And how it helped her to save
My Story: Top 3 Things I Learned About My Food Bill
contributed by Olivia W.
Coupon Strategies That Work
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You'll remember in part one of this two part series, I discussed ways I found to make substitutions for products that I was overspending on, saving me from buying them. This time, I'll be going over the top three things I learned about coupons that saved me the most on my grocery bill, and it won't be what you think.
Like a lot of people, I recently looked into couponing. I didn't really want to coupon, but I really wanted to save some money without cutting back too much.
On the internet, I found many videos of people who were happy to show me how they couponed. I watched hours and hours of Extreme Couponing and took notes. So what did I learn?
- The first thing I learned is that couponing only saves you money if it saves you money. I know it's a little obvious, but how many of us know how much that bag of chips we buy regularly really costs? Do you know how much your dishwashing detergent is? I didn't, and without knowing that important detail, I couldn't determine if buying a certain brand because of a coupon made sense or not.
And then my knight in shining armor made the granddaddy of all price lists. My husband went to four different chain grocery stores, and with clipboard in hand, he wrote the prices down of the top 100 or so items (with sizes) that we buy on a regular basis. He spent hours. I am convinced he is on some sort of grocery store watch list now.
With that in hand, he put the numbers in Excel and the results were amazing! One grocery store we thought was moderately priced was the most expensive of them all. Another store that we thought was on the high side ended up having the best prices when sales and coupons came together. It became my go-to couponing store. Finally, the best priced store didn't take coupons at all. Now I was armed with the actual prices and sizes when a coupon came along for a favorite item.
I now shop at the best priced store for almost everything. This alone was a huge savings. Coupons are not needed, and because I have a price list in Excel, I can literally add in my quantities next to items and know about how much my grocery bill should be that week from that store.
- The next thing I learned was "buy one, get one" sales were my best friend because I could use a coupon on both items. I could use a coupon on the item I got free and a coupon on the one I was paying for. This drove the price down in an amazing way. I wasn't really saving that much with the coupons, but it was the sale itself that saved me the most money, sometimes $4 to $7 depending on the item.
Learning to pay attention to BOGO sales alone without coupons saved me a ton and keeps my cupboards stocked, preventing last-minute trips to the store for an item. This saves money, time, and gas.
Here in Florida, with Walmart's BOGO matching, all I have to do is go through my ads for all the stores in my area, search for the BOGO sales on the things I need, and head to Walmart with my ad.
Have you ever seen someone at Walmart with four things of laundry soap in line in front of you? They are probably getting two of them for free with BOGO matching. Who doesn't want to get free laundry soap?
- The third thing I learned was that I was working too hard at this couponing thing. I didn't need to search the ads or cut out all the coupons in my local paper because there are people out there searching through all those coupons for me. These are called coupon match up sites, and they are wonderful.
There are dozens of these, but you only need to find one you like. They will literally (for free) tell you what is on sale, where it's on sale, for how much it's on sale, and if there is an unexpired coupon for it anywhere. Wow!
Some of them will also email you each week when their lists come out. There is even one that I know of that shares all the BOGO deals from all the local stores and how they stack up at Walmart. Double wow!
Knowing what something should cost, taking advantage of the BOGO deals, and using coupon match up sites to find all the best deals all saved me a ton of money without cutting a single coupon.
Debt is preventing me from taking a vacation this year or the vacation I'd like to take this year! Tell us: Yes, debt is affecting my vacation plans! or No, we're going exactly where we want to go but we'd love to learn make our trip as inexpensive as possible!
"My Story" is a regular feature of The Dollar Stretcher. If you have a story that could help save time or money, please send it to MyStory@stretcher.com.
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