Sept. 19, 2006 -- September is National Coupon Month. To celebrate, I'd like to share my favorite strategies and sources to help you become a coupon aficionado. Just a few minutes spent searching the Internet for free savings can yield a bundle of coupons, if you know where to look.
Grocery coupons: Representing a potential $318 billion in annual savings, Sunday newspaper circulars can be a great source of savings for most households. They can be tedious to use, so save time and money using the online "Virtual Coupon Organizer" for your state to find coupons you like easily.
Step 1: each week, find coupon circulars in the paper and write that day's date on the front.
Step 2: save the entire circular in a box or file.
Step 3: when you want to use a coupon, log onto the Virtual Coupon Organizer to find out the date the coupon you want came out.
Step 4: find the coupon in your files, clip it, and save. Find your state's Virtual Coupon Organizer at couponmom.com.
Clothing coupons: Visit the websites of your favorite clothing stores or ask salespeople if they issue coupons. Many clothing stores such as Coldwater Creek and Chico's have generous coupons in every catalog, such as $25 off $100 purchase. If you don't receive their catalogs, subscribe to their mailing lists online. Many stores like the Gap, Old Navy, and New York & Co. send coupon offers out via email newsletters. Department stores often have coupons in the newspaper that can be combined with clearance sales. Outlet mall stores have coupons you can print and coupon books available in the mall office. Check sites like premiumoutlets.com for details. Search for online coupon codes typing in "online coupon code" and the name of a store into a search engine.
Home Improvement coupons: At hardware stores, you can save anywhere from $5 to $1,000 with one coupon. Stores like Home Depot, Lowe's and Ace Hardware offer national coupons. Visit their websites and sign up for email newsletters to receive notices about sales, special promotions, free workshops that include special discounts, online coupon codes for online orders, and even printable coupons to use in stores. Check coupon mailers (such as the blue envelope from Valpak) for hardware store coupons. If you're contracting work, be sure to present the coupon after you are given the price estimate so that you can be sure your coupon savings are genuine
Local Business coupons: Many local businesses offer coupons you can print from local coupon websites. Use a search engine to find local websites that may have coupons for mom and pop restaurants, local movie theaters, home services, and more. For little known coupon sites, type "local coupons + the name of your city" in a search engine. National sites like Valpak.com and Hotcoupons.com have free local business coupons. Check your local newspaper, radio and television websites to find printable coupons in your area.
These are some of my favorite ways to find coupons; I would love to hear your tips too. Please send your ideas to the Contact Us page at couponmom.com. I will publish the winning ideas in a future column, and winners will receive a free copy of my book, "Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom."
Stephanie Nelson shares her savings tips as a regular contributor on ABC News' "Good Morning America."
You can find more of her savings tips in her book "The Greatest Secrets of the Coupon Mom" and on her Web site at couponmom.com.