Spruce Up for Summer, for Less

This is the time of year I get in the mood to freshen up my house or yard for spring. The nicer weather motivates me to brighten up a room with some paint, to buy new linens or dishes for entertaining, or to replace an outdated light fixture or piece of furniture.

Unfortunately, almost every decorating idea that comes to mind ends up costing more than I'd like to spend, so I do my best to find coupons and discounts for home purchases and improvements. I recently found several good sources of home coupons I was not aware of, so I'll share my finds with you.

Save on paint: If you are thinking about painting, it isn't hard to find coupons for paint stores. Check newspapers for discount store and paint store flyers advertising sales. You can print a coupon for 25 percent off paint at Sherwin Williams, for example, at a Web site called movebymouse.com.

You may also find generous coupons for local hardware and paint stores in the Entertainment book, which sells for half price this time of year. If you register an Entertainment book you purchased earlier in the year at Entertainment.com, you can print coupons for some home improvement retailers. I found a coupon for 25 percent off at my local paint store.

Save on large purchases: If you have moved recently or are planning on moving, you will probably be spending a lot on home improvements. Take advantage of special coupons available at www.homedepotmoving.com and www.lowesmoving.com good for 10 percent off any order. Sign up and you'll receive your coupon by mail. This could be very valuable if you plan to replace appliances or make large purchases. To save the most, consolidate your purchases into one order.

Check out outlet malls: If you are looking for home fixtures or furnishings, check an outlet mall for bargains and then combine your finds with available coupons to really save. Use a search engine to find the Web site for nearby local outlet malls. For example, I found many coupons for my closest outlet mall from Premiumoutlets.com. I printed coupons for Restoration Hardware (10 percent off coupon) and Westpoint Home for linens (15 percent off coupon). I also found a 20 percent off coupon at Waterford/Wedgewood for any nonsale lamp or chandelier.

In addition to the printable coupons on the outlet mall site, I printed a voucher for a free coupon book containing many more offers available at the center's management office. Without the voucher, I would have had to pay $5 for it. I also signed up for the in-store mailing list at my local Ballards Design outlet and received a $50 coupon off a $250 purchase. All Entertainment books also have a $50 coupon for any Ballards location.

Be smart about coupons: Retail stores like Linens-'n-Things and Bed Bath & Beyond issue frequent coupons in newspapers, e-mail newsletters and direct mail. These national store chains also accept one another's coupons and may even accept expired coupons. Check with your individual store to verify its specific policy. I like their coupons because I can use them on clearance merchandise as well.

For example, I bought a pretty set of six coffee cups and saucers in summer colors from the clearance shelf priced at $1 each. I used six "20 percent off one item" coupons collected over the past several weeks to reduce the price to 80 cents each. I ended up paying about $5 for the set, or what one of the cups would have cost if I had bought them at full price. If you plan to buy a new set of towels or linens with several pieces, you would be smart to start collecting your coupons every week and accumulate enough coupons to use one coupon per item in your order.

Craft and hobby stores: They can be a good source for decorative items such as baskets, silk flowers, pots, frames, prints and more. Look for weekly coupons in newspaper flyers for national stores like Michaels and Joann Fabric and Crafts, and print coupons from Web sites for stores like Hobby Lobby. Sign up for their e-mail newsletters to receive coupons by e-mail. These stores typically accept competitors' coupons, so be sure to ask your store to verify its coupon policy to help maximize your savings at the store closest to where you live.

Coupons online: You can even find coupons for gardening and yard improvements. My best source of these is the e-mail newsletter of the local garden center. I get 20 percent off coupons in each monthly newsletter and receive extra 20 percent off coupons on rainy days. You don't have to plant the flowers that day; simply buy them on the rainy day to save. Many online nurseries, another source for seeds and plants, offer coupon codes. Check Couponcabin.com to find coupon codes for Spring Hill Nurseries ($25 off a $50 order), Brecks ($25 off a $50 order), Gardens Alive ($20 off a $40 order) or Gurney's Seed and Nursery ($20 off a $40 order).

Make sure to bookmark the site wow-coupons.com and find its printable coupon section. Wow-coupons.com has the most comprehensive selection of printable coupons for retail stores and it updates its offers frequently. Other sites like Keycode.com and Couponcabin.com also have printable coupon sections for brick and mortar retailers. I never leave home to shop without checking one of these sites or the Entertainment book for a coupon. It's free money!

Stephanie Nelson shares her savings tips as a regular contributor on ABCNews.com. You can find more of her savings tips in her book "The Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom" and on her Web site at www.couponmom.com