How You Can Fix Your Grocery Budget in 2015

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It’s no secret that couponing has lost most of its magic.  Food prices are up, coupon values are down, and store policies have gotten very strict. A large portion of the coupon classes I’ve taught over the past decade focused on how to shop at grocery stores and avoid the overpriced big box stores. Many chose to switch their shopping to the Kroger family stores, which have recently closed in most of the local market.  It’s a rough loss, especially since shopping options are limited enough in my local market, but that doesn’t mean that you have to throw in the towel and pay full price!

Over the past couple of years, things have changed so much in my life that couponing became one of the first things to go.  Limits were imposed that made it difficult to justify the drive into town.  We began growing and producing more of our own produce and meats.  We also welcomed baby #3 into the family, which was a big adjustment considering our older children were pre-teens and teenagers.  We battled a long illness and are still battling chronic carsickness with him, which has greatly limited the time I have to shop.

Instead of blowing my budget, which seemed almost inevitable, I’ve settled on a combination of alternate savings techniques that have not only kept my budget in tact, I’m actually spending less money AND saving a ton of time.  Here’s how I’m doing it:

Shopping the Sales I’m not a supporter of price matching, but I am a big supporter of many of our local grocers.  We have a fantastic selection of mom and pop stores who run much better sales than any of the larger chains.  They have fantastic produce and meats, along with offering a pleasant shopping experience.  If you don’t have time to shop at multiple stores, pick the store that has the best prices and sales on the items that your family normally buys.  Don’t be quick to regard a grocer as ‘expensive’, because some of the more high end stores offer more competitive pricing- not only in their sales, but as everyday prices.  You won’t know until you go!

Knowing Your Prices This is the SINGLE MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do to save money on anything.  If you’re not aware of the retail price, you won’t be able to judge how much you’re saving.

Purchasing in Bulk In recent years, we shied away from warehouse stores because the prices were no longer competitive enough to justify the membership fees.  While many items are still not a bargain, some are highly discounted.  If you family’s tastes revolve around some of the deepest discounts, you can save quite a bit.  It’s always important to know your prices and break down the warehouse price to identical sized packages to have an accurate comparison.  Some of my favorite warehouse buys are butter, cheese, frozen biscuits, peanut butter crackers, packaged deli meats, and greek yogurt.

Meal Planning By planning your meals around the store sales, you can easily cut your grocery bill in half.  If chicken is on sale, base your menu on your favorite chicken dishes.  Not only will this save you money in the store, you will save time by having a dinner plan in place each night, and you won’t be making additional trips to the store or grabbing dinner out.

Freezer Cooking This is an extension of meal planning that allows you to prepare multiple meals in a short amount of time and freeze them for future use.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll be providing detailed meal plans for both fresh and freezer meals.

Prime Pantry Amazon has a relatively new service for members of Amazon Prime.  This service allows you to order many grocery and household items at prices lower than discount stores, and they ship straight to your door.  Many of the items have coupons available, and some are as low as FREE after the discount.  I order items such as canned veggies, wipes, flour, sugar, and spices from Prime Pantry. We’ve created a Facebook group dedicated solely to Prime Pantry deals,.  If you’d like to join, click here: Prime Pantry Deals Facebook Page 

Subscribe and Save This is another free service that allows you to purchase discounted items from Amazon.  These deals are often hidden, so we have a group dedicated to finding them just for you!  We find some fantastic ones- such as  Kahlua Coffee for $2, Udderly Smooth for $1, 5 lb bags of gourmet coffee for $8, a 6 pack of 24 oz bags of organic brown sugar for $2.44, and so many more!  You can join this group here:  Subscribe and Save Deals II

Gardening  This will be our fourth summer in this home, and we have been working on an orchard and expanding the gardens every year.  This year, I’ll be spending more time documenting my garden and harvests, along with sharing recipes and preservation techniques for seasonal recipes.

Farming We raise chickens for eggs and the occasional meat, and we also raise pigs.  Doing so doesn’t necessarily offset the cost of purchasing in-store, in fact, it’s often the opposite, but it does make me more comfortable in what I feed my family.  We also utilize Zaycon for boneless chicken breasts and other bulk meat purchases.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be bringing you more in-depth articles covering these topics so that you, too, can take full control of your time and budget.  In the meantime, don’t forget to request to join the Prime Pantry and Subscribe and Save Facebook groups!  We only approve new members once a month in each group and there are limited spots available.  Get your name on the list now, so we can approve you when there’s space.

