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Pitfalls of Extreme Couponing

Farnoosh Torabi

Coupons helped shoppers save $4.6 billion last year, but what are the hidden costs? While coupons can help us stick to a budget, if you’re not careful, it’s quite easy to get consumed.
Take, for example, that many coupons entice us to spend more than we probably planned. Last year, 27 percent of coupons required us to make multiple purchases in order to get the deal, according to NCH Marketing Services' 2012 coupon facts survey.
Discounts favor many unhealthy foods, as well. Some of the most common coupons are for sugary foods like cereal and fruit juices, as well as salty snacks.

And for those who try to mimic the coupon craze depicted on reality TV, things have been getting a little extreme. One Pennsylvania woman recently went so far as to break into a storage facility that contained newspaper circulars to steal its coupons.
Meantime, we can use some lessons from a coupon advocate who does it right. 

[Related: Why a Budget Could Actually Make You Spend More]
Melissa Kuczera is a busy mom of four who’s mastered the art of couponing by staying organized and redeeming coupons only when it makes sense. “I avoid coupons for the sugary cereals, the cookies, the candy, all the food options I wouldn’t normally feed my boys,” says Kuczera. “I try not to be too influenced by coupons themselves and, instead, just try to influence myself based on what’s good for my family.”
Kuczera collects and categorizes her clippings from the Sunday paper and online sites such as Fabulessly Frugal, which offers printable coupons from over a dozen sources.

[Related: Make Dinner From One Bag of Groceries]

She finds and organizes coupons during the week while her kids are at school, spending a total of one to two hours. On a recent shopping trip, she managed to save $140.
Her favorite grocery store welcome coupons, adds Kuczera, which isn’t always the case everywhere she shops. “It’s not the fanciest supermarket, but it is the most coupon-friendly.  There’s even one woman who works the cash register who’s a couponer and … if there’s something that I’m buying that I don't have a coupon for and she has it, she’ll give me the coupon.”
Saving time & money and making friends along the way! We want to hear from you. What are some of your couponing strategies? Connect with me on Twitter @Farnoosh and use the hashtag #finfit.  

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