So, you know how much things cost, you’ve got your coupons clipped and organized, and you’ve read your weekly ads. Now comes the fun part – SHOPPING!
Go on! You can do it! The best thing for beginners to do is to pick one or two stores at first, then add more stores as you get more comfortable with what you’re doing. So, pick your favorite store, and then follow these basic principles:
- Coupons are like MONEY! Treat them as though they’re cash. They really ARE valuable, as you’ll learn the more you do this. Don’t throw them away!
- Keep your coupon folder in your purse so you’ll have your favorite coupons with you wherever you go. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve happened across something in a clearance bin that I’ve had a coupon for. Since the folder was in my purse, I just pulled out the coupon, and was able to get it super cheap, or even free.
- It really helps to plan your shopping trip ahead of time. Make a list and have your coupons ready. This is especially helpful if you’re toting along your kiddos, cause you’ll most likely be distracted while you’re at the store. It’ll make your shopping trip a little quicker too, which will be great when you’re going to several stores in one trip.
- Buy things that are on sale and combine the deals with your coupons. This is called stacking, and will give you the most for your money. For example, if Dixie Crystals 5 lb. bag of sugar is on sale for $2.50, and you’ve got a $.35 cent coupon that doubles at Lowes Foods (making the value of the coupon $.70 cents), then you’re getting it for way cheaper (stacked deal makes it cost $1.80) than if you bought it on a week when it wasn’t on sale (normal price is about $2.99 here).
- Buy the smallest size packaging – those “family size” packages don’t always save you as much money as buying the smaller sizes and using multiple coupons. For example, you can buy several 12-packs of tea for just a few cents per box if you use a $.75 coupon (especially if you can use that coupon at a store that doubles coupons – in which case you’d probably get the boxes free), but if you buy the large “family size” box which costs a few dollars or more, then you’re really paying a lot more per tea bag.
- Stock up on items that you frequently use if they’re a great price (this is where having multiple coupons comes in handy). For instance, in the Dixie Crystals sugar example I’d buy however many I had coupons for, and save them for future use (I make a lot of sweet tea, LOL). Don’t go overboard though – only buy what you know you’ll reasonably use before it expires. And, don’t stockpile on weeks that you are short on your budget – that’s silly. Those are the weeks when you should USE your stockpile. Also, let me get on my soapbox for a minute: Don’t stockpile out of greed – we all need these things. Save some of it for your fellow couponer out there to enjoy the savings too.
- Go to more than one store every week – don’t buy something at one store just because it’s convenient. Go a little ways down the road and get the price you really want. Never settle. If the store will do it, ask them to price match, showing them the weekly ad of the competitor store. Ideally (but truthfully it rarely happens), I would go to 3-6 stores per week, to save the most money. There are eight stores within 5 miles of my house, so I wouldn’t be spending too much gas.
- Another thing I’ve found: shockingly, the most expensive grocery stores are often the cheapest, with coupons. I used to always shop at Food Lion, because it had a reputation in my mind that prices were cheaper, and used to pass up Lowes Foods and Harris Teeter which I thought were typically more expensive. Now, however, I’ve found out that with coupons, the opposite is true. When I can get things on sale with double or triple coupons at the more expensive stores that double coupons, it’s actually cheaper than using the same coupon on the same item at Food Lion, which doesn’t double coupons.
- On weeks when your budget is short, limit yourself to only buying things that are free or else dirt cheap. (That’s why on my site, my matchup lists only include “highlights” or the BEST deals – 75% off or better, FREE).
- Do not buy anything that is not on your list. The only exception here is if you find something on the clearance shelf for which you happen to have a coupon in your coupon folder! I got some $.25 cans of Chef Boyardee once, and some free whole-grain organic pasta one time too by taking a glance at the clearance shelves as I passed by them.
- You will make mistakes. I do all the time! I’ll forget to hand the cashier a coupon, or I’ll get denied because one of my coupons expired, or I’ll try to buy 6 of something when the limit was 4. It’s sometimes embarrassing, but it happens to everyone.
I created this printable Master List for you to use while you’re planning your trip! This list will help you as you jot down which items you want to buy, their sale price, the coupons you have clipped/printed/saved for each item, and how much you will actually pay OOP (out of pocket). I hope this is helpful to you!
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