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Have you been nipped by the coupon-clipping bug?
It could save you a lot at the grocery store.
0817Coupons
Many coupons can be found in the Sunday paper, but online sources offer them as well.

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Kim Danger talks about saving money on personal care products at local stores.

Bargain hunting, cutting coupons and following your favorite store's sales are ways to save lots of green. But if you are new to the world of frugality, there are some easy ways to get started.

Kim Danger, founder of Mommysavers, said it's easiest to start saving at the grocery store because it has the most wiggle room.

"Grocery costs have definitely gone up; gas costs have gone up," she said. "So I think we are seeing a trickle down on prices with almost everything ... for families that may have been coming close to living paycheck to paycheck anyway, this is enough to put them over the edge."

Danger created Mommysavers when she had her first child. The Web site provides tips for stay-at-home moms on how to save money at home. She suggested to first to check the Sunday paper for coupons and sales.

"Of course, the Sunday paper - that is where most people think of when they think of coupons," Danger said. "I get a lot of my coupons online, as well."

There are many online coupon sites, but Danger said she prefers Coupons.com.

"They have so many, and they tend to be higher-value coupons," she said. "When I go on their site they tend to have higher value coupons ... it's not just 25 cents here, 35 cents there; they are for $1, $2 or even $3 off.

"So I find that online coupons do tend to be higher value, which is great. Then you can just print off the ones you need."

And online value hunting is something that Libby Lowery loves to do.

"I do check the store Web sites online and look for sales," said Lowery, a Gainesville resident. "I just go to my favorite stores (online) and buy what's on sale. I do watch my electricity and I turn off my computers during the day; I have been buying more fresh produce from the (Hall County) Farmers Market."

Lowery said she has never really been a coupon user, but with a tough economy she is "trying to cut costs in every aspect of my life."

Cutting costs in your budget is really the purpose of coupon cutting and looking through store circulars for deals. Danger said there are even ways to combine a sale and your coupons for even more saving power.

"I do try to look at what's on sale already and combine that with the coupons that I already have because then you are really leveraging your savings," Danger said. "I think a lot of people, the big mistake that they make is they just go to the store and buy what looks good to them. Instead, if you really look at the sale ads and consider what you have at home already and try to create your meal plan accordingly, you can really save a lot of money."

Danger does suggest taking a good look at coupons and maing sure you are clipping what is perfect for your needs.

"It's all subjective I think," she said. "For me, is it something that I use anyway? Is it something that provides a big enough discount that I might want to try it, if I haven't tried it in the past?"

Greg Trandel, economics professor at the University of Georgia, said companies that use coupons are in a way catering to two different shoppers. Rather than set a low price for an item that everyone can take advantage of, they set it at a slightly higher price. The company then offers coupons to shoppers willing to invest some time in searching out those deals.

"The idea is, they can sell the same product to different customers and different prices. Because, some people will go to the trouble of bringing the coupon in; other people won't bring the coupon in," Trandel said. "These people are the people concerned with saving time, so these people, they feel they have to offer the (higher) price to."

Keeping track of store specials also can contribute to a lower bill at the store. Danger said she shops at pharmacies like Walgreens and CVS because they offer buyers incentive.

"I follow Target because I like that store, too ... they mark down women's clothes on Monday or Tuesday, they mark down toys on Wednesday," she said. "If there is something that you are in the market for ... you can get to know their cycles a little bit. Even ask around; sometimes the employees will tell you when something will get marked down."

Another way to really slim down the grocery bill - and provide a safer living environment for your family - is to stay away from pricey household cleaners.

"You don't necessarily need to go out and buy toilet cleaner or kitchen cleaner when things like vinegar and baking soda do so well on their own," she said. "They are nontoxic and it really doesn't take a lot of work to make them."

Staff writer Kristen Morales contributed to this story

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