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How to Use Coupons Sans Shame

Newsflash: Times are tough -- everyone’s looking to save. So if you’ve always considered coupon-clipping embarrassing and can’t bear the thought of bringing a stack up to the register just like your mom used to do -- get over it!

Coupons are making a comeback in a big way -- really. Not only do they save you money but it feels pretty damn good when the cashier tells you how much you saved. If you’re not on the coupon-wagon already, here’s how to use them with pride to shop smarter (and save major moola).

Step 1: Make a List
Make a list of everything you definitely need. Make a separate list of items that you like to get but may not necessarily need (like the Pringles that always call your name when you’re walking through the snack aisle), and try not to get carried away there.

Step 2: Check the Paper
Flip to the fliers and coupons section of your newspaper, or as your grandma might say, the “circular.” (These days they may be the colorful inserts that fall out of the paper the second you open it.) Found it? Now start clipping -- but only coupons for items on your list. That’s right, try not to go coupon-crazy, ripping out every discount you see. You don’t want to buy things that sound good just because you have a coupon or you’ll end up spending more money (in case you forgot, the whole point of this exercise is to save money). The exception: Set aside coupons for things you don’t need now but may need in the future, like ketchup or peanut butter. (We like to use a trusty shoebox to store ours.)

Step 3: Scour the Web
Like everything else, coupons have gone digital, so you can often get all the coupons you need without tearing up your paper. Subscribing to sites that send out weekly or even daily newsletters packed with awesome deals is an easy way to score serious savings on all sorts of things. Some of our favorites: RetailMeNot.com, SuperMarketGuru.com and EatBetterAmerica.com (which also comes with super-delicious recipes you can make using the coupons offered). And if you can’t find a coupon for something on your list, check the manufacturer’s websites for coupons that you can print.

Step 4: Know When to Strike
Okay, so maybe shopping at 7 a.m. sounds a little extreme, but don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it. Early birds don’t have to worry about other bargain hunters nabbing all the marked-down Charmin, but they also don’t have to wait in line behind a mom with a screaming baby. Plus, if you’re still harboring some coupon shame (though we really wish you’d get over it at this point), it’s easy to go under the radar when you hit the store before anyone you know is even awake.

Step 5: Earn Rewards
Still too stubborn to whip out those coupons? You’re in luck. Many grocery, drug and even clothing stores offer free rewards cards. Swipe the card at the register and all discounts and promotions will automatically be applied to your bill.

Step 6: Start Shopping!
Now that you’re armed with your grocery list and coupon stash, it’s time to hit the food aisles. Just try to stick to the list or you’ll blow all your savings on items that you don’t really need (and likely aren’t very good for you). Then head to the register, throw down your stack of coupons or rewards card and watch the dollars fall off. Kinda nice, huh?

-- The Nest Editors