· Always make a list before you leave home! Buying things not on your list is a budget buster! Even better: Take five minutes and flip through the grocery ads to see what is on sale each week--even if you use a website like couponmom.com or thegrocerygame.com to help construct your list. If you are almost out of TP at your house, you need to know where its price is discounted this week, even if the current price in the ad isn’t sale-worthy enough to make it on a list.
· Coupons (Qs) are paper money, but they don’t pay unless you use them! Figure out a way to organize them, either by cutting them out each week and filing them in a canceled check file or by writing the date on each packet of coupons from the newspaper, and filing the whole insert by date. I cut out Qs every week, because it helps me know what products I have Qs for—which comes in handy when we’re out of TP and no one has TP on sale that week! But if that overwhelms you, then just file the circular and let the Coupon Mom or the Grocery Game tell you each week where to find the Qs you need. The important thing is to find a system that works for you and do it. It doesn’t take as much time as you think, and the savings are worth it!
· Read the writing on the Q—that’s where the details are. I’ve had clerks tell me that I had to buy the item that was pictured, when the Q clearly said “ANY product.” The writing on the Q is the rule, and if you encounter a cashier who is poorly trained, do not be embarrassed to politely ask to speak to a manager. You spent time planning how to save money at this store, and using the Q is your paycheck. Do not allow poor employee training to interfere with your savings. Smile and be polite, but hold your ground. And if you really have a bad experience, it’s worth a call to the corporate office the next day, as they may send a coupon or two of their own to retain your business.
It’s fun to track your savings! After a recent shopping trip, I paid $16 for $56 worth of groceries. I saved $40 using coupons and my store loyalty card, which means that I saved 72% off retail price that day. Said another way, I paid 28% of the retail cost of my groceries on that trip. I spent 45 minutes (gathering my list, finding the Qs and doing the shopping) to save $40. Tracking your savings each week shows how much money you are saving, and inspires you to continue the hunt for the best bargains! Happy shopping!