Many people use coupons these days, and on a grand scale, too, rolling out multiple grocery carts full of items for which they paid next to nothing, or even nothing!

Anyone who has watched the TLC hit show, "Extreme Couponing," marvels at these folks who make out like bandits, stuffing their cars full of free groceries.

While coupons have been around for decades, their usage has become even more popular of late.  No doubt the poor economy is driving this.  Being able to bring home a week's worth of groceries for a few dollars is a boon to cash-strapped Americans.  Shoppers saving hundreds of dollars at the grocery store can afford to gas up their automobiles, or a mother can stay at home with her children instead of going off to a job.  Indeed, many coupon clippers earn as much money from their efforts as they would at a part-time job.  Plus, the hours are more flexible,  they work from the comfort of their own homes, and there's no boss!

For coupon kings and queens, there is no greater thrill than checking out at the register without having to hand over any cash.  These folks collect coupons from every source they can find:  newspapers, online, magazines and retail stores.  They set up elaborate bookkeeping systems for their coupons, separating them into categories such as health and beauty items, cleaning products, food items, etc.  Careful attention must be paid to the expiration dates.

Coupon clippers know how to make the most of them, too.  They check the policies of each store they shop at to learn whether coupon stacking (using a store coupon with a manufacturer's coupon) is allowed, whether Register Rewards (also known as Catalinas) are available, whether coupons can be doubled and other regulations for using the coupons. 

Couponers often have mini-stores in their own homes, with shelves stocked with years' worth of breakfast cereal, canned goods, plastic wrap and peanut butter.  In extreme cases, some people are donating large quantities of groceries to local food banks or shipping care packages to our troops overseas.  What a noble service!

Can you save money by using coupons?  Sure, but that's not the real question.  What you need to ask is whether you want to bother with little bits of paper.  After all, it does take valuable time to clip coupons, store them in plastic sheet protectors inside three-ring binders, and create a detailed, strategic shopping campaign. 

Negative naysayers contend that they can save money by buying a generic brand or shopping at a discount store. 

Coupon advocates claim that by waiting for a sale, then applying a manufacturer's or store coupon, or better yet, both, they can pick up an item for less money or even for free. 

So is the time involved worth it? 

If you're willing to get started and stick with it, you can streamline the work involved with profiting from coupon clipping. 

It's important to collect lots of coupons so that you can watch for the best deals.  You must also keep up with your favorite store's sales flyer to determine which products are on sale.  Those items are the ones you will match up with the coupons. 

What's even more important is to plan ahead.  If you're the type of person who runs to the store to pick up something for dinner on the way home from work, you will need to change your ways if you want to profit with coupons.

No, you won't create a menu, then shop for the ingredients for the meals.  Just the opposite. 

You will stock up on sale items made cheaper with coupons and plan menus based on your stockpile.  Then shop your mini-store. 

Extreme couponing doesn't happen overnight.  It takes thought, planning and experience.  But anyone who wants to ease the burden on their budget can definitely learn to make coupons work for them. 

If you're overwhelmed with getting started in this venture, there are many online resources that provide extensive advice.  Most are free, but some offer paid services, such as e-mailing you shopping lists for your local stores.  Some of these sites are...


Coupon queens frequently offer live seminars and are celebrities of sorts.  Each one has a little different take on the system, imparting their own tips and techniques for using the system for the best result.

Bottom line? 

Whether you use them a little or a lot, coupons can save you money.  In this economy, a few dollars extra that stay in your pocket is a huge boost.