Imagine what an extra $400 to $800 a year could buy. Where does the money come from? The yearly savings from cents-off coupons.

These days, American consumers are saving much more than nickels and dimes with an old supermarket staple - the cents-off coupon. In fact, cents-off couponing is adding up to big bucks for today's consumer.Coupon-using families save eight percent on their weekly grocery bills with cents-off coupons. With the average face value of redeemed coupons close to 44 cents, this translates into hundreds of dollars in yearly savings. With double couponing, where the retailer matches the face value of the manufacturer's coupon, some consumers save up to $1,000 a year on grocery bills. More than ever, cents-offs coupons add up to dollars and sense for the American consumer.

Almost 80 percent of manufacturer's cent-off coupons are distributed through free-standing inserts in the nation's Sunday newpapers. This means that a consumer can pull more than $40 worth of cents-off coupons from just one source.

The rise of free-standing inserts, which are really pamphlets of coupons, has made coupon clipping an easy and convenient way to offset rising grocery prices. With a little bit of planning and organization, consumers can cash in by turning the weekly habit of coupon clipping into several hundred dollars worth of yearly savings.

What can you get from organized coupon clipping? Plenty. As coupon clipper Sarah Logue of Geneva, New York, wrote, "I have been a coupon shopper for the last decade and I've kept track of my coupon savings from year to year. I am well organized and I file my coupons in a way that follows the order of the supermarket aisles. I enjoy coupon shopping, but the most enjoyable experience comes at the end of the year when I add up the money I save. In 1989, my total coupon savings came to $1,047.62."

By following a few simple guidelines, coupons can become an integral part of a weekly shopping trip. The trick is to make a habit of coupon clipping and redemption so that every trip to the grocery store yields some savings. Following are some consumer tips on how to turn coupons into cash at the checkout counter.

1. Look for coupons on products that you use and like. Manufacturers reinforce brand loyalty by issuing coupons on big name products. There is a good chance that there are various coupons for your favorite products.

2. Collect coupons on new products that you want to try. Coupons are a major device for supporting new product introduction and most new products are supported by cent-off coupon offers.

3. Make a list of products or brands you'd like to try at less than full price. Then, watch for coupons for those products.

4. Pay close attention to expiration dates. The period from coupon release to expiration is shorter than in the past.

5. Clean out the kitchen drawer that's bulging with coupons. Get a coupon organizer and categorize your weekly coupons into your basic product needs, such as: laundry products, household cleaners, personal care items, paper products, ready-to-eat cereals, coffee, frozen foods and entrees, dairy products, carbonated beverages, drug products and pet products.

6. If you shop at only one store, take the time to note the order of the supermarket aisles. Then, make a coupon file that corresponds to the progression of the store's aisles so your coupons are at-the-ready for each of your purchases.

7. Look for stores that advertise double couponing. A number of retail outlets will match the face value of a manufacturer's coupons - doubling your savings.

8. Watch for a retail store's own cents-off circulars. Grocery and drug stores often distribute hand-outs or flyers of coupons for their own store. A shopping trip with a retail cents-off circular can result in big savings at one store.

Well-organized coupon shoppers can make a real dent in their weekly grocery bill . . . and not just nickels and dimes.