Time2Save: Balance the key to couponing

Q: I've heard couponing is like a full-time job. I'd love to learn how to save my family money, but not if it takes tons of time. How do you find balance? A: We've all heard the stories and seen the pictures. Overflowing shelves. Rolls of toilet paper stuffed under the bed. Hours and hours spent planning and organizing for just one "quick" trip to the grocery store. It's more than a little intimidating! But here's the thing: Couponing does not have to become your life. You don't have to spend days planning for a single trip to the store. My hope is that you learn to coupon effectively in a way that you will be able to maintain, one that allows you to save money, shop wisely and find that all-important balance.

The bottom line? Couponing needs to fit into your life -- not become your life.

The truth is that the most important roles in our lives lie far beyond the grocery cart. But it is far too easy to get pulled into a mindset where clipping and planning claims more of your day than you ever intended.

So where is the balance? It is in you. It is in finding a system that works and one that allows you to achieve your savings goals without giving up time with those you love. With that in mind, here are three quick balance tips to help you keep things in perspective.

-- Limit your stores. It can seem like making the most of savings requires hitting every store every week. This is far more than any one person can sanely take on. So choose one or two stores with the best deals of the week and stick with them.

-- Find your system. There are tons of different couponing and organizational systems out there and they all have their strengths. It doesn't matter which system you choose, only that you pick one that works for you and stick with it. This will save time each week, not only as you plan but also once you get to the store.

-- Enjoy your savings. Too often I hear people getting caught up in how much other people were able to save. This is not a competition! It's about making a difference in your family's budget. So enjoy the savings you snag and don't worry about what others are doing. Whether you save 5 percent or 50 percent, you still saved money.

(Distributed by Scripps Howard News Service)

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