On a recent shopping trip, coupons made a big dent in the bill. Using a combination of advertised in-store discounts ($17.55) and coupons ($9.59), my husband saved $27.14, roughly half of our total bill of $56.46.
We're not the only coupon clippers. U.S. consumers save about $3 billion a year with grocery store coupons, according to the Promotion Marketing Association.
Those savings are significant in the current economic climate, according to Manuel Lasaga, president of Miami-based Strategic Information Analysis, an economic and financial consulting firm. ''Coupons can help reduce the gap between what consumers earn and the rising cost of living,'' Lasaga said.
Coupons are also a useful tool for educating kids about finance and organization.
Charles Brown, co-chairman of the Coupon Council at PMA, says he has ``used coupons to turn everyday shopping trips with my twins into great learning experiences and quality time spent together.''
Here are a few tips for building your children's educational skills while saving money.
• Encourage kids to sharpen their organizational skills by arranging coupons by expiration date, category or store. Shoppers who spend 20 minutes a week organizing coupons can shave their annual food bill by 20 percent, according to industry data.
• Although 90 percent of coupons are bundled with the Sunday newspaper, manufacturers increasingly use the Internet to publish discounts. Parents can work with kids to use Web-based search engines to track down deals on toys, equipment, entertainment and food.
• For younger children, coupons provide games in number recognition, counting and simple computations. For older kids, coupons can be used to calculate percentages and multiplication.
• Involve kids in planning a family menu. Provide a fixed dollar amount, coupons and a blank page. Encourage kids to design a menu that fits the dollar limits. A friend tried this with her teenage daughter and was surprised at how strict her daughter became when faced with the chore of managing the family food budget.
And when you feel like taking a treat, many restaurants participate in either printed or online coupon services. Kids can be given the task of using the menu and coupons to keep the family meal within a specific price range.
By the way, it really helps if you offer kids a small cut of the savings. That strategy has worked for me.