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Smart Buying

Steal These Deals: Coupon Queen

Saving money with scissors is a passion, not a pain.

You may begin your weekend by perusing the newspaper and savoring a cup of coffee. Sara Moothart starts her Saturday by scouring the advertising circulars for the week’s best deals and clipping coupons.

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Moothart, 31, of Baltimore, began “couponing” as a way to stretch her graduate-student budget. She buys groceries for herself and a roommate, and the value of the coupons alone saves her almost $40 a month. She reckons that she has saved triple that amount by leveraging the coupons against store markdowns.

Each week, Moothart reviews the offerings of three local grocery stores as well as Target. She creates a list for each store, taking note of relevant coupons, and sorts her collection in an accordion organizer labeled by section of the store. She also visits CouponMom.com to find more discounts and links to other Web sites. Moothart uses coupons to buy only what she will use -- for example, she and her roommate eat fresh foods, so she skips the ubiquitous coupons for processed products. She buys items in large quantities only if she can freeze them or if they’re nonperishable and she’ll use them quickly. The savings, which Moothart records in a notebook, have fired her passion for more couponing. And she’s been thinking about putting aside the money she saves for something special -- say, airfare to visit her family on the West Coast or a weekend getaway.

Top Tips

Plan your shopping list around sale items. Look for stores that double or triple a coupon’s value. If “buy one, get one free” means you pay half price for each item, use two coupons.