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Consumers looking for bargains are increasingly clipping coupons.

Deborah Baic, The Globe and Mail

Despite my best intentions to improve my money-saving habits this past year, I have yet to become a committed coupon clipper. I do closely scan supermarket flyers for specials, but finding and using coupons still seems like a lot of work and I'm not convinced of the payback.

So I was interested to see Brett Arends, a personal finance writer for The Wall Street Journal, recently do the math on coupons and conclude that they are, in fact, worth our time.

The average savings per coupon is $1.44 (U.S.), according to a report by Inmar, a U.S.-based coupon-processing agent.

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Mr. Arends estimates that it takes one minute to clip and use a coupon. Based on that assumption, your work for 10 minutes of coupon-cutting is worth $14.40. That translates into an impressive hourly rate of $86.40.

Then, he points out, this is tax-free money, unlike earned income. If you're being taxed at a marginal rate of 30 per cent, you would have to earn $123 to take home $86.40.

"Very few of us ever do this kind of math, because we tend to treat low finance differently from high finance, and small sums differently from big ones," Mr. Arends writes.

"Yet finance isn't a separate topic from the rest of our personal lives. For all of us, our scarcest resource is time. Putting the right value on it, and putting it to the most productive use, is a financial challenge, as well as a personal one."

More people are doing the math on coupons these days. Last year set a record for coupon use in the U.S., where 3.3 billion coupons were redeemed. That represented a 27 per cent rise over 2008 redemption rates.

In Canada, the proliferation of online coupon websites is a good indicator of increasing interest as well. If you're ready to become a coupon convert, start by checking out popular sites such as RedFlagDeals.com, Flyerland.ca, SmartCanucks.ca, Frugal Shopper Canada and Bargain Moose.

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