We call it a "game", because "couponing" is fun and profitable when you know how, when, where, and what to buy. The exhilaration of "winning" at the register has often been compared to a "Trip to Vegas"!
So let's start with paradigm shift #1...
- Stockpiling vs. Need Shopping - Buy more than you need to save the most! Crazy? Certainly not! Every item you buy at the market falls into one of these two categories: "Stockpiling" or "Need Shopping". Generally, you will buy an unneeded item if it's priced fairly, useful to your family, and comes with a good coupon. This is stockpiling because you will buy it now even though you don't yet need it. On the other hand, if you don't have it in your stockpile and you need it today, you may buy it as a need item. Your need list gets shorter as your stockpile grows.
- Two Different Supermarkets - Determine which market is good for "Stockpiling" and which one is good for "Need Shopping". If you have a market that doubles coupons, that market will be your "Stockpiling Market". Whether or not you have a market that doubles coupons, your "Stockpiling" market will most likely be a market with higher over-all prices. Surprised? Yes, we usually "Stockpile" at the market with the highest over-all prices. That's because they will probably bottom out lower than the other markets, when they hit their "Rock Bottom Sales". We are not buying their regularly priced items, but we are benefiting from their "Rock Bottom Sales" combined with a coupon. As for our needs, we go to what I call the "cardboard box" market; a market with no frills, just the lowest prices. Typically, this market does not double coupons. Some may not even accept coupons.
- The Grocery Hopper - Is that you? Do you go to a number of markets to use your coupons each week? That is not productive! Why? The reason is because each major supermarket in your area will run most of the same sales on the same items, only a few weeks apart from one another. You need to choose one market for your "Stockpiling", based on what is discussed in tip #2. Choose the market with the lowest "Rock Bottom Sales". Save on gas and time and be patient when building your "Stockpile". If you choose the right market for your stockpiling, all the best deals should come to you in one weekly stop.
- Rock Bottom Sales vs. Phantom Sales - Just because an item is on sale and you have a coupon, doesn't mean it is time to use the coupon. In fact, most often, it is the wrong time! Lurking on every aisle and in every ad are the dreaded "Phantom Sales", which are sales that are not at their lowest prices for those particular items. Nearly every item from the manufacturer runs through several "Phantom Sales" before it reaches a "Rock Bottom Sale". This is where knowing when to stockpile with that coupon can save you loads of dough at the check out!
- Sales Cycles - Begin to keep track of how often each item cycles through its "Rock Bottom Sales" and "Phantom Sales". How much is that item when it is priced at rock bottom? There are a number of ways to track sales cycles. The most obvious way is just to have a conceptual awareness of the cycles. Another way is to build an actual database.
- Categorical Sales Trends - Did you ever notice themes within supermarket sales campaigns? Such as... This week, they are featuring paper goods and deli products. Next week, sales are only on frozen foods, and toiletries. That's because "Sales Trends" run in categories in the supermarkets. Outside of "Stockpiling", you are never going to get everything you need at a great price in any given week. In fact, if you don't stockpile properly, you will be forced to over-pay on more categories than you are saving on. And it is set up that way for a reason! The categorical sales trends typically cycle through all the categories within a 12-week period. So... "Stockpile" more than you "need" while the price is right.
- The Coupon File - Less is more! Forget those big boxes. Toss them! And toss out those old coupons that you will never use. Toss the ones that are for very little money off; the ones you know will never amount to good enough savings compared to generic brands. Use a simple cancelled check file to organize your few, select coupons. Get your coupons from the Sunday paper ONLY. Most other sources for coupons are sub-standard...they are for less money off. I say, "Don't litter your coupon file!" Filling your file with sub-standard coupons makes more to cut, more to file, and more to look through, without delivering "more" savings! Who needs that?
- Coupon Redemption - Be careful to read everything on the coupon. You don't want surprises at the check out. Also, look for words like "good on any..." especially when a specific item is featured in the picture. Often times, you may use the coupon on "any" of that manufacturer's products, not just the pictured item. Some of the best deals are found when a coupon may be honored for a less extravagant item than what the manufacturer is featuring on the coupon.
- Shopping Days and 72-hour Sales - Shop on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday for most markets. Most markets' sales weeks begin on Wednesday and end on Tuesday. But since you get new coupons to go with the current week's sales on Sunday, wait until then to shop. Also, from time to time, most markets run special 72-hour sales. And most often those sales are Sunday through Tuesday.
- Smaller Package Equals Better Value - Do the math. Most often when a smaller package and a larger package of the same name brand product are both on sale, the better deal is the smaller package, if you have a coupon to go with it. Yes, that's right! More often than not, a coupon has more impact against a smaller package. Get your calculator to prove it!
- Warehouse Club Stores - The only items that are consistently good for stockpiling at "Warehouse Club Stores" are eggs, butter, and cheese. If you have a market that doubles coupons, you should easily be able to beat "Warehouse Club Store" prices on nearly all other categories by using your coupons at your "Stockpiling" market with a "Rock Bottom Sale" and applying all the principals of 'The Grocery Game'.
Now go out there and win!
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