Before I talk about how to avoid the coupon trap, I want to mention a couple of things. Many schools are currently selling a coupon book called "Enjoy the City." The book sells for about $20 and is an excellent source of savings! I saved far more than the cost of the book last year. If you can't find a local school that is selling them, you can order one from their website: enjoythecitybook.com. You can also flip through the pages of the book there to see exactly what is offered for each area.

I also want to mention a search engine that can earn you some money. If you haven't used Swagbucks, I highly recommend it. Not only is it an excellent search engine, but you can earn some great prizes (or cash) from it. Just make it your home page and then search for whatever website you want and you will randomly earn "swagbucks," which are redeemable for prizes. I've used it for several years, and it is very reliable. This year I've earned $140 in Amazon gift cards that I plan to use for Christmas shopping for my kids! That's a significant savings on my budget! And it was for doing things I would normally have done anyway. FREE MONEY! Last year, I managed to get a Wii Console for less than $5 out of pocket thanks to using Swagbucks!

Now, to avoid the coupon trap:

Many people have asked me if I purchase products just because I have a coupon. This is a big trap many people fall into when beginning the process of using coupons. The ONLY time you should purchase something you don't need or use just because you have a coupon is if you can get it for free or almost free and can then donate it to a worthy cause. With the recession we are in, so many charities (food banks, etc.) are in need of donations. This is a wonderful way to donate items without hurting your own budget. However, if you go to the store and buy items that you didn't plan to buy, you've just spent money unnecessarily and you are defeating your purpose of saving money. The biggest key to keeping within your grocery budget is to make a list before going to the store, have the coupons sorted out for that list, and then stick to the list! There may be times when you find something on clearance that isn't on your list, but don't be tempted by items you don't need. And never shop when you are hungry. That will only add to the temptation to buy unnecessary items.