I decided at the beginning of the year to figure out how I could maintain our standard of living (a small household of 2) while spending less money. The immediate answer, of course, was coupons, but little did I know how intense couponing could be. Now, let me first say that I am not an “Extreme Couponer” like they show on the new TV series. I just wanted to see if using coupons was worth the time and effort that I’ve heard. So, I began with a newspaper, but being who I am, I had to investigate the process and that is when I found my FAVORITE money-saving blog. Hip2Save is a wonderful tool to have in your money-saving arsenal. It is run by Collin, a mother of three and the wife of a Marine, who had a similar goal, to create a certain lifestyle within her family’s budget. When I just happened to find the site, little did I know how much she would teach me, not just about couponing, but about getting products that you love either free or very inexpensively. Since I started reading  Hip2Save,  I’ve learned to save at least 60-70% on each grocery bill, how to organize my coupons so they are easily accessible, but even greater,  very rarely does a day go by that I don’t receive something free in the mail. And if that happens, that simply means that I’ve been too busy to spend the time necessary to do the work.  A few months ago, I was even sent two pairs of jeans to keep. All I had to do was wear them over a two-week period and fill out a survey that took less than 5 minutes to complete.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this process of saving money is not quick. For example, I now use a three-ring binder for my coupons and it took over 5 hours to organize. But, it’s all about what you wish to gain. Saving money while maintaining my lifestyle is important to me and I know that my boyfriend loves not worrying about whether he has all of the items that he needs. Below, I am going to give you a few tips that I’ve learned in six short months. I am, by no means, an expert, but I am getting better.

  1. Join a money-saving blog that will alert you when there is a promo online or if there are any great sales going on. As I mentioned earlier, I love Hip2Save. It is well-written, organized and well-managed. I check it several times a day to make sure I’m not missing anything.
  2. Begin couponing. It takes time, but don’t think you have to go crazy when you first begin. Just get a Sunday paper, sit down and clip the coupons for the items that you like. Use them and see if that process works for you and your lifestyle.
  3. Take the time to compare the coupons with your store’s online ad. Let this guide your grocery list.
  4. Be open to trying new things. Resist being completely brand-loyal about everything. (Can you believe a brand strategist just said that?)
  5. Join market research sites like BzzAgent and All You Reality Checker. You will be given the opportunity to try (and keep) new products for free, with no catch, but a short review.
  6. “Like” your favorite brands on Twitter and Facebook. I liked Tide on FB and received a free full-size bottle of their new Stain Release as well as a full-size bag of the laundry additives.
  7. Join House Party to apply for parties where you are sent items to have a party and introduce/try a product with your friends. I won a Coffee-Mate party earlier this year, where I was sent 18 free Coffee-Mate coupons to share with friends and family at a party. In the party package, I was also sent the board game, Cranium and a full chess set as well as free coffee to make sure everyone could try the new Coffee-Mate flavors at the party.

These are just a few suggestions. It can seem very overwhelming, at first, but do what best fits your lifestyle and you will be excited to see the results. Now, I’m off to go check the daily deal sites to see if there is anything good out there. Happy Saving!