Coupon-clipping on the web> has become a serious business. And for good reason: Consumers saved roughly $3 billion on food, cleaning products and other packaged goods last year, just by redeeming coupons, according to consulting group CMS.
While the Sunday coupon circular in the newspaper is still No .1, many consumers are turning to the Internet to match up store sales with print-at-home manufacturer s coupons, says Gail Cunningham, spokeswoman for the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. Combining the two saves an average $678 annually, according to Consumer Reports.
Of course, the best way to reap savings like that is to know which sites to visit. We asked Cunningham and other consumer advocates to point us to sites with a good selection of easy-to-access coupons. Here are five worth checking out:
Find out about the latest coupons and deals through daily updates on the site and its weekly email newsletter. A favorite in our broader e-coupon site assessment, Coupons.com lets visitors browse by food category, or check out offers expiring within the week. Enter your zip code to see even more offers. Click on the coupons you want and print them all at once. Some stores still don t accept home-printed coupons, so check that your store does before downloading the site s coupon-printing software.
Sample coupon: Save $4 on Bausch & Lomb (BOL)
Answer questions about your shopping habits and boost the savings you receive on a range of printable coupons and offers. (For Biz Stain Fighter products, noting your current brand preference and time zone made a $1 coupon jump to $2.50, while saying which baking powder and cornstarch brands you use pushed a 50-cent Clabber Girl baking powder offer to 65 cents.) Enter your zip code, and you ll get listings of sales in your area.
Sample coupon: Save $3 on any Johnson & Johnson (JNJ)
If you d rather not go the home-printed coupon route, look to this clipping service for more than 1,300 options from Sunday circulars and manufacturers. Load your cart, and they ll mail you the paper coupons. You ll pay a small per-coupon handling fee (five cents per copy of a coupon worth 50-cents), plus a 50-cent administration fee per order and 42 cents or so for shipping. Orders must meet the $3 minimum, and most coupons require a minimum of five copies. Given all the fees, make sure you re saving enough to offset the cost -- or split the price and coupons with a friend or neighbor, advises Catherine Williams, vice president of financial literacy for Money Management International, which oversees nonprofit credit-counseling agencies.
Sample coupon: Buy one 4C Light2Go or 4C Stick powdered drink mix, get one free. Coupon worth up to $5.99. (You ll pay a handling fee of 25 cents.) Expires April 30.
This free service from AOL offers clipped and> printable coupons. Simply click on the coupons you want. The online account syncs with your grocery store loyalty card and automatically redeems the coupons when swiped at checkout. The catch: Coupon offerings and participating stores are still relatively sparse. AOL s ShortCuts is currently available only for Kroger (KR)
Sample coupon: Save $2 on any one Huggies Pull-Ups training pants pack. Expires Feb. 14.
Parent company Valassis creates Sunday newspaper coupon circulars, so you know you re getting the most usable fare, says Phil Lempert, founder of Supermarket Guru. You can also save coupons for later, or send them to a friend. Download the Sweet Saver widget to alert you to new coupons on the site as you surf the Internet.
Sample coupon: Save $3 on any Dove Skin Vitalizer skin care brush. Expires March 1.