Friday, March 6, 2009

Lesson 3: Knowing When to Use Coupons

Now that you have your coupons together, you’re ready to go shopping! Or are you? The keys to saving the most money with coupons are planning and knowing when to use your coupons. The idea is to use your coupons when an item’s price is at its lowest and being able to do this without spending hours at the store.

When do I use my coupons?
The best time to use coupons is when an item is on sale and at its lowest price. You don’t want to use up all your $1 coupons on Chex to buy the cereal on sale for $3.50/box, when it gets marked down to $2.50/box at another store the next week. It’s easy to tell that an item is at its lowest price when a coupon gets you that item free, but what about items that don’t end up free? The best thing to do is to keep a log of the items you buy most often. Every time you look at a grocery/drug store circular or visit the store, record the price of that item. Over time you will see what you should expect the price of that item to be when there is a good sale, rather than just being marked down a few pennies. You can get more info on this from the CouponMom site. If this is more work than you’re willing to do, just be aware of the prices of the things you’re buying. You may not save as much money at first, but the longer you use coupons and pay attention to prices, the better you’ll get at knowing what is a good price on an item. To help get you started, know that you should never have to pay for toothbrushes, toothpaste or razors!

How do I plan my shopping?
Planning is very important because it will help you get the best price on an item and it will save you time, because you will know what to buy at each store and which stores to visit. Thanks to the internet and the many bloggers out there, this step just gets easier and easier. There are blogs out there dedicated to just one store and they often have the store circular weeks in advance! Drug stores usually change their prices on Sundays, so I start planning my shopping on Saturday for those stores. Grocery stores usually change theirs on Wednesday or Thursday, so I start planning on Wednesday. The easiest way to do this is to find a few blogs that post sales for the stores you generally shop at and visit them regularly. You’ll also want to have a system for recording what to buy and what coupons to use. I use Excel spreadsheets because I can type faster than I can write and it helps me track things more easily. I will be posting a spreadsheet every week for drug store deals here in Greenville and hopefully I will add Harris Teeter later on. You could also do this on paper just as easily. I would recommend getting a notebook for this where you write down what you will buy each week.

Tips for getting started

  • Get a customer loyalty card for CVS, Harris Teeter, Kroger, or any other store you might visit that offers one

  • Print my most recent spreadsheet of weekly deals.

    • Highlight the deals you want to get (or just delete the ones you don’t want before you print)

    • Check to make sure you have the coupons you’ll need

    • Go shopping!

  • If you want to try your hand at CVS, click on the "CVS $5 Challenge" link on the side bar of my blog.
    • This weekly “challenge” shows you how to spend $5 or less and get back at least $5 in ECBs

    • “Roll over” these ECBs (that is, spend them on items that generate more ECBs) and you’ll quickly see how CVS can be a very cheap place to shop!

    • See my post on CVS for more information on rolling over ECBs

  • Go online or browse some of the links on my blog to see the other blogs that specialize in a particular store

    • Bookmark a few of these blogs

    • Visit them frequently for weekly deals and sales

  • While you’re at it, subscribe to my blog to get an email every time I post to the blog!

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A Random Thought

If you wouldn't have bought it to begin with, you didn't save money on it!

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