Holiday Gift Guide

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Use coupons to save on holiday purchases

Coupons have long been helping consumers save a few dollars on everything from supermarket staples to toys and more.  Scouring for coupons and using them effectively has evolved into an art form, with some savvy coupon users paying next to nothing for carts full of merchandise.

The average shopper may have little experience at finding coupons, but he or she can still save some money. As the holiday season approaches, it's likely that coupon usage will once again be widespread. Here are some ways to put coupons to good use.

* Shop at stores that allow coupon stacking. Many store policies only allow shoppers one coupon per purchase. But a select few allow shoppers to stack coupons to save more money. In such situations, shoppers may be able to combine dollar-value-off coupons with percentage-off coupons. In addition, some stores may not limit the number of coupons shoppers can use on a single transaction. Shopping at these stores with more flexible, consumer-friendly coupon policies can add up to significant savings over the course of the holiday shopping season.

* Check the restrictions before heading to the store. When planning to use coupons, shoppers should verify the fine print on the coupon before entering the store. Some coupons restrict which items can be purchased in conjunction with the coupon. For example, some stores may prohibit shoppers from using coupons when purchasing brand name or designer products, while others may limit when the coupon can be used. Blackout dates could apply, so shoppers should visit stores when no such restrictions apply.

* Do your research before leaving the house. Just because you don't have a paper coupon from a mailer or newspaper doesn't mean such coupons are nonexistent. Search popular coupon Web sites for online coupon codes or printable in-store coupons. Merchandise can even be shipped to the store, which is usually free, to save you even more on shipping costs for items purchased online.

* Purchase more to save. It may seem counterintuitive, but very often larger purchases qualify shoppers for steep discounts. Consider doing all of your shopping at one retailer and then taking advantage of coupons that deduct a certain percentage of your total purchase. It could be worth it if you spend just a little bit more.

* Keep track of your coupons. Coupons are no use to you if you lose them before you begin your holiday shopping. Keep them in a safe location and then remember to bring them with you when shopping for the holidays. Some coupons can be used repeatedly, so do not discard them after use.

When used effectively, coupons can save holiday shoppers a substantial amount of money. 

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