the use of coupons, customer loyalty prices and advertised sales.
You have to tune in to the show to find out all of their tricks—they spend hours clipping and organizing each week—but here are some of my best strategies.
The first step is browsing. If you don't subscribe to the Saturday edition of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, I highly suggest you do. The coupons found inside might save you four times the cost of the weekly edition.
Check the advertised sales at your favorite stores, paying close attention to the personal care items, paper products and pet supplies. Keep a notepad handy to keep a list of the good deals at each of the major stores you will visit that week.
Next, flip through the coupon pages and clip coupons of products you use. Be careful not to try too many new products, as impulse shopping can be a downfall of a good coupon.
One ad that is easily missed is the ad. Don't be too quick overlook that one. There are two types of coupons: a manufacturer coupon, those that come in the coupon section of the paper, and the store coupon those that come either in the store ad or through the mail that are specific to a store.
The next step takes a little time, but it's the biggest factor in getting the most bang for your buck. Go back through the lists you made of sales from each retailer and match up coupons that you've clipped to boost your savings even further.
This is where the type of coupon is important. Most stores (including Walgreens and ) will accept both a manufacturers coupon and a store-issued coupon for the same product. This is where you will find the biggest savings.
The grocery store ads typically come in the mail on Monday or Tuesday. Watch for 10 for $10 items and the ever popular $10 off day at . Also, the Entertainment Book (sold by school groups or online at entertainment.com) has six $5 coupons for a $50 purchase at Shop 'n Save. This alone covers the cost of the book.
When it comes to groceries, don't overlook the store-brand items. Most likely, they are cheaper than a name-brand item that you have a coupon for.
The last category for my couponing is for dining out and recreation. You'll find great buy one, get one free deals in the entertainment book, which is an added bonus since you've already gotten your money back by using the grocery store coupons.
Also, websites such as Groupon, livingsocial.com and urbandelight.com have tremendous deals on dining out, professional services and recreation opportunities by purchasing gift certificates between 40 and 60 percent off the retail value.
In the past few months, we've eaten out four or five times for half the cost because we had a gift certificate purchased online. Restaurant and have both been featured on Groupon in the past two months.
My biggest advice for couponing is organization. Make sure to get a good folder, coupon organizer or binder to keep your coupons organized. Pay close attention to expiration dates and any fine print.
If you have a chance, tune into Extreme Couponing on TLC. The people featured are definitely extreme, but you can pick up on some great tips for the novice couponer.