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Trying to save money? Want to realize some instant savings? Start with your groceries. With the price of food (and most everything else) today, intelligent consumers turn to coupons to shave their costs. Follow the steps below and you can become a true coupon queen!

Scout out the coupons. Search everywhere. Coupons can be found in newspapers, Sunday supplements, magazines and on the backs of food cartons. Many manufacturers will send coupons if you call the toll-free number printed on the item’s package. Coupons come in the mail and you can find coupons on the Internet. Some web sites allow you to select the coupons you want, and they send them by mail, while others may be printed out immediately.

Clip and file. After cutting coupons, be sure to file them in an organizer. Arrange them in alphabetical order, by category, or even in the corresponding order of the aisles in the grocery store you frequent most often. Whatever system you choose, it will make locating the coupons much easier.

Combine offers. Often, a coupon will provide one free item if two others are purchased. Technically, you cannot use another coupon for the free item, since you’re not paying for it. However, you can submit a coupon for either of the two items that you must purchase to get the free one.

Look for other outlets. Occasionally, a supermarket will print in-store coupons and allow them to be combined with manufacturer’s coupons. Sometimes stores tag specific items so that multiple purchases of the item will produce a coupon at the register. One particular Internet site generates a checklist of items that is scanned by the cashier. For each item you purchase on the list, a coupon for cents off your next purchase at that particular store is generated. And, don’t forget to use your preferred shopper card when applicable, for extra savings.

Keep on saving. Earn more money by sending in rebates, a close cousin of coupons. It’s possible to use a preferred shopper’s card, use a store and manufacturer’s coupon, generate a coupon at the register for the next purchase and receive a rebate…all on the same item! Some savvy shoppers end up getting their groceries free or at a substantial discount, and there have been documented situations where the store actually owed the customer money.

Clipping coupons is fun and easy, and should not be taken lightly. One doubting newlywed husband laughed at his wife when he first saw her cut coupons. But the enterprising Mrs. got the last laugh when, at the end of a year, she had saved over $1800! So get busy and clip away. Oh, and remember, a coupon is only effective if you remember to bring it to the store and use it.