I will also be booking a limited number of workshops throughout the year, including The Ultimate Grocery Savings Workshop (which focuses on how to cut your personal budget with and without using coupons), and our popular work at home series, Sensible Earnings.

If you’d like even more details on the above, make sure to join The Sensible Family facebook group- it’s filled with great ideas from like minded readers!

Why Price Matching May be Ruining Your Grocery Budget

Price Matching

What?!?!  GASP!?!?  Yes, I’m going there.  I know, you thought you found the perfect alternative to couponing.  You’re saving hundreds of dollars… or are you? {Please note, the following post is based around more than a decade’s worth of pricing analysis and experience in the Southwest Missouri region.}

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a while now.  If you’ve taken a class, you’ve heard my spiel on why price matching isn’t always the best solution.  If not, pay attention! 

Before I shatter your world… or you just pretend that I’m wrong without doing any further research on the topic, I want you to imagine this:

You own a small business.  You work extremely hard to provide great customer service and competitive pricing.  You put out weekly sales and advertise them to the entire community.  You may even take a loss on some sale items, but you want customers in your door so that you can prove your worth.  You buy excess inventory so that everyone is able to take advantage.  Then no one shows up.  You’re stuck with the inventory, you wasted your money advertising,  and your books took a huge hit.  Your next sale won’t be as good, because you’ve got to offset the losses.

Now, let’s imagine you own a large business.  Instead of spending your money advertising to provide discounts to all of your customers, you only offer them to a select few who take the time to ask for them. {That’s called Price Matching}

To offset the difference, your prices on unadvertised items raise.  The prices are less than competitive, but no one realizes it.  Why?  Because they’ve got the price matching bug.  They think they are saving a fortune!  It’s definitely marketing at it’s finest.  The little guy is running your ads and sales, and you only have to give them to the customers that request it.

Here’s the truth:

1.  You aren’t in on any top secret deals… you’re getting the exact same deals you would if you shopped elsewhere, but you’re missing out on some very important discounts, such as manager’s specials, markdowns, and grocer pricing.

2.  You may even think you’ve found a solution that allows you to skip looking at the ads.  Woohoo- you’ve saved yourself three minutes and cost yourself a fortune.  I’ve been monitoring a couple of price matching websites that focus on local stores.  They are leaving out some of the best deals and posting some of the worst.  Over the past few weeks, there have been dozens of items that were priced well BELOW my stock-up prices that didn’t make the list.  And there were others that were actually priced much higher that did.

3.  You sure showed them… you saved on your cereal, but your milk cost $2 more.  Several local grocers offer regular prices that are MUCH less than the big box store that price matches.  You can’t take advantage of those prices because a.) you have  no clue they exist because you won’t go elsewhere; and b.)  they aren’t advertised.

You’re probably paying $1 more for your bread, $1.50 more for sugar, $1 more for flour, $1 per bag of chips, $3 per container of cottage cheese, $1.50 more per dozen eggs, and your produce is more than doubled.  Don’t forget about things such as pet food, cleaners, paper goods, and even wine!  They are all usually cheaper at a grocer… except Price Cutter, very few things are cheaper there and the quality is a whole ‘nother story.

4.  There’s a possibility that you’re making prices raise for your next shopping trip.  Prices are always rising and there are so many excuses, reasons as to why that’s happening.  From a business owner’s standpoint, I tend to believe that price matching  may have something to do with it. 

We have a lot of small, locally owned stores.  If they are stuck with a ton of inventory from a sale, they’ve got to offset that loss somewhere.  The sale might not be as good the next time around.  Some stores have even went as far as changing the unit of measurement so that the items aren’t price matchable.  In order to price match, an item must be sold in the same manner.  You may have noticed that some stores are now pricing produce by item instead of weight.  Some are bundling them in odd package sizes, such as 4 packs or 20 ounce packages.  This may be an effort to combat price matching.

5.  But you’re saving soooo much time, right?  Wrong.  I can drive to Springfield, do my shopping at a grocery store, and be home before I’d ever even find a parking space at my local big box store- much less the amount of time you wait in line!

