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Category: Coupons

Guest Post: Three Rules to Remember When Grocery Shopping

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photo by appaloosa

Guest Post by Sharon from the Good, True, and Beautiful blog

I’ll admit, I’m no math whiz. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to take the SAT exam and I can’t remember much of my high school algebra and geometry (how do you calculate the hypotenuse of a triangle? I have no idea).

Most of the time this isn’t a big problem for me, but lately I’ll find myself standing in the middle of the grocery store trying to figure out the best deal, after coupons, with doubled coupons, by the ounce, pound or liter and my poor mind just goes blank.

Without a doubt, the $1.00 I used to buy my pocket calculator has returned its investment many times over. I have it attached to my price book and it gets a good workout on most grocery trips. Juggling coupons, shopping lists, fliers, and a toddler keep my brain busy enough; I’ll let my calculator tell me the price per ounce on Parmesan cheese!

So, having acknowledged my lack of mathematical prowess, I am glad to share with you my “Three Rules to Remember” when it comes to maximizing the value of coupons and grocery store promotions.  I hope they help you as much as they help me:

1) For marked down meats, buy the smallest package with the biggest discount. One of my favorite ways to save money is to be on the lookout for “late date” items in the butcher section. I can get great deals on chicken, fish, or meat that’s perfectly fine, as long as I put it in the freezer that night. My store will discount the item on the sell-buy date, and I will often see stickers for $1 off, $2 off, even $4 off items!

So how can you make the most of these deals? You need to make sure that the $ off coupon represents the greatest percentage possible. A $2 off coupon will be a greater discount on a $4.00 package than it would be on a $4.50 package. So, go for the smaller package and maximize the savings.

2) When there is a Buy One, Get One Free sale, purchase items which are close in price. My local grocery will often have Buy One, Get One promotions on meat and poultry and, like most stores, they charge for the more expensive item and then you get a like item for free.

These deals can be thought of as a 50% discount, but only if you keep the price of the two items as close as possible. If you spend $10 on one item and get a $6 item for free, you are getting $16 worth of meat for $10.00 (a savings of 40%). But if you buy two items that are both $8.00 you’ll have the same $16 worth of meat for only $8.00 (a 50% savings)!

3) If you have a "$ off when you buy $$" coupon, stay close to the "when you buy" number! This is a strategy that is particularly useful at drugstores, which will regularly offer some version of the “$ off when you buy $$” promotions (CVS just emailed me a “$5 off when you buy $20” as I write this!). 

In order to leverage the full value of these discounts–and minimize your out of pocket costs–stay as close to the “when you buy number” as possible. It all comes back to the percentages. You want to make sure that the discount represents the greatest percentage of your purchase possible.

It’s also important to remember that the store is using that coupon to make you think that you’re getting a good deal and then tempt you to spend more than you planned. But if you keep your focus on hitting the "when you buy" number, you can win at this game!

Armed with these three simple rules, I’m confident I’ll make my dollar stretch as far as possible. And if I'm not sure what the best deal is, I'm glad I can always whip out my handy-dandy calculator!

Sharon is the woman behind the Good, True, and Beautiful blog and is learning how to live abundantly on a budget! After 15 years of a successful corporate life, she is now applying her business skills to the best job of all–mom. She lives on a small farm in Upstate NY with her husband and infant son.

Today’s shopping trip: I used e-coupons!

Ya'll, I have entered a new level of couponing as of today: I used e-coupons. You know, those hi-tech, new-fangled coupons that you load onto your card and can't see or feel, you just have to believe that they are there and believe that they will work? Yep, those.

And contrary to all my fears, they actually worked. Every single last one of them.

Okay, so I only used four, but still, it felt like a major victory. Almost as good as when I went in and tried CVS-ing for the very first time.

Lest you think I did it all by myself though, I have to tell you that Lorrie was at the store, too, and she held my hand through the whole process. If it weren't for her, I would have never tried them in the first place.

I think I'm hooked now, though, as they worked beautifully and saved me some extra money! Yay!

Here's what I got at Dillons and Aldi:

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The Idahoan potatoes were free, thanks to coupons a kind friend shared with me. The Yoplait, oatmeal, and Cottonelle were also free, thanks to e-coupons. The Progresso soup was $0.30/can, cheese was on sale for $1.58/8 oz., butter was $1.88, milk was $2.99, Kashi bars were $1 after the $2/1 coupons and a sale.

We bought eggs and fruit at Aldi, since it's much cheaper there and Aldi is so close to Dillons.

If only the Pampers were free. *Sniff* I'm certainly missing CVS when it comes to free diapers. I considered going back to cloth and/or off-brands almost exclusively but after a few days of severe diaper rash, we switched back to our beloved Pampers. There are just some things you can't skimp on and diapers happen to be it for us right now.

