Friday, July 2, 2010
Guest Posts: Little Can Save A Lot Courtesy of Sarah's Deals
One of the most common comments I've heard from friend lately in person is that they don't have the time to shop the way I do. Well, you don't have to go to multiple stores to save money. It certainly will save you the most if you have a plan and make just one trip to do them all. But, you can save money in just one place. Start one helpful hint at a time. Once you've integrated one into your routine, start working on another. One little change at a time will add up to big savings.
If you can make the time, it's worth it. I sat down with a friend yesterday. She had started to deal shop with me before the Holidays and had saved a TON of money. Then the holidays came, things got busy, she shopped without deals/coupons, and she was all of a sudden shocked at her grocery bill (it was back to "normal"). So, we sat down and calculated last week's deal trip and found that she saved $150 and came home with more! We figure she spent 2 hours total printing/clipping/making lists/organizing. Also, on a high estimate maybe spent $15 in gas total (even though she would have used some of that to go to the store anyway) and 4 hours together having fun shopping (with 2 little girls). Still all figured, thats over $20/hour in savings!!
Know what coupons are available. You can do this with a free account at Coupon Mom. Take a few minutes to read up on how to use the Virtual Coupon Organizer. It is the system that I mainly use for my coupons and where I get the dates that I reference on my blog. Basically, all the coupon inserts that come out will have a date on the spine that tells you what day they came in the paper. Keep all the coupons in the inserts until you find one that you need. Use the date I provide or check the Virtual Coupon Organizer at Coupon Mom. Then when you put your list together, grab the insert you need, clip the coupon and attach to your list.
Know your store policies. Do they accept Internet Printable's (IP's), do they double, do they have a limit of how many "like" coupons they will allow in a transaction, do they provide their own coupons/discounts at their website?
Meijer has Mealbox, Kroger uses P&G eCoupons that you can "load" on your Kroger card, these are just a couple examples of policies you should become familiar with. Also, Walmart stores will comp competitor ads. You can take your Meijer ad in and as long as the item is the same brand and size, they will match the price (they will not comp BOGO offers that don't list an exact price). Check out my section on coupon policies.
Keep it legal. For the sake of keeping yourself out of any potential trouble and keeping it good for everyone else, do not use coupons you know or suspect to be fake. If something comes from a friend in an email with a picture to print, chances are it's a fraud. There are many legit places to get coupons. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Only using legal coupons ensures that stores will get reimbursed and not disallow it. Do not photocopy coupons. Internet coupons each have a unique code to help combat fraud, if many of the same coded coupons come in they can track the IP address that they were printed from.
Get multiples when possible. So, you've decided to start using coupons. Start by using legit websites like Coupons.com and Smart Source.com are probably the two most prominent coupon printing sites. You will need to download the coupon printing programs to print. The programs allow the coupons to "brick" after you have printed your allowed amount (usually 2). Each coupon will have a unique code to identify it as original. Next, if you have family or friends that get the Sunday paper, but don't use the coupons, ask them to save the inserts for you so that you can accumulate extra coupons to stock up on items that are on sale so you don't have to buy them when they are not. Check out more resources for coupons here.
Start a price book. Buy a spiral notebook and letter each page. Start tracking what you pay for items. If you purchase apples on a regular basis, pay attention to what you pay. I recommend 3 columns. One for regular price, one for average sale price, and one for best price. If you do shop multiple stores, note what store you found that price at. This way you will be able to see if something is a great deal or just an okay sale.
On a budget already, but not using coupons? Start with just a few coupons and "roll" your savings into a good non-perishable deal. Things that will store will be a good investment for future shopping trips. Each week that you do this, you will accumulate a few extra items that you won't have to purchase the next time you shop. Then when you use a coupon on something else and not purchase the first item, you will have more of your budget to put into other non-perishable items. Do this each week and you will see your budget go further each time.
Do a rebate. This is especially important if the rebate is for something you buy anyway. If you are already buying the products, is it worth the time and effort? Things like the current P&G and Pepsi/Frito rebates for coupons are even more worth it because you get high value coupons back. Even single item rebates (like the peelies on Hillshire Farms Roasted Chicken Tubs) can be worth it. It takes about 5 minutes to process and mail a $4 rebate. That's an hourly rate of $48/hour. Check out more information on rebates here.
Hopefully this will help you get started on your journey. Or at very least, save you a little each time.
Awesome concise information on the basics. "Once you've integrated one into your routine, start working on another," this is key! I did try to ramp up my couponing fast but I waited 3 months to start the pharmacies and 6 months to start rebates. Do what you can saving some is better than saving none! Be sure to check out my Coupon Lessons for more in depth information on each of these topics. Thanks Sarah's Deals!