Your First Shopping Trip…Are You ready?
Have you made it through this week’s Crash Course? If your answer is yes, then CONGRATULATIONS! It’s been a crazy week with lots of information hurled at you, so if you’ve made it this far, then I’m impressed! Truly, I am! So, in today’s lesson, we’re going to learn how to wrap up all the knowledge you’ve acquired thus far, put a pretty bow on it, and GO SHOPPING!!
Shopping…I just love that word. The sound of it, the way it slides off your teeth and lips, and most of all, the meaning of the word. Woohoo! We get to go to the stores, have fun, and bring back lots of stuff! Now, in your pre-couponing days, you would grab your car keys, make a mad dash out the door and into the car in a fevered frenzy, turn around, go back in the house, grab your kids, head back out to the car, and take off down the road in mad anticipation. Now that you’re a full-fledged graduate of the SwagGrabber Couponing Crash Course, with a license to shop, things will be a little different, but wow…you’re going to love the results!!
The most important thing you can do as a couponer, is plan plan plan. There are several steps to take before your shopping trip in order to assure your success. The very first step is to check your fridge and pantry, and see what you need. This will be pretty simple at first, but as you start stockpiling, you will need to check your fridge and pantry, your overstock pantry, your extra-overstock pantry in your basement, under your bed, and anywhere else you keep your stockpiles! Make a general list of what basics you need, such as milk, bread and eggs and other perishables.
Next, grab your weekly sales circulars and really look over them carefully. At the same time, you can be by your computer taking a peek at the matchups on SwagGrabber (or the Grocery Gathering, if Sheri doesn’t list your local store.) To me, this is BY FAR the most important step of your whole entire shopping trip. I think, where most newbies go wrong, is to take their stacks of coupons to the store and look through each pile while they are pricing things aisle by aisle. I have literally spent HOURS at stores doing this. And then when I check out, I may have a stack of coupons to give the cashier, but my bill is still way more than I expected it to be. If you do this a few times, you just get discouraged, and after a while, give up all together. You don’t see a large enough return on your investment of time.
Now, I sit down with my circulars, my coupons and the computer nearby, and start with the match-ups I see on the sites. Then I take it one step further, and look for my own matchups, based on our needs. Most websites will have the best matchups posted, but I am usually still able to find others that I can use as well. As I’m doing this, I write out two lists. The first is a grocery list with the item, and the deal, and the coupon I will need, and then what I should end up paying out the door for that item. This sounds like a lot of work, but it’s not nearly as much work as traipsing through the store 12 times. And remember those abbreviations you just learned? This is part of the reason why you learned them! My second list is one I make as I’m looking at sales, and wondering if I have a coupon for a particular item. I will write down the item, and then go back and check my stash for a coupon. As I find (or don’t find) coupons, I mark them off of my list, then toss that list in the trash. Next, I pull the coupons for the items on my grocery list, and match up any coupons that go together for each listing, such as an item I have both a store coupon for, and a manufacturer’s coupon for. I even put the coupons in the same order as the items are on my list.
Then (and here’s the kicker) take your list, your SPECIFIC coupons, and your grocery circular, and walk out the door. LEAVE YOUR OTHER COUPONS AT HOME! Yes, you read right…it wasn’t a typo. I have wasted SO many hours flipping through coupons at the store just wondering if I had one more good deal stashed away somewhere. Make a list; grab JUST your coupons on your list, and STICK TO IT! You will never have one of those incredible shopping trips where you save 75% percent on your bill, if you keep throwing things in your cart! If you find an amazing deal while you’re at the store, and just know that you have a coupon at home for it, then make another trip later in the week, if the deal is that awesome. I have done this before, but not very often. Normally I find that if I leave my excess coupons at home, the world will not end…or at least it hasn’t yet!
As you are making your list and deciding what to buy, you may want to keep in mind what you have excesses of, and plan your weekly menus with your stockpile and great sales in mind. As I told you in an earlier article, just because we own our weight in mac & cheese, doesn’t mean that’s all we will ever eat. We may have it as part of a meal every week or so, but we also eat seasonally and plan our menus around what’s priced right for that week. We love fresh corn on the cob, but refuse to pay top dollar for it. But you can bet your last nickel, that when it goes on sale in the summer, we will get our fill over the several weeks it’s priced right. Planning your meals seasonally and around sales will save you tons of money in your shopping budget.
And speaking of your shopping budget…as mentioned before in the article about stockpiling, as your pile builds, you will spend less money at the grocery store each week. While you’re acquiring your hoard, set back a small portion of your weekly grocery budget to use for stockpiling. Even if it’s just a few dollars a week, it‘ll add up fast, because remember, you only want to stock up on a certain item when it’s free or at a completely unbeatable price. And when you’re looking at those illusive items to buy, remember…bigger isn’t always better. It may have been in your old way of thinking…but not anymore! Let’s say that you find a 16 ounce bottle of shampoo on sale for $1. Let’s say that same brand in a 32 ounce bottle is on sale for $1.79. And, let’s say you have a coupon for $1 off any size shampoo of that brand. Your first thought may be that you can get a 32 ounce bottle of shampoo for only $.79! But look again. You can get a 16 ounce bottle, completely for free. If you have 10 of those coupons, you can get 10 bottles, or 160 ounces of shampoo, FOR FREE! WAY better than $.79! And certainly better than the $7.90 you would spend on 10 bottles. You may wind up with more that way, but by the time you have used up your 10 – 16 ounce bottles, you have probably already found another great sale, thereby saving $7.90 in the process!
One more little bit of housekeeping before winding this series up: Let’s talk about rain checks. If you find an unbeatable sale at your local store, and you have unbeatable coupons to go with it, you can bet that somebody else nearby has discovered that awesome deal too. It’s not terribly unusual to get to the grocery store and realize that they have sold out of an item you want. If that’s the case, request a rain check. The cashier may be able to issue one to you, or you may need to go to the customer service desk, but either way, it’s definitely worth your while. A rain check is a written guarantee from the store, that you will be able to take advantage of their sale price at a later time, when the item has been restocked. Most stores issue rain checks that are good for 30 days. A few stores will offer ones with longer expiration dates, or even open-ended ones that don’t have an expiration date! Don’t get too excited though…that’s not very common.
Okay troops! You have learned about match-ups and BOGO’s. You know what stockpiling is, how to learn what your “buy now” price will be, where to find coupons and how to organize them. You have learned how to speak and read a whole new language, and now you know how to execute all of this newly obtained knowledge, by having the BEST shopping trip EVER. My work here is done.
Until next week, that is! Stay tuned for more! And PLEASE feel free to leave a comment letting us know what other subjects you would like to read articles about it the future. Thanks for hanging in there with us! Happy shopping!
Part 1 – Couponing Think Big Start Small – click HERE to read Part 1
Part 2 – Price Points & How to Find Coupons – click HERE to read Part 2
Part 3 – The Illusive Foreign Language of Couponing – click HERE to read Part 3
Part 4 – Coupon Organization – click HERE to read Part 4
Part 5 = Your First Shopping Trip – click HERE to read Part 5