Continuing in the theme of best practices, and synergized with the continuing unemployment situation, I thought I’d touch on a favorite topic of mine:
I first discovered the power of grocery coupons immediately after marriage. We were looking at any means of saving money and this one seemed like a decent enough idea– clip a few coupons, toss ’em at the clerk, avoid paying a couple of dollars.
I was so naive.
I had no idea at first of the true power these little slips of slick paper held. Combined with sales, multipliers and store memberships, the potential was mind-boggling. I began walking out of stores with 60% or so typically lopped off the total.
Let that sink in.
Once I became familiar with this new world I quickly turned into a zealot. I lost allegiance to most brands, restricted our purchases and bulked up on nonperishables. My wife, a self-admitted impulse buyer, began letting me shop alone so as to stay out of my way. Every shopping event became a military mission, with the grocer as my enemy. He wanted my money. I wanted to cut and run.
Friends and family actually began ridiculing us for the practice, perhaps out of fear or jealousy. When I pressed the issue, and challenged them to give it a shot, most demurred. “I don’t have time,” was the common excuse.
If you have time to watch TV, as the average American does, you have time to whip out your shears and snip as you gaze at the screen. True, my method of shopping takes a little more overall time than the typical grab-and-dash, but the money savings make up for it. I once filled an entire grocery cart for $9. Our savings are now typically around 35% per visit but that’s still acceptable to me.
If you’ve read this far, you’re probably interested in the details. So I’ll share my tricks:
- Clip coupons. Well, duh. Buy the Sunday paper on Monday, when some grocers sell bundled versions of the Sunday and Early Sunday editions. You get twice the coupons for less. Note: for some inexplicable reason, coupons do not usually come out on holidays. Go figure.
- Join your stores’ membership program(s). Yeah, they’ll have your personal info on file. So what. They use it to survey shopping habits and target you with specific deals. Some stores even periodically send you extra coupons in the mail.
- Keep current on doubling and tripling policies. My favorite store triples up to 39 cents and doubles up to 50 cents. I’ve occasionally enjoyed specials where dollar coupons were doubled or 75 cent ones were tripled. Don’t be shy about calling local stores to find out their most recent deals.
- Shop for tomorrow, not today. Yeah, you need perishables. But it never hurts to buy dry goods when they’re really cheap and sock them away. Pasta, beans, cereal, rice, canned goods, mixes, etc– all are good candidates for the pantry. Load up when they’re cheap.
- Watch for sales. Your best results are when combining coupons with sales events. Some grocers even let you combine their own in-store coupons with vendor coupons. Cha-ching!
- Organize your coupons. A good coupon organizer is worth the expense.
- Limit your purchases to free or really cheap stuff as much as possible. I go in with my list of immediate needs, and also proceed aisle-by-aisle to check my available coupons against specials. If it isn’t on my list, or I can’t get it dirt cheap, I tend not to buy it. With one exception:
- Reward yourself. Have you been saving 25% or more? Nicely done! Now, go ahead and add that expensive coffee since you’ve done so well.
And don’t limit this to groceries. We use the same approach for eating out, typically saving 20% or more. Once you get into this habit, you’ll develop a never-pay-full-price mindset that can help you in many, many ways.