Coupons? Really? Really.

Here’s the skinny on shopping and coupons: most of them are useless. Why? Because brand-name products are over-priced in the first place and 20 cents- to 50 cents-off those items is not worth the time to clip them out.

What does work, though, is to check for discounts before making that trip to the specialized store. This can be done in several easy ways:
1. The first way is to sign up for special e-mail offers from regularly used stores with your junk e-mail account.
2. The second is to call the store directly to find out what promotions are going on.
3. The third way is to use a coupon clipped in advance and knowing the store’s cycle of sales and coupon publication timeframes.
4. The final way that Pump Mama goes about seeking discounts is to check online using the key words “‘store of choice’ ‘promotion code’ ‘coupon.'”

For example, before Pump Mama goes to an office supply store for a big-ticket purchase such as printer toner, she’ll check her inbox and the toner company Web site for any discounts. If she shops online — rarely — and sees that there is an entry for promotional codes, she calls the 800 number and asks for it and or how to get it.

If that doesn’t work, Pump Mama checks her coupon file — all ten residing in her wallet — to see if she found a 20%- to 50%-off coupon not-yet expired. Reading the Sunday paper and selecting the inserts that apply to your shopping habits helps.

These steps take less than a minute — faster if you type quickly!

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