I visited another blog this week, CouponMamacita. It is devoted to coupons, which feels right when people are struggling with a tight budget. It also got me thinking about the ways I’ve saved on money and time when both are at a premium.

So here are seven steps to combine both money savings and time savings.

1. Only use coupons worth $1.00 or more

Why? One 35 cent coupon won’t even cover your gas for the trip to the grocery store. Thirty-five, 50 and 75 cent coupons are also more plentiful, and take up valuable time to decide if you want them, to decide what to purchase once at the store, and to sort through them. Most in store specials have already reduced an item at least as much as a small value coupon. If you need mustard, look for the one on sale in the store, ensure it is the lowest price, then grab it. Stick to the in store specials, and use larger coupons for items you actually use.

2. Only cut out coupons you would normally use

Ask yourself, “do I need this type even without coupon?” If the answer is “yes,” buy it. An item may appeal to you, but is it something you need? No? Throw it in recycling. Remember the purpose of coupons: Manufacturers try to entice you to purchase their product. When flipping through mailouts and flyer coupons, make your decision quickly, and move on.

3. Keep an envelope of current coupons in your purse

Nothing is more frustrating than spending time to find useful coupons, getting to the checkout, and realize that they are all home on the kitchen counter. Once you decide which ones you want, put them in an envelope or one of those clear plastic three-hole page protectors. The thin ones fold in half easily to fit most purses.

4. Buy Bulk? Yes but only meat and frequently used items

Meat is always worth buying bulk. When you get home, marinate your meat, put them in sealable plastic bags, label and throw them in the freezer. Even better, cook all your bulk ground beef at once. Add taco seasoning to one batch, and make spaghetti sauce out of the other batch (or whatever recipe you prefer), then cool and freeze in meal sized amounts. This all takes time on the day of purchase, but saves you time and money in the long run.

Why only some other items in bulk? Bulk is like a coupon. Only sometimes is it valuable. Potatoes are inexpensive in 20 pound bags, but if you don’t have a cool place for them, the ones at the bottom of the bag will likely be thrown out. Crackers don’t easily stay crisp once opened, so half may go to waste. Finally, most of us don’t have room for a large number of bulk purchases. Save your space for cereal, soups and toilet paper, or other items you know you’ll go through.

5. Put all your phone and cable services under one company

Cable/phone companies are getting more competitive. Ask what they’ll do for you if you switch, or if you move your other services over to your existing account. A word of warning, however: some of their specials are good for one year, after which their prices could more than double. Make sure you know what the regular price will be once the special expires.

If it works for you to combine services, it will reduce your bill paying time, and make it easier to budget your expenses.

6. Update Your House Seasonally

Home improvement stores offer coupons and specials according to the season. Landscaping and gardening in the spring, roofing and siding in the early fall, and interior paint in the winter, for example. Also, take advantage of free or low cost in home estimates if making large changes. This will help you understand the true cost of your renovation, and someone who knows what you need will spend the time to develop accurate costs.

7. Finally, get your children involved, for long term rewards

Start small with children. Allocate twenty dollars a week to snacks and desserts, which are some of the most expensive non-nutritional items in your house. Decide what is covered: granola bars, cookies, ice cream, pretzels, then ask them to help you select these items at the store. Bring coupons or purchase sale items. Be creative and purchase ingredients to bake cookies at home. And compare these costs to the price of a banana or apple, to encourage better eating, and greater awareness of budgeting.

These may all be simple measures, but simple is usually the best way to reduce household stress.

Happiness and abundance to you!

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