Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Shopping Strategy

My personal savings strategy for grocery and household needs has evolved over the past two years.

When I first began spending coupons, I would purchase just about anything that was on sale and the I had a corresponding coupon for... air fresheners (by the dozens), toilet bowl cleaners (by the dozens) and even palates of eye shadows (by the dozen). My early coupon spending days were filled with deal hunting online, an *urgent* sense of coupon clipping, running to six or seven stores per week (sometimes even multiple times during the week)- that left me pretty exhausted, not to mention feeling addicted to the savings rush!

After my first three months of spending coupons, I decided to instill a budget for how far I would let myself get carried away by shopping. I justified my coupon spending addiction by how much I could donate... hundreds of dollars worth of goods were purchased for pennies, all in the name of donation!

Then I transitioned my spending focus again to racing myself to see how much I could purchase and see how little I could spend. The first (of a long string of months) month that I received over $2,000 in FREE stuff while still maintaining our families budget of $85/week- I was hooked.

After several months of shopping like a mad woman- to keep my running monthly savings above the $2,000 mark, I began to realize how much of my life I was wasting roaming the streets and shopping the aisles. Because I focus on stockpiling, I was very well stocked up on the items that my family uses most frequently- so I once again shifted my perspective on what 'shopping well' looked like for my family.

At about the one year mark for my serious coupon spending, I decided to once again cut back my spending and time in the stores. I no longer shop several stores each week. Most weeks I skip shopping the sales at Target and the drug stores. Most weeks I just pick up our groceries at Meijer and maybe I'll pick up a couple of 'stockpilable' items at Kroger. Our shelves are well stocked, our fridge and freezers are full and my family definitely appreciates spare items stored in our house rather than needing to make a run to the store when we've run out.

Spending sprees, no matter the monetary dent in our finances, comes with a great deal of responsibility. Will the items get used? Could the items expire? Could someone else benefit from these purchases? Less shopping = less pressure.

Now that I have stockpiled the majority of my families most frequently used items, I now shop for rock bottom priced items to replace the items that we have been consuming. More often than not, if you bumped into me while grocery shopping, you'd see my grocery cart filled with multiples of the same items for a few weekly stock-upables and our perishables. I love the freedom from NEEDING to shop each week! Aside from our dairy and produce needs we could go several weeks without needing to shop, which is great when we are overly committed or if we are feeling under the weather.

Often, I am asked how I know when to spend my coupon in order to stock up:

"I purchased 3 bottles of Snuggle fabric softener a few weeks ago at Target for 99 cents each, thinking I was getting an absolute super deal. Well, my balloon busted this week when I saw bloggers listing Snuggle as a deal at 34 cents! I get frustrated with myself at these times when I didn't save the coupons to use at a better time because I thought the deal I was getting was the best deal. I certainly didn't want the $3 off Snuggle coupons to go to waste, either, so how do you know when is the best time to use a coupon?"

Now I can't claim to have perfected always scoring the absolute BEST deals, but I have come to understand a few things about efficiently & effectively spending coupons:

1. If I spend a coupon on an item that is also on sale (sale + coupon) I will receive the rock bottom price for that item 90% of the time. High value coupons, like the $3 Snuggle coupon, are often tricky to know when the purchase will be the BEST! I have decided to look at the final cost to me price- the $.99 as being 75% off of the original price- which is really good! I will always be satisfied with a 75% savings! If a better deal does happen to come along, I will just make a mental note in case the same $3 Snuggle coupon comes back around again.

2. I have learned NOT to nickle and dime myself to death. Chasing down the absolute BEST price on every item that I place into my grocery cart is mentally and physically exhausting! Instead, I make mental notes (you could keep a shopping journal or a price reference book) of which stores have my favorite items, how much the non-sale item costs, if that store will double my coupon and how frequently each store has sales on my most used products. (For example, I know that Meijer places Ziploc products on sale about every three months. I wait for these sales to replenish my pantry stock.)

3. If I have Buy One Get One FREE coupons, I like patiently wait for a Buy One Get One FREE sale- matching my coupon with the same items on sale at a store would score me TWO FREE products for just the single coupon. Even if I do not spend the BOGO coupons until the last day before they expire, I am no worse off, I will at least receive one FREE item!

4. Every once in a while, if we have run out of an item, I will spend a single coupon (not all of my identicals) for a single product, and I will wait up until the expiration date of the coupon- in hope of a better price.

5. I have learned to try new brands or new products instead of the ones that we usually purchase. I have learned not to care if our tissues are Kleenex or Puffs, we will happily wipe our noses with which ever tissue has a better sale and coupons available!

6. One of the most important lessons to learn is simply not spending a coupon because you have no need for the product. Each month I recycle HUNDREDS of coupons that I have clipped, but that have expired without having a great sale come along. Just because it has been clipped, doesn't mean it needs to be spent!



Thanks for once again clarifying my question to you the other day. I am very thankful to God that he gave you the coupoun class vision. I can't believe how many fun things I have gotten and how fun it is to show my husband the savings. Thanks for helping us save money.

Laura Webber

That's exactly why I teach!!!


Thanks for sharing! My shopping journey has been similar.


Thank you for this entry. I am going through this now. I picked up clipping again a couple months ago, and to the chagrin of my DH, our kitchen, bathroom, laundry room is bursting at the seams from my coupon clipping. For me there's so much excitement in landing a good deal. And often times I'll come home with a bag of stuff, only to hear him say, "But do we need it?"
I used to take my whole binder with me to the store. Big mistake. I've gotten to where, now, I research the sales, plan out my store visit, and take only the coupons I need. If I see something that would make a good deal, I'll jot it down in my notepad for a next visit. Shopping has gotten a lot less stressful. And I don't care what DH says... I LOVE my 23 bottles/boxes of sheets of Snuggle. Hey, with a family of 5, that's nothin' :)

Wesley and Laureen

This was so nice to read. I just started couponing in September so I'm in that beginning stage where I'm looking at the sites and hitting as many of the stores as I can. Glad to know I'm not the only one and there's light at the end of this madness. Thanks!!