Cash-Strapped Chicago Shoppers Start Clipping Coupons to Save Money

A few years ago, most people thought of cutting coupons as a hobby for little old ladies.

This year, we're realizing those little old ladies were onto something. Call it a silver lining to the recent recession: after coupon use decreased for several years straight, it skyrocketed a whopping 27 percent in 2009 -- the second-largest increase ever, according to The Nielsen Company.

Coupons make sense - when used correctly. It's a pretty simple formula, really. If you need to make a purchase, then using a coupon to do it can save you a lot of money with very little effort. Be careful, though - if you use coupon clipping as an excuse to buy what you don't really need, you might end up adding to your debt.

Take groceries, for instance. We all need to eat, so why not save some cash while doing it? If you can get two boxes of cereal for the price of one, you can't go wrong. The same goes for any consumer good, from coffee beans to tennis shoes to dish detergent. If you get in the habit of browsing coupons every week, whether it's in your newspaper, your mail or your inbox, you'll probably come across discounts for everyday purchases. Sure, you might have to give up brand loyalty and go without whatever's on sale, but it might be worth the money.

Now here's where it gets tricky. You're only going to save money if you planned on making the purchase anyway. If your favorite pair of shoes is falling apart and you see the mall is having a special on that pair you've had your eye on -- $35 instead of $50, for instance - it sounds like you've got a good deal on your hands. However, if you've got plenty of shoes and the sale is the only thing motivating you to make the purchase, you aren't saving $15 - you're spending $35.

In summary, coupons work - so long as you don't use them for an excuse to spend money you don't have. Ignoring coupons completely, however, means ignoring a chance to get something you need at a discounted price. That said, discounts can only get you so far. If you're so in debt that spending any money - even with a coupon - is painful, it's time you made some changes to your budget. If you're too stuck to do it alone, bankruptcy can help. Contact one of our Chicago bankruptcy attorneys to learn - for free - how bankruptcy can help you finally pay down debt and regain control over your financial future. It might be a deal you can't afford to pass up.

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