Monday, March 16, 2009

Lesson 4: Tips for Shopping

If you've read through lessons 1-3 already, congratulations, this is the last lesson in my "Couponing 101" series! In this final lesson, I will be giving you tips on shopping that I've learned through reading blogs and couponing websites and through personal experience.

  1. ALWAYS CARRY COUPONS!! Unless you use the Coupon Mom system, bring your coupons every time you go shopping. I seem to find unadvertised deals almost every time I go shopping and you never know what's going to be on the clearance rack!

  2. Shop clearance racks Yes, you can use coupons on clearance and marked-down items. This is one of the best way to find free and nearly-free stuff.

  3. Know your store's coupon policy Make sure you know which stores double and up to how much and how many coupons the store will let you double (if you're not sure, check out my postings on different stores in Greenville). If you have questions, you can always ask the store manager. Some stores have other rules about coupons, like how many of the same coupon you can use in one transaction (see my post on Kroger!).

  4. Stack coupons Now, you can't use two of the same coupon on one item, but you can use multiple coupons on one item if you have the right coupons! For every item you buy, you can use one store coupon, one manufacturer's coupon, and one e-coupon (like Cellfire or Shortcuts - in Greenville, you can only use these at Kroger). For example, yesterday I bought some Glade air fresheners at Walgreens. They were $7.99 each, but Walgreens had a $4.00 off store coupon, making them $3.99 each. I also had a $4.00 off manufacturer's coupon, which made them free!

  5. If you shop at Kroger... register your Kroger Plus card with Cellfire and Shortcuts (ditto if you live somewhere with other grocery stores that honor these). Often, these coupons can make a good deal even sweeter.

  6. Keep a stockpile When it comes to non-perishable items and those with a long shelf life, it pays to stockpile. If you buy multiples of an item, you can afford to wait until it is on sale again before you buy it again. For example, I always use Pantene shampoo and conditioner - it's one of the few things I won't buy in another brand, even if it's cheaper. So when there's a good sale and I have coupons, I buy as much as a can. Then I can wait for another sale because I'm not going to run out any time soon.

  7. Be willing to try new things Don't just keep coupons for the brands you normally buy. Ask yourself, "If this item were free, would I consider buying it?" It's so frustrating when you get rid of a coupon, thinking you won't use it, and then you see that item on sale and it would be free with that thrown-away coupon! While I do have my favorite brands, with only one or two exceptions I'll buy just about any brand and doing that has saved me a lot of money because I can take advantage of more sales and coupons.

  8. Consider donating to charity OK, so this one won't save you money, but you'll see very soon how much more you tend to buy when you use coupons, even though you're spending much less money than before. If you find your stockpile getting unmanageably large, or you see a free item that you know you wouldn't use, consider donating it to charity. I don't know if you can claim free items donated to charity on your taxes, but it's always good to help, especially if it's not costing you much, if anything.

  9. Get a customer loyalty card I know I've said this elsewhere, but it's worth repeating. Most stores that have these cards require you to use them to get many of their sale prices or participate in promotions/rewards. So make sure you have a card for CVS, Harris Teeter, Food Lion, Kroger and anywhere else you shop that has them.

  10. Find a place to store all your receipts Designate a place to keep receipts and ALWAYS put them there when you get home from the store. That way, when you are ready to fill out forms for rebates or when you enter them online, you'll have them handy. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to buy an item with a rebate and then losing the receipt before you can apply for it!

I hope you find these tips useful. When you're ready to learn more, hop on over to "Couponing 201" for advanced strategies and techniques!

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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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