Like most families, my family has to budget our money extremely well. I discovered couponing after I was laid off from a seasonal job for six months. I was beyond thrilled. It was as if I found this new, secret way to shop. It made perfect sense. I had plenty of newfound free time to devote to honing my new shopping skills and a huge motivation to save money. I can say without a doubt that coupons really did save our budget!

As six months drew to a close, I wondered if I would still keep up with couponing once I went back to work. I would have the financial freedom to shop the "normal" way again and would definitely not have as much time to devote to preparing lists and clipping coupons. I strongly considered giving up my money-saving habit. But then the thought of paying full price for toothpaste, deodorant, and pasta after getting those items for free was not something I was prepared to do. I knew I had to learn to be more efficient.

Here’s what I learned after rejoining the workforce. Hopefully these tips will help you as you’re trying to juggle work, kids, and, of course, couponing.

1. Get organized!

This is the first and most important rule for success. Find the right method that works for you, and invest some time in setting up your system. Once it’s set up, it will be much easier to maintain. The binder method seems to be the most popular, but there are plenty of other methods that may work even better for you. Check out the Krazy Coupon Lady’s Beginner’s Guide for suggestions on how to get organized.

2. Collate your coupon inserts so that identical coupons stay together.

This is a huge time saver when you clip. Instead of clipping individually, you grab the stack that you need and do them all at once. The amount of time and effort it takes to do this is worth it for all the time you save.

3. Plan how much time you want to put in.

Make yourself a schedule so that couponing becomes part of your weekly routine. Sunday afternoons I do my drugstore shopping, and in the evenings I clip and sort.  On Thursdays I look through the grocery store ads and make my list.

4. Do not stress about missing out on the next deal.

Do what you can, and be happy with the amount of money you are actually saving instead of driving yourself crazy thinking about how much you could be saving. In order to save time, I usually focus on two stores a week. On Sundays I look at my ECBs and RRs to see which store’s coupons are going to expire the soonest. That is the store I shop at that week, and I don’t worry about the other one. On Thursdays, when I look through the grocery ads, I pick the one that looks the most promising.

5. Let someone else do the hard work for you.

Did you know that KCL offers grocery store matchups each week? Click on the "Stores" Tab of the KCL home page to see the best deals at your favorite grocery stores for the week. Do you have a favorite local store that the KCL doesn’t cover? If you prefer local grocers over chains, consider supporting your local bloggers too! If there is a store that accepts coupons, I am sure there is a blogger out there who provides a matchup. A Google search should get you to where you need to be.

4. Find easier ways.

One of the best things about the KCL website is their weekly post called "$5 or Less." Instead of sorting through the entire full-blown matchup for the drugstore, I’ll go straight to this post for all my drugstore shopping. It’s less overwhelming and gets straight to the point with planned-out transactions that are easy and cheap. Print this post out before you head to your drugstore, and start shopping like a pro.

5. Your time is often more valuable than the money you save.

Make time for the most valuable people in your life. I would much rather spend my evenings reading to my children, playing board games with the family, or catching up with an old friend on the phone than making sure I have enough boxes of tissues to get me through the back-to-school lists of my children’s entire elementary school career. So, go shop, save money, and at the end of the day enjoy yourself. You deserve it!

This is a guest post by Felicity from Indianapolis, IN
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