6.  Your health may depend on it.  Did I really just say that?  That’s so dumb… but I’m right.  I’m going to just touch a bit on this, as it’s the subject of an upcoming post.  The layout of a store has a very strong influence on your purchases.  Many grocers are laid out so that you spend a larger portion of your budget on fresh meat and produce.  Many big box stores are set up so you spend your budget on prepackaged and processed foods.  It’s all in the layout of the store.  Start pay attention to the items you buy at different stores and how the layout affects your purchases.

7.  Impulse, impulse, impulse.  Sure, you went shopping for groceries.  You came home with groceries, and flip flops, a toy, a few art supplies, a new outfit, a futon, three novels, a video game, a lava lamp, a pillow, two candles, and a bicycle.  Okay- that may be a slight exaggeration, but you know exactly what I’m talking about.  If you don’t see it, you don’t buy it.  If you don’t buy it, you’ve still got your money.

So, Alicia, now that you’ve finished your rant, do you mind telling me if there are any good things about price matching?

As with anything, moderation is key.  You have to value your time over money.  If it’s worth spending more to avoid driving 5 miles out of your way, go for it.

There are a few circumstances when I feel it’s okay to price match.  Remember, this is just me, and I see all of this from a completely different perspective than the average consumer.

1.  If it’s a store that you have absolutely no intention of visiting.  These stores run sales to get you in the door so that you become a regular customer.  There are so many mom and pop retailers here that aren’t within a reasonable drive (30+ miles).  If it’s not feasible to do your business there, it doesn’t hurt as badly to ‘stick it to the big guy’.

2.  If you want to buy a large quantity of an item.  Remember, a lot of the ridiculously low prices are actually costing the store money.  They can’t afford for you to buy dozens of an item.

3.  If the quality is subpar.  One of the finest examples of this is Aldi avocadoes.  They often run them for 29¢, but they are the size of golf balls.  The big box stores will match and have much larger, fresher ones.

4.  If club points are required for purchase.  Often times, you may not have enough points accumulated to take advantage of a special deal.  Big box stores will match the price without requiring points.

5. If the advertising store is known for not carrying a sufficient quantity of the advertised items.  There is a local chain that has locations that don’t even stock many of the items in their ad or provide them in extremely limited quantities.  If that’s the case, it’s quite reasonable to match their prices elsewhere.


 

To sum everything up, there are some instances where price matching can save you money… but it’s no special, top secret technique.   You’re simply purchasing items at sale prices.  This method has been around for decades. 

Remember, I’ve been doing this a very long time.  I am fortunate enough to see the benefits and repercussions from several sides.  The bottom line is that it’s your job to do what you think is best for your family- but it’s my job to provide you with the information to make the best possible decision.

As with any method of saving, you’ve really got to pay attention to make sure you’re really saving  money.  The best way to do this is to price the items you typically buy at several stores to see who routinely offers the best prices.  You might be surprised! 

Back to School Savings | How I’ve Saved over $4,000

My husband and son have the fastest growing, thickest hair I’ve ever seen!  When my son was little, it seemed that we were spending $30 a month on haircuts for the both of them.  One night my husband came home with a pair of clippers and said “You’re going to learn to do this.”  I was terrified.  I can’t even make a ponytail look good!  He said, “I wear a hat, you can’t mess it up that badly.”

I’ll admit, the first few probably weren’t the greatest, but they weren’t terrible, either.  I’ve gotten much faster over time, going from an hour haircut to a 5 minute one.  There are times when I’m too busy or the boys just want to go to the barber shop, and honestly, the cuts don’t look any better than what I give.

We buy a new set of clippers about every two years- but their hair was really, really, hard on them. 

Want to know how much money this has saved us?

  • 12 years of haircuts at $30 per month: $4,320
  • 6 pairs of clippers at $30 each: $180
  • Total Savings: $4,140

Insane, huh?  Over FOUR THOUSAND DOLLARS!

Of course, this number varies for everyone.  You may not have to get hair cut every month or pay $15 each for haircuts.  You may also have more boys with thicker hair than I do.

Want to give it a shot?  Amazon has some Wahl Clipping sets (one is even color coded) for under $20!  These retail for around $40.

Who Owns that Brand? Easy to Read Graphic

Parent Brands

I cannot tell you how often I hear someone that is ‘boycotting’ a brand for some reason or another.  Usually it’s due to a viral rumor, but that’s another story… (remember the fake Oprah/Tommy Hilfiger scandal? )

I’ve also had couponers tell me that they organize their coupons by ‘parent company’.  WOW!  I cannot believe that they can find anything when it’s lumped into eight random groups. 