All in all, we spent about $38 total this week to buy all the groceries pictured above. Considering I saved $45 at Dillons and that I also bought diapers, I'm pretty happy with that total–especially since it's under our $40 weekly budget.

I still have a freezer full of meat and frozen veggies, along with lots of yummy baked goods from our Baking Day last week, so aside from picking up some free carrots at Target and some $0.19/lb bananas at Wal-Mart (a nearby store has $0.19/lb bananas on Thursday so I can price-match at the Wal-Mart down the street!), we should be set for this week. I'll post our full menu soon so you can see the specifics of what we'll be eating this week.

Guest Post: Saving Money Through “Stockpiling”

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photo by ninjapoodles

Guest Post by Andrea from Mommy Snacks

Our family of five spends around $100 per week for groceries,
which includes food, health and beauty, diapers and formula (since
our baby has a milk allergy). When I first began the journey to really
focus on our budget, I found a great way to save even more during my
weekly shopping trips: stocking up on items our frequently used items. This not
only helped save money in our budget, it also helped with saving time
and gas–which equals money, too!

 
Some of the tips I have used to build our stockpile without going overboard are:
 
1) Determine what your stockpile needs are.

Some of
these items that most families use on a very regular basis and would be good items to stock up on when there's a good sale are pretty obvious: toothpaste, shampoo, deodorant, etc. Food items may require you to think about past meals to figure out what
was eaten the most.

I am a visual person so I found that looking at
past menu plans to see what meals we had over the course of several
weeks helped to determine this. Keeping a food journal is another way
to get this information, too. This will help to determine what those
highly-consumed items are for your family.

 
Another part of focus is knowing when to say when. Going
overboard can seem very exciting in the beginning; blowing your
grocery budget is not.

Try to stick to a stockpile budget that is
included in your grocery budget. This allows you to stock up on the
really good sale and also money in the budget for the weekly
necessities. I generally use around $10 of our budget each week. Some
weeks there are no opportunities to stockpile anything but at least I
know I have a goal to stay within.

 
2) Define what a comfortable stockpile amount is for your family.

This amount is completely individual. I personally keep a 3-month
supply of health and beauty items in our stockpile. Many of these
items can be easily replenished for free so I don't find a larger supply is
necessary for us.

When you are determining this amount for your food
stockpile, be sure to keep in mind the food expiration dates and
storage recommendations. You certainly don't want to have a supply
that expires!  Again, remembering what meals are more popular will help
to determine if you want a larger supply based on that item's sales
cycle.   

 
3) Know when a seemingly "good price" is truly a good price.

I generally stockpile items when they are
at least 75% off. This percentage varies some, of course, since some items can be
considered "stockworthy" at a lower percentage, others may be at a
higher percentage so it depends on the item.

Sometimes there aren't
coupons for what you may have to purchase but the item may be on sale
for 40% off. If you never see that item on sale, the sale price is a
great value in itself. 

 
An option to keep track of pricing is using a price book to track the sales trends in your area. Another resource I have found helpful is the
discussion on sales cycles here. This gives you a general idea of the cycles
many items follow. 

4) Establish a place for storing your stockpile.

 
Before you buy a
truckload of something, think ahead to where you are going to store it. Certain products
have storage recommendations that should be followed so truly
understanding what your needs are will help you from wasting money in
expired stockpile items.

I use the FIFO policy–First In, First Out. Meaning that I use up the items which have been on the shelf longest first. This helps me rotate the items as new ones are placed in our storage to ensure nothing expires before it can be used.

Andrea Deckard is a stay-at-home mommy with an amazing husband and three energetic boys. Mommy Snacks
is a representation of the life she lives:  faith-loving, money-saving,
weight-struggling mom who is trying to be the best that God wants for
her! Stop by Mommy Snacks to get your fill of "zero-calorie" snacks to help you make it through the day!

Guest Post: How to avoid a good deal gone bad

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photo by timparkinson

Guest Post by Amy from Spin the Deal

There’s nothing worse than that sinking feeling that sometimes occurs after scoring a great deal. You know the feeling–that tiny nag that rapidly evolves into a gut-wrenching ache as it swoops in and bursts your post-bargain bubble of bliss.

You hastily scan your receipt only to find that your $5 coupon–the icing on the cake–was never credited on your receipt. Or, you’re all set to submit a rebate for reimbursement, when suddenly, after a frantic search, you realize that you’ve lost the receipt.

It’s happened to the best of us. Whether you are a novice coupon-clipper or a seasoned deal hunter, getting burned on a deal is inevitable. Here are 7 tips to help prevent getting burned followed by some advice on how to remedy good deals gone bad.

