Friday, November 4, 2011

How to prepare for your shopping trips

Okay, so I thought I'd post about how I get ready for my weekly shopping trips.  One of the main things is that I try not to do more than one shopping trip in a week.  If I run out of butter...well then it'll have to wait until Sunday!  (which is the case for this week!)  I thought I'd share how I get my coupons, what I do with my coupons, how I get ready for a shopping trip, and then where I go to shop.  You can also check out some older posts that also relates to this topic, I've scattered them throughout this post.

  1. Where do I get coupons from? (check out this post)
    1. Newspapers - the bigger the city paper the better.  So if you live in a small town that produces a newspaper twice a week...well you probably won't be getting coupons in it.  Although, sometimes these papers will get the P&G coupons (monthly inserts) the first production day that week.  If you are unsure if your local newspaper puts coupon inserts into their newspaper then call them!  They will know and if not, then ask for a manager or someone higher up than them!  Also, if you're starting out and don't want to start a subscription somewhere, then check out the different newspapers on the newsstand at the gas station.  These are laid out and you don't have to purchase them to look.  Flip through a couple of different newspapers and see if they have coupon inserts.  If they do, then check out the price.  I have 2 different newspapers in my area to choose from, and I choose the one that is $0.50 cheaper (saves me $2/month)! 
      1. Also, once you've found the paper with the inserts you can then look into ordering a subscription.  My suggestion is to find out if you can get just a Sunday paper, but more likely you'll have to get a weekend subscription.  In my case, it costs $0.11 more to get the Saturday and Sunday papers, than just the Sunday paper from the gas station.  Since I don't really want the Saturday paper anyway, and it's costing me an extra $0.11 for it, I buy a paper at the gas station every Sunday and save my $0.11.
    2. Internet - You can do almost everything on the internet now, and that includes printing out coupons.  The best places to get coupons are the following sites:, SmartSource, RedPlum, and CouponNetwork. usually updates their coupons more frequently, but SmartSource and RedPlum not so much.  So just check the sites every couple of days to see if there is something new that you want to print.  Also, you will need to download a coupon printer the first time you print coupons from your computer.
      1. You can only print 2 of the same coupon per computer.  So if you have 3 computers in your house, you could potentially print 6 of the same coupon.  WARNING: Do NOT make copies of a coupon you printed.  That is fraudulent and makes it harder on the rest of us couponers to be able to use printable coupons in stores.  Also, there is a unique number to every coupon, so you might get caught if your cashier knows about coupons.
      2. Make sure you have enough ink in your printer, otherwise your coupons may not scan...which means most cashiers aren't going to push it through for you, and you won't get that extra discount.  Although, you can use a lower ink setting so you're not wasting a lot of ink.
    3. Facebook - Many manufacturer's now have their own page on Facebook and a lot of times they will have different coupon (or FREE sample) offers listed on there.  You usually just have to check out the left side bar to see if there is something about coupons.
    4. Manufacturer - If you really like a product, or are wanting to try a new product, then email the manufacturer directly.  Let them know why you're wanting the coupons, and if it's an item that you really enjoy, then tell them!  Also, make sure to give them your address, because then they'll know where to mail your coupons...some companies do not do this, but it never hurts to ask!
  2. What do I do with all my coupons?
    1. Save them - Don't use all of your coupons in one shopping trip.  You may not be saving yourself any money!  Which is the point of a coupon.  Unless it's a product I am out of, I save it for a future shopping trip.  To do this I keep a coupon binder that I have all of my coupons organized in (check out this post).  Once an item goes on sale, I then pair it with a coupon to make it an even better deal, and sometimes FREE!  So sometimes these coupons get held onto for quite a while.  Unfortunately, I do have a lot of coupons that expire and don't get used, but overseas military families can use these expired coupons for up to an additional 6 months, so just mail them!
  3. How do I prepare for a shopping trip?
    1. Check the sales ads - By looking at the sales ad, I see what items I need for that week and also look through my binder to see what coupons I have to match up.  A lot of times, my best deals end up being on personal hygiene products...but hey! the more I save there the more food groceries I can buy.  
    2. Make a list - Once I decide what items I am needing I make a spreadsheet and list the items under the store I will be buying them from.  I include the price of the item, if I have a coupon, and what the final cost will be.  This is the best way to stay within budget.  I know it's hard not to impulse buy, but if you don't have it on your list and are already at your budget limit...then you've just gone over, by buying that extra item!  So make a list, and stick to it!
  4. Where do I shop for groceries?
    1. Weekly I will shop at Walmart, Kroger, and Walgreens (sometimes CVS if I'm in a different town).  
      1. Walgreens (and CVS) is a great place to get cereal, peanut butter, canned salmon (usually $4 at grocery stores, but will go on sale for $1.99), granola bars, chips, chex mix, aluminum foil, ziploc bags, plus hygeine products.  
        1. For example: If you are in need of toothpaste and it's a deal where you pay $3.99 and get back $3RR and have a $1 coupon...well then OOP you'll pay $2.99 and get back $3RR to use on your next purchase.  This is like FREE money.  So then you can use that towards buying food products that are on sale, or any other items you might be in need of. (Note: there are some exclusions with RR...check out the coupon policy here).
      2. Walmart/Kroger - It depends on which store is cheaper on where I'll buy certain products from.  My favorite part about Kroger is that they'll double coupons up to $0.60.  So if I have a $0.40/1 coupon for cookie mix, then it'll actually save me $0.80/1!  Pair this with a sale and it's an even better deal!  For me I know that my bagels (that I eat every morning) are way cheaper at Walmart, and I prefer the Walmart brand bread over the Kroger brand bread.  So I know that every week I'll be getting those items at juice is usually cheaper there as well.
    2. What about all that gas I use driving around town?
      1. Well, that would seem like an issue, but sometimes I don't go to Walgreens, or maybe one of the other stores, but at Kroger I always save at least $0.03/gallon.  Which isn't a huge savings, but since they're usually the cheapest place in town anyway, I might as well use that extra savings.  Also, I make sure it's worth my while to stop at each place.  I don't typically like stopping somewhere for just one item, so I will make sure that each location has a few items that I need at great prices.
I hope this was insightful into my mad couponness.  But behind all of that madness, is some great savings!  Just don't forget to not let it take over your whole life, and have fun with it!  Also, one piece of advice...take the store coupon policy with you (and learn it as well).  Some cashiers are unaware of their store's policy and will give you a hard time...or just be confused.  If all else fails, ask for a store manager to help.

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