The graphic above is a very easy to read diagram of parent companies and their subsidiaries.  I wish I  could take or give credit for this graphic, but I received it in an email and there was no name attached. 

As a couponer, rebater, or just plain ‘ol shopper, it’s important to know the parent companies for several reasons.  In one of my stores this week is a promotion: Buy any 5 Kraft products, save $5 instantly.  No coupon required, the register will take care of everything.  Now you can easily find qualifying items without searching the store high and low. 

Save this photo to your computer for reference.  It will come in very handy, I promise!

Alicia’s Coupon Corner: How Do I Use Electronic Coupons?

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What is an electronic coupon?

An electronic coupon (commonly called E-Coupon) is a coupon that is loaded directly to shoppers (or loyalty) cards at selected stores.  You will manually load the coupons YOU want at various websites.  The discount will automatically be taken at the register when you buy each product.

Where do I find electronic coupons?

There are now several sites that offer e-coupons.  You’ll want to sign up with each one, as they all carry different coupons!  You will need the number on the back of your shoppers card to sign up.

Which stores accept electronic coupons?

Many of the larger chains are compatible with electronic coupons.  When you register for each site mentioned above, it will state which stores in your area accept e-coupons.

How many of each electronic coupon may I use at one time?

Unfortunately, you will only be allowed to use each coupon one time.  Sometimes the coupons are ‘reset’, which will allow you to reload and reuse them.

Will these coupons double?

Electronic coupons are maintained by a 3rd party, not the store, so they will not double or triple as a paper coupon would.

May I stack these with a paper coupon?

The majority of electronic coupons are manufacturer coupons and cannot be used with any other manufacturer coupon.  (Remember, it’s fraud to use two manufacturer coupons on the same item.)

How do I know what’s on my card?

When you load the coupons, you will be asked if you would like to print a shopping list.  This list details every coupon loaded to your card.  This will help you remember what coupons you have along with restrictions.  The store will not be able to access this information.

How do you feel about electronic coupons?  I think they are a great, effortless way to save extra money at the store.  The single coupon limits don’t appeal very well to the more dedicated couponers.

Q&A: What Do I Do if My Email Has Been Hacked?

Spam

Every morning, my email inbox is filled with spam from some of you lovely readers.  It’s been a lot worse than normal this week.  I try to reply to each one individually or will even answer random Facebook posts with the solution.  I decided to write this blog post so that you already have this information tucked away in case it happens to you!

What is hacking? The most common form of email hacking is when someone obtains your password and sends junk email to your contacts. 

How will I know I’ve been hacked? Your sent box will be full of messages you didn’t send.  Sometimes they will make their way back into your inbox as ‘undeliverable’.

How did they get MY password?  Hackers set up a software that will generate passwords in an attempt to access an account.  It’s not a personal attempt.

How do I fix it?  Luckily, the fix is simple.  Just log in and change your password.  Use something a little more complicated than your kid’s name or your birthday.  A collection of random letters, numbers, and symbols is the best.  The longer, the better!

Should I set up a new email account?  Unless this happens to you on a very regular basis (which I doubt), it’s not worth the hassle to set up a new account.  Even if you start a new one, your old one will continue to send out spam messages.

DO NOT TAKE YOUR COMPUTER INTO A SHOP TO HAVE THE ‘VIRUS’ REMOVED  I couldn’t tell you how many times someone has sent me an email apologizing for the hacking and that they have dropped it off at Office Depot to have a virus removed.  Two weeks later, I’ll get another one that tells me that they must have contracted another virus, because it’s happening again. 

If you’re using an online email client, such as hotmail, gmail, etc., there is no way a technician can remove this.  It’s a password issue with the email client.  However, it seems that many are more than happy to take your money for a virus removal!

Alicia’s Coupon Corner |How NOT to Use a Coupon

Since the Extreme Couponing craze began, my inbox has been bombarded with questions on how to redeem coupons.  Sadly, many of them start with “I know you told me not to do this, but my friend said that it works…”

This should be common sense, but here goes nothing:

IF YOU INCORRECTLY USE A COUPON, THE STORE WILL NOT GET REIMBURSED.  Do you know what this is?  STEALING! Plain and simple, no questions asked.  Because the store isn’t getting paid for that item, you might as well just stick it in your purse and walk out the door.  (Which is wrong, too- in case you are still morally and ethically confused.)

