Monday, October 5, 2009

Coupon Institute Week 1: The Basics

Lesson 1: Mistakes Beginners Make
     A. Being brand loyal. Ask yourself, am I buying  XYZ brand because it works best or just out of habit?  One study noted that 90% of women bought the same laundry detergent their parents did, just out of habit!  Step out of your box and try something else that might be cheaper and work just as well.  There may be certain brands that you are a stickler for--in our house it is the Bounty Select-a-size paper towels--and that is okay, but just re-evaluate WHY you buy some of the things you do.  I stepped out of my box and realized that any brand of toilet tissue still does the job just fine.  Now we buy whatever TP is on sale, not the brand we had been loyal to for so many years because it was habit!

    B. Shopping when you need something instead of when it is on sale.  Think about this example: The week that deodorant goes on sale, you might not NEED deodorant, so why buy it, right?  WRONG! Buy it when it is on sale and "stock up" so that when you DO need it, you don't pay top dollar. 

     C. Not planning your meals around store sales for meat and produce (least likely items to have a coupon or go on sale). This is self explanatory.  I know that when I see boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale for $1.97/lb that is my cue to STOCK UP.  My meals for that next week or two will revolve around using whatever meat and produce was on sale that week.  I will be doing a separate set of posts later on cooking ahead and freezing meals.

     D. Not tracking your spending.  I use a spreadsheet to track my spending at the stores each week, but it doesn't have to be this complicated!  It might be as simple as writing down your weekly spending vs. weekly savings (stores usually list this on your receipt for you) and calculating the percent you saved.  For me, if I am not saving atleast 50%, I'm not buying whatever it is.  It also gets exciting to start to see your cumulative savings grow and your weekly OOP go down.

     E. Not having a store loyalty card.  Plain and simple: store loyalty cards save you money. Sometimes they also allow you to earn points that convert to dollars to spend later.  Make sure your address is correct since your store may also send out coupon mailers to their loyalty card holders.

     F. Ignoring internet coupons and offers (some you can simply load onto your shopper card--no clipping required!)  There are over $400 billion internet coupons printed each year and less than 1% are redeemed. 

     G. "Buy more save more" mentality.  Newsflash: WAREHOUSE STORES DON"T ALWAYS SAVE YOU MONEY!  I understand why people like to shop there and stock up.  But please don't confuse "stocking up" at those stores as being the same as saving money.  It might save you time if you do not want to go to the store as often, but it rarely saves you money.   I only go there when I can get a free one day pass and even then it is to buy a certain brand of dinner rolls that ARE a steal!  According to my price comparisons. I can beat most cost per unit prices with a good sale at my local grocery stores.  

     H. Thinking you can't afford to stockpile.  You can't afford NOT too.  When you start this process, you will start to accumulate (and spend) ALOT.  I just went through this again after we moved and had to start over with my stockpile.  I was spending $150 a week for several weeks, building up staples and basics.  Keep in mind that if you keep at it, this number WILL GO DOWN.  Dramatically.  I am now down to spending under $100 a week on all my shopping trips put together--grocery, Target, Walmart, etc...  My grocery bill alone is under $50 a week.

     I.  Thinking the store brand is always the cheapest option.  Truthfully, the store brand IS the cheapest option if you are shopping when you NEED things.  If you are stockpiling as you go, planning your trips and using coupons, the store brand will not be the cheapest.  I recently bought boxes of Cheerios for $1.15 a box.  The store brand equivalent was $2.99--almost triple!

     J.  Chasing every deal--let some go!  You are going to get excited about the money you are saving, but try not to chase every deal.  I will be showing how to get items for FREE from places like Walgreens and CVS.  But if you know your family never has, and never will use the item, it doesn't matter that it is FREE.  It is clutter and will eventually get thrown out.  Save yourself the headache of cluttering up your cabinets and pass on those deals.

    K. Not keeping a price book (or some equivalent).  A price book is something you use to track prices of items.  Why do this? So that when you see something on sale (Apples for $1.49lb) you can decide if it is a STOCK UP price or not.  These prices will vary by region, so it is up to you to track your own prices.  I have never formally done this because I have the important things in my head--Chicken, ground beef, butter, cheese, Pop tarts, Nutrigrain bars, Capri-Sun, Milk, bread and produce are most of the items I really pay close attention to their prices and KNOW what is an average price (Capri Sun for $2/box) versus a GREAT STOCK UP price (Capri Sun for $.99/box).  My mental price list always takes into consideration the seasons as well--apples are on sale now (so we are eating more apples lately) while avocados were on sale during the summer (lots of guacamole).


Melissa said...

Thanks for starting this...
My issue is this: I tend to buy more produce and meat and for the most part, steer clear of the prepackaged foods (mac and cheese, etc) So, a bulk of my savings would come from cleaning supplies, hygeine produts, etc. HOW can I save on produce and meats?

Jaime Jackson said...

Great question--Produce and meats are HARD to save on, but keeping a price book is a great start. Start tracking the prices week to week on your produce and meats. When your meats go on a "rockbottom" price (and you will know this because you have been tracking prices of, say, boneless, skinless chicken breast) then you stockpile it. Buy in bulk and freeze what you can. This week's lessons might help you a bit with this idea!