Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ready to Shop?

How do you prepare to shop? Do you list all of your items on a "grocery list"? Do you use a spreadsheet to record everything you want to get and the price it should be? Or....do you just wing it and hope it comes out okay? I think most people are in this last category, with a little bit of list making.

Coupon shopping is not easy if you want to get the best bang for your buck. You MUST go prepared to the store or you'll end up spending money OOP for items you wouldn't have bought if they weren't free. The key to sucessful coupon shopping is to get what you need or with spending as little actual money as possible. The one exception to this is groceries, which we must accept will generally end up costing something at the end of the trip.

Here are some tips to prepare:

Beginning Preparation

Don't rush out first thing Sunday morning to get your ad and buy up what you can. Planning takes time and just because you may miss a deal or two, doesn't make hastiness worth it.

Get on the websites that offer you an advanced look at the store's ad. I would recommend highlighting everything and pasting it into Word or some other word processing software.

Once you have your list in Word, get rid of anything that isn't free (unless it's something you would use or give as a gift/charity at a REAL cheap price).

Don't trust that the coupons listed are coupons you have; check for yourself and pull those coupons out. Many websites list coupons that you didn't get in your paper, things that were in samples you may not have received, or in booklets you don't have access to. You can order coupons from a coupon clipping service, but keep in mind that it takes quite a few days to get these to you and there are fees.

Once you've pulled and printed the coupons you have, delete items in the shopping list that you won't purchase because you don't have the necessary coupons.

Print this shopping list out and paper clip your coupons to it.

Once you've done this for each store, you can begin strategizing your transactions.

Ready to Go

Get a starting point set for your planned transactions that will net you the most items for the least $$ OOP. This requires good planning and math sense.

Work out your transactions on paper, so you know how many of what items you need to buy, what coupons you'll use, and what store cash (RR's, ECB's, etc) you'll use to pay for the transaction. Then, you can have an idea of what you need for fillers (cost or quantity wise) and if you need to add or remove something from that transaction.

Only you know what you have to start with as far as store cash and coupons, so you can't always use someone else's posted transaction ideas. I'd be happy to help you work out your transactions if you would like....just e-mail me.

Keep in mind you generally can't have more coupons that you do items, so know your store's policy. CVS ECB's don't count towards your coupon-item count, while RR's at Walgreens do.

Sort your coupons into stacks based on transaction (I like to paper clip them or put them together in one pocket of my binder sleeve.

The most important thing is to have a back-up plan. Plenty of times you'll get to the store with your plan in hand just to find that they're already out of stock on something. You need to be prepared.

Back-up Plan

Have some ideas for back-up items that can easily replace parts of your transaction that are out of stock. For example, if I am planning on buying a candle at $6.99 with a $3.00 q and a box of cereal at $3.00 with a $1.00 q to use my $5.99 ECB, but find they are out of the candles, I know that the mascara at $4.99 with a $2.00 q and the nail polish at $3.99 with a $1 q is the best substitution for this.

Bring your entire shopping list and all your coupons every time you shop. You may have to make a quick substitution to work a deal right then when something is out of stock.

Bring a calculator! I can't stress this enough. If a deal doesn't work the way you planned, you'll need your calculator and coupons to quickly figure out how else to work it.

Finally, don't be afraid to just walk out after getting a rain check. Don't feel like you just have to get what you can because you're there. You have all week and you also can get rain checks for most items.

Watch the items as they are scanned. You can keep yourself from a lot of trouble if you assure that your items ring up at the correct price and that each of your coupons was scanned correctly.


Check you receipt. Check you receipt. Check you receipt. Check you receipt.

Am I clear??? Checking your receipt is the ONLY way you can be sure that you didn't get charged the wrong amount and that you received all of your coupons/ECB's/RR's back.

Don't be afraid to go back to get what you were supposed to, return items that didn't ring right, and call customer service to have ECB's or RR's issued after the fact.

Be good to your cashiers and they will generally be good to you. There's no need to argue over a coupon. If something goes wrong, either cancel the transaction and find some way to fix it outside of the cashier's line or just accept the transaction as is (as long as you're not spending too much money up front). I generally will ask the cashier to void the transaction while I either speak with the manager or find another item to complete my deal. I have left without getting anything on MANY occassions.

I can't stress enough the need to start small for newbie couponers. If you begin too big, you'll overwhelm yourself, spend too much money OOP and give up.

1 comment:

Hokie Girl said...

I know you say these things to me all the time, but I love that you write it out so I can read, re-read, and go back to anytime I want!!! =)