With the rising popularity of shows like "Extreme Couponing", thrifty shoppers' penny-saving habits have evolved from the solitary pursuit of clipping coupons, to searching for and discussing them in online communities. Even if you've been couponing for decades, if you aren't doing most of it online already, you may be missing out on entire unchartered savings territories.

How can you get started? Ultimately, you need to find a strategy that works for your lifestyle. There's no cookie-cutter approach to saving because everyone's

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budget is different.

That said, here are a few major dos and don'ts for online couponing.

Do look for a coupon whenever you shop online.
Before you click the "buy" button, take a step back and do a quick search for "your store of choice" + coupons and deals. Use a search engine, or visit reputable websites that have a strong track record for providing quality coupons.

Don't spend hours looking for offers.
You should be familiar with the expression that time is money. While you should search for a deal, you shouldn't spend hours scouring the internet to save $3. Avoid this frustration by knowing when to quit.

Do look for alternatives to shipping costs.
There really isn't any reason to pay $5 to $10 plus tax for shipping. Instead, find options that are free like site-to-store shipping and free shipping discounts.

Don't decide to buy something just because there is a coupon.
You may end up paying added costs - like shipping, for instance. Even if you have a coupon, you should always evaluate the big picture. Be a smart shopper instead of an impulsive one.

Do ask for help finding deals.
The advantage to couponing online is that there are a number of communities with like-minded consumers. These people live absolutely everywhere and even include people who work in retail and at deals websites. When you have a question, just ask! Being social is much more efficient than spending aimless hours browsing and searching.

Don't have false expectations.
While good do deals exist, too-good-to-be-true deals don't. If it looks unrealistic, then it probably is. Similarly, you shouldn't have false expectations about the deals that you're going to find. Sometimes, good enough is simply good enough.

Do take couponing seriously.
As with many things in life, results take hard work. Don't expect to become an "expert couponer" overnight. Saving does take skill, and some people will see better results than others.

Don't take couponing too seriously.
The consequences include unnecessary stress, stinginess, false expectations, and, yes, wasted money. Above all, when you're looking for deals, freebies and giveaways, you should stay lighthearted. Life is stressful enough, so couponing should never becomes something that bogs you down.

The Bottom Line
You should strive to strike a balancing act with your couponing strategy. There's no magic to saving - it's all about time management, resourcefulness and efficiency.

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