1. Read Coupons Carefully: When using coupons, make sure that you are following the purchase requirements (brand, quantity, size) to the letter. Not doing so can cause the register to beep upon scanning the coupon, and the cashier to either reject it, or to simply go on to the next coupon without noticing, thereby causing you to lose out on the value of the coupon.

2. Understand the Details of a Catalina Deal: Catalinas are coupons that generate at checkout based on purchasing qualified items and can be used on your next store purchase. Before purchasing items that generate a Catalina, be sure you know the details behind the Catalina deal (qualifying item, quantity, offer period). Also, check that there is a Catalina machine at the checkout. Some stores may only have Catalina machines at the front registers. Finally, after the Catalina generates upon checkout, make sure the cashier notices the Catalina and hands it to you before you leave the register.

3. Review the Rebate Terms: When purchasing items for a rebate offer, read through the terms of the rebate before making the purchase. Make sure it is worth your time. Some rebates are straightforward to redeem, while others require laborious efforts. Certain rebates require removing UPCs from products that can only be removed after consumption of the product. In these cases, make sure that you will be able to consume the product, or transfer it into another container, before the rebate redemption period expires. Also, whenever possible, assemble the rebate submission (cash register receipt, proof of purchase, rebate form) shortly after making the purchase, take a photocopy, and then mail it out before there is time to lose any of the submission pieces.

4. Know the Store: Having a good understanding of a store’s coupon policy is key to not getting burned on a deal. Find out in advance whether the store accepts Internet coupons, expired manufacturer coupons, or limits the number of identical coupons redeemed per transaction. Also, when shopping at stores like CVS or Walgreens, which match number of items to number of coupons, make sure that you purchase enough items so that when combining store and manufacturer coupons, the register allows all coupons to scan without beeping or manager intervention.

5. Check the Expiration: Whether using a coupon or doing a rebate, check the expiration date to make sure that the coupon or offer is valid. Most rebates have a specific purchase period as well as a separate redemption deadline.

6. Be Attentive at Check-out: Although it pays to be friendly and get to know the store cashiers, when you are working on a complex deal, it’s important to stay on top of your game and focus on the transaction. Simply flash the cashier a friendly smile followed by a warm "hello," and then get ready to focus. This tip is particularly important when you have a large quantity of items and/or coupons. It’s easy to get distracted with chit-chat or digging through your purse for your wallet, but focusing on the transaction ensures that you receive credit for everything you are entitled to. Watch prices closely as items are scanned, and watch that every coupon scans successfully and lowers your total.

7. Be Friendly: Didn’t I just mention that we need to curb the friendliness? Well, yes, and no. Being friendly to the cashier increases your chances for a positive outcome on a complex or questionable transaction.

And, finally, here are some tips on how to overcome a good deal gone bad:

1. Check your Receipt IMMEDIATELY: Before leaving the store, it is critical to check your receipt. Make sure all discounts were applied as expected. Verify that all coupons were deducted from your total. Ensure that you have your Catalinas in-hand. If anything looks incorrect, go back to the cashier, manager, or service desk for an immediate adjustment.

2. File your Receipt: Select a specific pocket in your purse or a section in your wallet to file your receipts as soon as you receive them. This prevents them from getting lost or thrown away by accident, and makes them easily accessible for returns or rebates.

3. Make Photocopies: Lastly, when sending in rebate submissions, take the time to photocopy everything in the envelope. If there is trouble with the rebate, your photocopies will serve as backup proof of purchase.

Scoring the perfect deal isn’t always easy, but being prepared and vigilant can go a long way towards making every deal, a good deal.

Amy (a.k.a. The Deal Diva) is a mother of two young boys who loves the thrill of bargain hunting and teaching others how to spot deals and save money. Her passion for writing and deal hunting come together in her new blog.

Our little “coupon queen”

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I’ve been having Kathrynne, our three-year-old, help with clipping coupons in the last few months and she’s getting quite adept at it. There’s only one problem: she thinks so long as we have a coupon for something, we can buy it. So as she’s cutting out the coupons, she’ll excitedly point to the granola bar coupon she’s clipping and exclaim, "Yesss!! We get to buy granola bars this week!"

Last week, she snagged the grocery sale fliers before I had a chance to see them. I found her in the kitchen studiously pouring over them (Hmm, I wonder where she learned to do that from?) and when she saw me she let out a little whoop and holler, "M&M are on a good deal this week, Mommy!"

Sure enough, they were advertised in the flier and in her mind that meant that of course we could then buy them. I’m glad she’s learning all about looking for sales in the flier and clipping coupons, but I’m afraid she has a little ways to go in learning what constitutes a "good deal". Oh well, she’s only three so hopefully she’ll get the hang of it eventually!