What?  How are coupons used incorrectly, you ask?  I’ll be glad to tell you (and remember, coupon fraud is a felony crime punishable by law).

1.  You must buy the product STATED on the coupon and nothing else.  If the manufacturer intended for you to use that toothpaste coupon to purchase diapers, don’t you think they would have said ‘valid on the purchase of toothpaste or diapers’?  If the store didn’t sell you the product, they cannot get reimbursed for your coupon. 

For those of you honest readers that are staring at your screen in disbelief, yes, this happens.  There are sometimes glitches in their computer system that will allow it, or some devious deal seekers prey on naïve cashiers that are a little too over-ride happy.

Common reasoning behind this:

“My best friend does it, and it works for her”

“That’s how they do it on Extreme Couponing”

“I took a class offered by a mom at my  church and this is what they told me to do”

“But it scanned and they took it!”

And for those most deceitful: “That store has overcharged me for years, I’m just recouping my losses.”

2.  You cannot purchase a size that is excluded or not stated on the coupon.  If a coupon says ‘Excluding Travel Sizes’, you CANNOT buy a travel sized item, even if you decide to call it a trial sized item.  If it says you must buy 12 ounces or larger, it has to be 12 ounces or larger.  Not 11, not 11.5, but 12.

Still confused?  Refer to #1.

3. You cannot photocopy coupons.  Photocopying coupons is illegal and PLAINLY stated on each coupon.  And when I say that you can’t photocopy, guess what?  You can’t scan it to your computer and reprint it either.

What if your printer hiccups and only allows you to print one of a coupons.com or like coupon, when you know the limit is two?  You still cannot photocopy the first one, as each one will print with a unique number that allows tracking of duplicates.

4.  Snipping off the expiration date voids the coupon.  If you’ve got an expired coupon laying around and you really want to use it, ‘accidentally’ snipping off the expiration date won’t get you anywhere.  Even if you fool a cashier, I’m pretty sure the company that issued the coupon knows when they did it and will not reimburse the store for stragglers.  Coupons without a date are deemed VOID.

Now, for those of you who are thinking to yourselves, “I know I coupon correctly, it’s none of my business what everyone else does because it doesn’t affect me in any way.” might want to reevaluate that.  Stores don’t take these losses lightly.  They have to recoup their costs, and they do so by raising prices.  This affects you.  They also have begun to tighten coupon policies to help combat the extremists.  Guess what?  This affects you, too.

Do you have any questions you’d like to see answered in Alicia’s Coupon Corner?  Send an email to alicia@thesensiblefamily.com

Saving Your Way to a Better Holiday Season | Setting the ‘Ol Budget

Piggy Bank

Last week, we discussed how to write your list and why you need to do it so early (If you missed it, read this post).  I’m sure all of you have at least a partial list written, if not, take a few minutes today and jot down everyone you intend to purchase for this season.  Also include other holiday expenses, such as cards, postage, food, gift wrap, etc.  This should not take very long and will help with setting your budget.

Once you’ve gotten your list ready, it much easier to allocate your budget, but first, you must set an overall budget.  Your overall budget can either be the amount of actual cash you’d like to spend or the total retail value of all gifts.  I recommend using actual cash, so that you do not get caught up in deal shopping and exceed your budget. 

You also need to take a few other things into consideration:

  • Will you set an amount per family or per person?  If you have a sibling that’s married with 6 children and another with only 2, will you spend the same amount on each person or each family? 
  • Will your budgeted amount be for retail value or what you actually spent on it?  If you have a $25 budget for Cousin Joe and you find a $25 video game for $5, will you consider the game his only gift or will you keep shopping until you’ve physically spent $25? (I still recommend setting your overall budget as the maximum you hope to spend)
  • Do any of your gift exchanges impose limits?  If so, make sure you follow them!

Here’s an example of a very simple Christmas budget:

Person Each Overall Budget
Spouse $50 $50
Child (x3) $100 $300
Parents (x4) $25 $100
Siblings (x6) $20 $120
Nieces/Nephews (x8) $20 $140
Teachers (x2) $20 $40
Decorations/Tree $50 $50
Gift Wrap $30 $30
Cards/Postage $40 $40
Donations $100 $100
Food $140 $140
Total   $1,000

Let’s say that you have a $1,000 overall budget (for the sake of perfectly rounded numbers).  You may want to spend $100 one each of your kids, $25 on your parents, $20 on your siblings and their children, etc. (see above chart). 

