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Couponing: Waste of time or Smart Side Hustle? |

Gas prices are through the roof. Prices for food and toiletries have skyrocketed. Many hard-working people are struggling and looking for part-time jobs and side hustles to make ends meet. But there’s a proven method that savvy shoppers have been using for decades to get their money’s worth a little more.

Coupons can be a smart way to put some extra cash into your budget.

Slicing and using coupons has been around for decades. Newspapers, magazines, and other print publications once included coupons that consumers could “clip” and use at the grocery store or other stores. The original coupon was issued in 1887 as a marketing ploy. Coca Cola patent owner Asa Candler sent out thousands of coupons for a free sample of the new soft drink and a headache remedy.

Avid couponer Amy D. started selling coupons in the 80s. “My dad let me use coupons when we went to the grocery store and added the savings to my allowance. I quickly realized that $5, $10, or $15 in coupons could help me double my spending. From there, I was hooked!”

If you’re horrified at the thought of carrying a stack of coupons around the store, forget that thought. Couponing today is less about scissors and more about smartphone apps. Many stores and brands offer e-coupons that are easily downloaded to consumers’ store cards with just a tap.

Heather L, another longtime coupon fan, explains. “I download a store’s app and look at their coupons. If I see one that I want to use, I tap ‘coupon clip’ and that coupon is automatically added to my store card. When I go to checkout and the cashier scans my card, the coupons are automatically deducted.” Today’s couponing doesn’t require searching for your coupons or waiting 10 minutes while the cashier scans them into the register, one at a time.

Is couponing worth the time?

If you’re busy with work and family, using coupons may seem like a waste of time. Amy, however, sees a big return on her investment. “I usually spend an hour a month clipping coupons. Before I go to the store or go out to dinner, I go online, see if there are any coupons I can use, and save them on my phone. It takes about five minutes.”

Amy’s grocery store saves an average of $60 on a $250 bill. She does her shopping twice a month, which works out to an hourly rate of $120.

Heather spends about two hours a month doing coupons. She looks for coupons on groceries, household essentials, and coupons that offer a certain percentage off at department stores. “I save $25-30 a week on my family’s groceries. When I add in what I save at department stores, I’m probably saving $125-150 a month.”

Slightly less than Amy’s, Heather’s savings equals $75 an hour.

Looking at coupons over a year, Amy saved $1,440 and Heather saved $1,500 or more.

Certain types of stores are goldmines for couponers. Amy got the most bang for her buck at home improvement centers. Her biggest coupon score happened when she and her husband were building their house. “The lighting company had a coupon that offered 20% off. We ended up saving over $200 just by using that coupon. My husband and I took advantage of the savings and had a great dinner and a great bottle of wine to celebrate.”

Department stores are Heather’s favorite way to save. “Kohl’s has one of the best coupon policies. You can stack coupons and use Kohl’s money together. By doing that, I once got a $225 Shark vacuum for $85.”

How can you start using coupons?

The fastest way to start saving is to download apps from the stores you shop most often. Before shopping, browse the app to see if any coupons match your shopping list.

Don’t forget to check out your favorite restaurants, too. Amy is a big fan of catering deals. “Many restaurants offer two-for-one or $10 discounts off a $50 bill. If I go out anyway, might as well use a coupon and save a few bucks.”

If you reduce your monthly budget by €150, you can use this money in different ways, for example:

Pay off a credit cardInvest in a stockGive a nice dinner outSave it for a weekendGet a massageBuy a new outfitOthers use it to enjoy some guilt-free insanity. Still others, like Heather, are just happy to save money. “I don’t specifically allocate my coupon money. I just enjoy the savings on our daily expenses.”

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