How to Use Coupons Effectively

We’re not talking the level of couponing witnessed, on reality T.V., but keeping watch on the local papers and a few key sites can save you money.

Photo by Sang An

A version of this article originally appeared on 

Let’s face it: No one wants to spend hours clipping coupons just to save a couple of bucks. But if it’s done right, couponing shouldn’t take more than an hour a week of your time—and it could save you hundreds, even thousands, of dollars a year. At least that’s what couponing looks like for Andrea Deckard, author of She saved $6,500 in her first year of couponing—and she’s willing to share her secrets with you.

What’s the Best Way to Start?

Deckard points out that printable coupon sites, like CouponNetwork, are particularly convenient for grocery coupons, along with newspapers. “I encourage people to subscribe to the newspaper,” she says, “because if you purchase one in-store, you may not receive the same coupons, and a weekly subscription tends to be cheaper than subscribing to just the Sunday edition.” For online shopping, she likes, which constantly updates coupon offers for hundreds of retailers.

Andrea also advises looking at your spending over the past three months. Set a small goal to reduce your expenses by 10 to 20 percent in three months, and aim to spend no more than one hour searching for coupons each week. “In the beginning, it could take a little longer to scope out where the good deals are for your favorite stores,” she says, “but setting a goal for one hour, once you figure that out, is realistic.”

After three months, challenge yourself to spend 10 percent less, and continue to set small challenges for yourself in this way until you reach your desired savings. According to Deckard, focused efforts could realistically save 50 to 75 percent on your grocery bill. “Whatever you do, don’t compare yourself to others,” she adds. “Your family’s situation is unique, and your goals will likely be different. Make only small changes that you can stick with for the long haul.”