It’s very important to figure in incidentals such as foods for parties, hostess gifts, Christmas dinner, stocking stuffers, etc.  

I’ve created a very simple Christmas budget Excel spreadsheet that will help you stay on budget.  Try to update it every time you purchase a gift!  You can download it here:

In the next post in the Saving Your Way to a Better Holiday Season, we’ll talk about super easy ways to sock away some extra cash to help combat that budget! 

I’m curious, what is your Christmas budget?  Overall or per family?  Leave a comment below!

Deciphering the Deals | The Difference Between a Store Coupon and a Manufacturers Coupon

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Please read this post and take notes, memorize it, tattoo it on your arm, whatever you have to do to understand and remember it.

One of the most important things to know when couponing is how to tell the difference between a store coupon and a manufacturer’s coupon.  In my workshops, I stress this over and over again, but I can still tell that many shrug it off as useless information. 

Why is it so important to tell the difference?  At almost every store (excluding K-Mart), you can ‘stack’ a manufacturer coupon and a store coupon on one individual item.  You may NOT use two store coupons on one item or two manufacturer coupons on one item.

When you redeem a coupon, the retailer must submit it to a ‘coupon clearinghouse’.  This clearinghouse sorts the coupons, scans them, tracks the value, and requests payment from the actual manufacturer.  Once the payment is received, the clearinghouse disperses the payments to retailers.  If a coupon is fraudulent or if the total number of coupons redeemed exceeds the products sold, the manufacturer will not reimburse the store (if a store sold 20 packages of Kraft cheese but sent in 30 coupons).  When you break it down, it is the same as stealing.  You’ve went into a store and knowingly paid with an invalid form of payment.  It’s the same to the store as paying with counterfeit money.. They will take the same loss as if you had stuck that item in your purse and walked out the door.  Not many of you would do that, but I’ve heard from several that assume it’s okay as long as you used the coupon.

HOW TO TELL THE DIFFERENCE

  • It’s super easy to tell the difference, don’t worry!  If a coupon has an address for the store to submit the coupon to for reimbursement, it’s a manufacturers coupon.  That address is where the coupons will be tracked for payment.

  • A store coupon is treated like a discount from the store.  Because there is no reimbursement for the value, the store does not submit the coupon for payment.

  • Many coupons will make it even easier for you and plainly state ‘MANUFACTURER COUPON’, ‘MANU COUPON’, or ‘STORE COUPON’ at the top.  Pretty simple, huh? 

THINGS TO WATCH OUT FOR

  • Just because a coupon is found in the store ad or on store shelves DOES NOT mean that it’s a store coupon.  The coupon pictured above can be found in one of my local ads this week.  It plainly says IN-AD coupon, not in-store coupon.  It has a remit to address that requires the retailer to submit the coupon to Kraft foods for reimbursement.  Kraft foods paid to have the coupons placed in the store’s ad. 

  • Don’t be confused by the ‘Redeemable at Price Cutter, Ramey, or Smitty’s’ wording.  The remit to address trumps any questionable wording.  They are just saying that this coupon needs to be redeemed at one of these stores.

  • On the flip side, just because a coupon is found in the inserts or on a printable coupon site does not mean it’s a manufacturer’s coupon.  There are often Target coupons in the weekly inserts or magazines, and there are even some store coupons on coupons.com right now. 

The current $5/5 Kraft products coupon CANNOT be combined with any other manufacturer coupon. 

HOW THIS AFFECTS OTHER COUPONERS

When coupons are used correctly, stores stand to make a profit off of their redemption.  If a retailer is taking a loss on coupons because of incorrect or immoral redemption, they may change their coupon policy and their attitude towards couponers.  I’ve been in stores that treat couponers like dirt because they believe that they are stealing from them.  Did you ever stop to wonder why this happens?  It’s because of people that constantly abuse the system.

A few months from now, when your store is no longer accepting multiple coupons, printables, or possibly no coupons at all, it’s not just going to hurt legitimate couponers, but you may regret not paying that extra $1 for your shredded cheese when you are no longer saving on your grocery bill. 

11 Ways to Save on Your Grocery Bill-Without Touching a Coupon!

I get asked about grocery savings a LOT!  As funny as it sounds to us die-hard couponers who don’t ever want to pay much for our overly inflated groceries, there are still people who either don’t want to use coupons or don’t believe in them, no matter how much proof you give them.  I honestly think that some people would believe in the Tooth Fairy before they would admit that couponing is real. 

