Remember I said there are two types of shopping? Quick: what are they?
If you answered stockpiling and need-based, you’re correct! Ding, ding, ding!
The crazy deals you frequently see couponers write about on their blogs are usually stockpiling deals. Here’s an example. This means they’ve found some crazy good deal and are going to buy as much as they reasonably can afford, store, and/or have coupons for.
The other type of shopping is need-based. These are items that you must have to complete for the week, but you might not have found on sale in the store ads. So what do you do about this? Here are a few of my best thoughts for you.
1. Shop at stores that are low in prices in general. In my area, Fred Meyer and Winco are sure bets for most items. I also have taken the time to learn which stores offer lower prices on canned goods, household items, baking staples, and the like. Get to know the stores in your area and pay attention to their general cost of items you buy frequently.
2. Buy in bulk. I’m not talking about Costco, either. (However, if you’re interested, read my thoughts on Costco here.) I’m talking about those bins where you can scoop out minced onion, long grain rice, oatmeal, and other great basics. You know, like this:
(Photo credit L. Emerson)
3. Bring coupons, just in case. If I know I need dish detergent, but couldn’t locate a sale, I’ll bring my coupons just in case the price less the coupon is cheaper than generic. Sometimes it is. And sometimes…
4. Buy generic. I’m always flabbergasted when folks make the blanket statement that generic is cheaper than name brands after coupons. It’s just not true ALL THE TIME. Manufacturers want you to buy THEIR product after all. And stores are only too happy to feature a deal on a manufacturer’s item if it means that there will be more foot traffic to their store. However, in the absence of sales, generic is often a smart, savvy way to go. Do your math. (And if you’re interested to learn more about this topic, read my post over here.) Just pay attention though to how much you really need to buy. For instance, toilet paper comes on sale every so often. If you need it now, maybe only buy a couple week’s supply. There is a fair chance a good “stock-up deal” will come around in that time period, and you’ll be glad you didn’t spend more than you need to.
5. Drive down costs of other items with coupons. Here’s the beauty of using coupons and buying items on sale: it frees up money for you. With this new-found money in your budget, you can now more easily afford the ingredients that really matter to you – organic produce, quality meat cuts, gourmet oils and chutneys, imported cheeses – what have you. For items that you could give a fig’s tooth about use coupons and buy on sale! Make sense?
6. Use rebates and store credit. We’ll be talking more about rebates tomorrow, but bottom line, I love ’em. While a lot of time folks will tell you to use rebates to buy more items on rebate in order to keep an endless cycle going (which can be fun, no doubt), sometimes I think it’s an equally worthy idea to simply spend those rebates or store credit to help pay for items you need or just plain want. For instance, I earned a $20 Rite Aid card for the Fall Savings rebate offer last month. It really didn’t cost me much of anything to earn – and it’s a nice bonus. I may well end up using that to just buy a big box of diapers – whether or not it’s on “sale.” Sure I’ll do my best to use coupons as I can, but it’ll be nice knowing I won’t have to pay out of pocket for them.
7. Learn all you can about your stores. For instance, when does the butcher mark down meat? Who is the produce manager – could you negotiate a deal on that box of apples about to go bad? Who’s responsible for marking down clearance items? And can they text you when they’ve done so? OK, maybe the last one is a stretch, but you get the idea. Make friends with the store employees. See what they can do to help you find those deals!
(Photo credit John Moore)
8. Rethink your meal plan. I’m learning to plan my meals with season trends. For instance, around Superbowl there was a ton of Mexican-themed ingredients on sale. Right now, I’ve been finding potatoes, sausages, and soup. And apples. I am not about to buy raspberries or mangoes right now. Think about the produce and meat that comes on sale during the various times of the year, and work with it, not against it. You’ll probably save a lot of money using this one basic idea alone.
If you have other strategies that have helped you in the past, speak up. See you in a couple days when we talk more about rebates, how they work, and if they are worth it!