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Couponing: Do the Savings Make Up for Time Clipping?

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The TLC show "Extreme Couponing" started a craze, but it also made many wonder, is it worth the time? The time it takes to scour newspapers and websites for coupons and stores that sometimes match the deals. The time it takes to actually clip or print. The time it takes to do this more intensive shopping.

According to this Technorati blogger's math, it is. Jenny Richards figures out that for a typical shopping trip for food items, which include those that don't have coupons or store sales, couponing can save between 30 and 50 percent. For trips purchasing paper products, cleaning supplies, beauty items and other related non-food products, coupon savings can reach up to 70 to 90 percent.

Richards assumes that the average shopping trip costs about $200 and "for the sake of reality" picks $80 as the savings she's going to use to calculate if it's worth your time or not. She estimates it will take one hour to clip coupons from your Sunday paper and one to two hours for shopping trip planning (she suggests these sites for savings matchups AFullCup.comHot Coupon WorldSlick Deals and We Use Coupons). That's three hours total making your savings worth about $26.60 per hour.

But she notes, there is a balance. If you go extreme, it will take even more time and your savings will go down per hour.

While shoppers are happy with their savings, the craze has been causing some grocery stores and their employees to go crazy. Earlier this year, The Tampa Tribune reported stores like Target and Walmart revising their coupling policy to prevent shoppers from cleaning off their shelves of merchandise. The Rockford Register, an Illinois newspaper, also reports stores tightening their policies.

The trend has other countries interested as well. This article in the Yuma Sun describes how a French news station creating a program about about the "couponing phenomenon in America."

If you haven't seen how extreme the coupling can get, take at look at this TLC clip:

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