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When I was a kid, my mother used to sit down every Sunday with the newspaper and a pair of scissors and clip out all the grocery coupons. I carried on the ritual when I started doing my own shopping, until I realized that I clipped far more coupons than I redeemed, and that I sometimes bought things I didn't need just because I had coupons for them. But then I discovered Web coupons. These online discounts often have far more money-saving potential than their newspaper counterparts, and they have a few added benefits that have drawn me back into the coupon-using fold.

Type the word coupon in your favorite search engine, and you'll obtain page after page of discounts. Unfortunately, many of the listings are expired or otherwise unhelpful (because they're limited to a specific product, for example). That's why I focus my coupon hunting on Web sites dedicated to compiling the latest discounts for retail and online stores. Such sites often include coupons good at consumer electronics merchants, so I can get a discount on big-ticket, high-tech items--even televisions, DVD players, and other electronic equipment.

Some sites go beyond compiling coupons, offering a grab bag of information on various deals and sales that are available to consumers. Nevertheless, I focus my comments on coupons because these handy discounts fit the way I shop. Rather than waste time and energy scouring bargain sites for things I probably don't need, I research the product I want and the merchants that offer the best combination of price and service, and then I sneak in with an extra discount by typing in a simple code, knowing that I'm getting what I want and need.

Favorite Coupon Sites This is part of the DealNews site, which includes information on all types of discounts and promotions--online and off. I particularly appreciate the site's handy customization features: Not only can you choose up to 30 merchants whose coupons you want highlighted, but you can sign up for e-mail notification of new coupons from the stores on your favorites list. Nice. I found leads on several great deals here, including 10 percent off anything at the PalmOne store and all digital cameras from The site has listings for the most popular, most recent, and closest-to-expiring coupons, as well as general information on promotions and sales. The one downside: The site was slow when I tried it. Unlike most other sites listed here, (a Digital World partner) deals only with home electronics and computer equipment, but it offers information on specials and other discounts, as well as coupons. I found coupons here that weren't listed on many other sites, such as a coupon good for $15 at Abt Electronics and a link to an offer of a free ITunes selection each week. This site features coupons for both Web and retail stores. Although it has no special sorting capabilities, the coupons are easy to find. The site lists retail merchants alphabetically in a three-column format that includes the specific offer and the expiration date. You find what you want, and then click on the link to download a printable coupon.

As with all promotions, following a few simple guidelines will help ensure that you get the best deal possible. Before looking for coupons, settle on a product and narrow your list of merchants to ones that you know are reputable; once you've refined your focus, use these promotions as the deal closer. Be on the lookout for limitations--for example, discounts that are valid only with certain payment methods.

Caveats and all, I'm hooked on coupons again. And now I know that I'm getting a real deal, not just a perceived one.

Roberta Furger writes--and hunts for Web coupons--in Oakland, California.
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