I started clipping coupons a year and a half ago. When I first began, I was very skeptical and thought the savings wouldn’t amount to anything. Over time I cut my grocery bill in half and have saved my family a lot of money. But my "couponing" habits have changed over the past year. I’ve learned I can relax, take it easy, make it fun, and still save.

Here’s how:

#1 Only Buy What You Need. A short while after I began clipping coupons, there was a deal on Benadryl Itch Relief Sticks. After the coupon, they were only $0.29 each. What a deal! Being a new couponer, I couldn’t believe I was getting something from the medicine aisle for barely over a quarter. So, I bought tons of them. Now, a year later, they are scattered all over my house, in the hands of my neighbors, and the remaining ones in my stockpile are about to expire. I know now that I wasted more than I saved. Lesson learned.

#2 Don’t Buy Every Free or Extremely Cheap Item. I have half a dozen cans of air freshener in my stockpile right now. Honestly, I don’t use it often. It was free, right? So I couldn’t pass it up? Wrong. It turns out I still paid sales tax on those "free" items. So if it’s something I’m really not going to use or already have an exorbitant amount of, it’s almost like I’m wasting a nickel. And believe me, those nickels add up to dollars over time.

#3 Couponing is Not a Race. In the beginning, I was so excited to get deals. On days my husband had off, we’d drive all over the place to get every single one of them. We’d go to CVS to get a free pack of candy, then rush to get cheap toothpaste at Publix. What a waste of gas. Now, I’ve learned deals can wait, and I have created a routine. Every Wednesday I make out my grocery list and do all of my shopping in one morning. I first go to any drugstores, then I make my trip to Publix, Bi-lo, and finally Aldi where I do my "main" grocery shopping. Usually those deals are still right there on the shelf, waiting for me to check out.

#4 Get a Rain Check. If the shelves happen to be empty, rain checks are my best friend. I think of them as an insurance policy. I’m covered in the event that the shelves have been cleared and I desperately need four boxes of Fruity Pebbles cereal. So really, there is no need to feel like I must get to the store before everyone else. I can relax.

#5 No Need to Have a Basement that Looks Like 7-11. I know you’ve seen "Extreme Couponing" and those intense stockpiles with 50 of every item imaginable. I don’t need to go that far. A few here and there is all it takes. A couple of weeks ago, I got six bags of potato chips for free. Wonderful, because I can put them in my husband’s lunch, and I won’t have to pay full price. This week I bought four packs of Chips Ahoy cookies for $0.94 a pack. That’s great–cheaper than the Aldi brand. I also bought Buitoni pasta for only $0.14 this week. Now I know I probably won’t get any other deals on those items in the near future, but next week I could be buying mustard for $0.33 cents or orange juice for $0.45 cents a bottle. Getting a few deals like that every week makes enough of a difference.

In conclusion, I’ve realized that clipping coupons doesn’t have to be stressful. I don’t need to be the first at the store and have the biggest stockpile. I’m now more relaxed and don’t feel like it’s the end of the world if I don’t get that $0.49 peanut butter, ’cause I know it’ll be back!

This is a guest post by Jennifer from Pelzer, SC
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