Because most people can’t always buy every item they need with a coupon, this post is intended to show you ways to save without touching a coupon.  If you’re a couponer, still read through this, as you will save even more when you combine these tips with couponing!

Grocery stores are considered to have some of the most intelligent marketing practices of any business.  Did you know that even the music they play is scientifically proven to slow your heart rate so that you spend more time in the store?

  • Planning your meals and shopping with a list can save a fortune! Impulse purchases will be reduced to a bare minimum and you won’t be walking around basing meals off of what looks good.
  • Make your menu plan off of the sale ad. Remember that the items listed at drastic discounts are actually priced at a loss for the store (except in OK and MN). This is intended to take advantage of those looking to save time by shopping at one store. They want to get you in the door so that you’ll spend more on everything else.
  • Pricematch sale items at Walmart or Target. Walmart is by far the easiest. Take in your ad and show the sale items you would like to pricematch to the cashier. Most stores offer this for a 50 mile radius. They will NOT pm BOGO or % off sales, but will match generic items, meat, and produce (check your Aldi ads!)
  • Shop when you have limited time. Again, this will hurry you through the store. The more you meander, the more you buy. Try shopping on your lunch hour or before church.
  • Cook from your pantry for one week each month. Limit your shopping that week to perishables only and get creative. Check out websites such as www.stockpilecooking.com to learn different ways to use basic ingredients. Cutting out one week of shopping can save $1200 per year (with a $100 per week budget) and will save even more by using up those items you might eventually throw out.
  • Avoid ‘Speed Traps’. These are the big sale displays located in the aisles that stop you from using them as a cut-through. If you stop, you look around and end up purchasing something. Don’t assume the sale prices on the displays are the best available. These items are typicallycoded with a unique barcode that may even make them ring up at a higher price than those on the shelf. 
  • If an item might be considered seasonal, check in the seasonal and regular section for this item. Again, they are coded with unique barcodes that have different prices. A perfect example is tape- it’s always cheaper in the Christmas section than the giftwrap section or office supply section.
  • Know your prices- can’t stress that enough! Many times a sale price really isn’t a sale price. If you see a huge yellow sign that says ‘New Lower Price’, lift it up to see what the regular price is. It just might be cheaper when it’s not on sale- or at a store like Walmart or Target. 
  • At most grocers, you don’t have to buy 10 items to take advantage of a 10/$10 sale (you DO have to at Walgreens or CVS). Many don’t even make you buy 2 items in a BOGO sale- each item rings up half price.
  • Don’t strictly shop generic. This can cause you to spend more money than if you were to shop the sale ads. Name brand items go on sale, may have coupons attached, and participate in store promotions more frequently than their generic counterparts. Identical lists fulfilled by shopping strictly generic and again by looking at prices can cost up to 34% more by purchasing strictly generic.
  • If you find a great sale price on an item you use frequently, buy enough to last you a while. If you use 2 cans of tomato sauce per week ($1.19 regular price) and it goes on sale for 20¢ per can, but several. When you get 6 for the price of 1, it will save you a fortune.
  • Assess your spending!! Write out what you buy on a regular basis and what you spend on it. Calculate your yearly costs with that item to see what you spend yearly. This will AMAZE you! When we shopped locally (before I started couponing), we bought 2 lbs of bacon a week at $7 per package. I stocked up on it for 50¢ per package with coupons- I bought all I could! It saved us $624 per year- just on bacon! We went to Florida for the weekend, (I got a super hot deal on flight, meals, and 5 star hotel) for less than what we spent on bacon. We sacrificed nothing, still had our bacon, went to Florida, and had a couple hundred to boot. The tomato sauce deal listed above would save you $114.40 per year.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.. for Thrift Store shopping!

I posted this last January, but want to use it to remind my readers about how many bargains can be found this month!

Thrift stores can be a wonderful resource for bargain shopping, but I’ll bet you didn’t know that January and February are the best possible times to visit the resale shop. Many people are trying to clean out and reorganize before the holidays, which results in a large increase in donations. There is also one other huge contributor… tax time! Many people scramble at last minute to get the most out of those deductions. Thrift stores receive such a large amount of donations, they cannot put them all out at once. Each new day can bring some great bargains!

If you have a favorite thrift store in the Southwest Missouri region, leave a comment to this post. We’d all like to check them out!