If you have just started then I am sure you are asking yourself “What did I get myself into?” HaHa. Don’t worry we all have felt that way. Here are my top ten tips and words of advice for you:
- GET COUPONS – Start getting the Sunday paper, even if it is only 1 (1 per person in your house is recommended, but I only get two papers and I have three little children and two adults, and I find it is sufficient.)
There are several other ways of getting coupons, but these are only in addition to getting the paper. You can sign up at several sites and get mailers or special offers (view list of coupon sites under coupons at top of page), and you can go to coupons.com. The site Grocery Smarts is great for letting you know what store has the best deal, and what coupons you will need to get it. Double check your coupons to make sure you aren’t missing an opportunity, once your list is made. Another great place to check for a coupon is our Coupon Database here.
- ORGANIZE – From the beginning find a good way to organize your coupons. You can get a file folder and separate them by week, or by publisher. You can get a binder clip them into categories. Whatever works for you, but make sure you stay organized or it will be a lot harder than it should and take a lot longer than you want.
- BUDGET– Create a budget if you don’t have one already. Figure out how much you have been spending on groceries/toiletries/etc and make a goal for yourself. Try to decrease your budget by $25/mo until you are down to a reasonable amount (mine is $200/five people – for food/toiletries/diapers, ect.). It will work if you are diligent and give it time. At first you will be building up your storage and after 4-5 months you will be able to buy what you need to keep your storage stocked, and that’s when you will see your cost start to go down.
- LIST – This site tries to list the Smith’s, Rite Aid and Walgreens deals each week, but GrocerySmarts.com (use passport g84acs) always has great lists to go off of. This is one way to dramatically cut your time down when looking for deals at the grocery store! Let us do the hard work for you, so you can just print your list, get your coupons cut and ready, and enjoy your shopping trip!
ALWAYS make a grocery list when you go shopping. Write down everything you need to get, approximately how much it will cost PER ITEM, and what coupons you have, then figure up a rough sub-total. If you stick to your list, it should be pretty easy to know if the cashier rang everything up right, or if you need to have them double check. DON’T be afraid to get the right price on an item. If they range you up wrong, TELL THEM and have them fix it. You will be glad you took a little extra time and got it done right the first time. If you are not sure, then have them print out the receipt and double check it yourself to make sure. Try to stick to your list. It is so easy once you are in the store to grab things you think you need, but most of the time they are just wants, and you can do without them. Stick to your list, and you will stick to your budget too!
- TIME -Make sure you plan on spending more time than usual for your shopping trips until you get the hang of it. While you are shopping, take your time and make sure you are getting the right items for the coupons, (look at the description, not the picture), look for store coupons, and check the prices of things you buy regularly so you know when you are getting a good deal. Before you know it you will be shopping just as fast using coupons as you were before, and you won’t be stressed about spending the money!
- RECEIPT – ALWAYS check your receipt BEFORE you leave the store. This is very important. Make sure everything was priced correctly, and that all the coupons you had were applied. If you do this, you will save yourself a lot of frustration and anger (believe me, I know!)
- SELF-CONTROL – It will take a lot of self-control to only buy what you need and can use. Just because the item is on sale, does not mean you have to buy it. A good deal is only a good deal if you can afford it. If you don’t have the money, then pass it up and another great deal will come along, and you might just be glad you waited! If something you were planning on buying doesn’t work out to be the best deal, you DON’T have to buy it! Wait for them to re-stock the items or whatever the situation may be, otherwise, whats the point?
You do want to get extra items whenever you can (just a few extra), and over time will realize that you are getting more, and stocking your shelves for less than you paid to scrape by before. This is a great feeling and a great way to start to build up your “food/personal storage” and have that peace of mind. One thing that might help is to use cash, and when your money is gone for the month, then you are done too. You could even divide it into weeks or bi-weekly. Whatever works best.
- KEEP TRACK – Keep track of what you are spending, where and on what. This will help you make cuts if necessary, and help you realize where you need to focus more time or preparation.
- OFFERS -There are several deal sweeteners that you will come across, like Rebates, Catalina’s (where a coupon prints out with your receipt when you buy 1 or more of something), BOGO Free, and more.
- Rebates– If you don’t know, a rebate is where you pay for something out of pocket (oop), and then you submit your information for a rebate of a specified amount. These are great IF you can afford the money up front to pay for the items. If you can’t, then don’t. Wait. Other great deals will come along. Wait until you have a little bit extra to spare. Then when you get your first rebate(s) you can start applying those towards other offers.
- Catalina’s – These are coupons that print out with your receipt when you have purchased qualifying items. It is good on your next purchase at that store. So if you plan your trip right, and you know you are getting Catalina’s you can include them into your shopping trip, so you don’t have to worry about remembering to use them next time!
(Example: Smith has a sale on Cool Whip. It’s $0.99. When you buy 5 of them, you get a coupon that prints out with your receipt good for $3.00 off your next purchase.)
- If your catalina didn’t print, you can go about getting yours two different ways:
- Call Catalina Marketing (877) 210-1917, option 1.When I called it took about 10-15 minutes (since I was on hold for about 8 mins). The rep was nice and took all the info described below. They said it would be about 2-8 weeks before I heard anything. I got my Catalina in the mail about 3-4 DAYS later!
- Fill out the form here (http://support.catalinamarketing.com/support/did-not-receive-expected-coupon/) To tell them about a catalina that didn’t print or a coupon that didn’t work.
- In both instances, they will need several pieces of information that can all be found on your receipt. They will need:
- The store name and address where you shopped.
- The date and time you checked out.
- The number printed on your receipt after the time stamp.
- The items you purchased and what catalina you were expecting.
- Your name and address.
- They take your information and “verify” that should have or not received it. This can take a few days. Once they have verified that you should have received the catalina, they will simply mail out your catalina coupon! This will take about 2-8 weeks.
- If your catalina didn’t print, you can go about getting yours two different ways:
- Buy One Get One Free Coupons – These are pretty close to the best deal you can get on anything. Many people don’t know this, but when an item is on sale for BOGO Free, you can take your BOGO free coupon (if it matches that item) and get TWO ITEMS FOR FREE! all you have to pay is sales tax. How awesome is that? How does this work you ask? It is because the BOGO Free coupon is worth the specified amount. So when you give them this coupon, it is essentially the same as handing them the specified amount in cash. So you are therefore, paying for the 1st item with the coupon, then you get the free item, Free!
- Register Rewards from Walgreens– Walgreens runs promos all the time, you can look at any of their ads, and see the promotions they run with the Register Rewards. You have to buy the item(s) listed and then you will get a coupon for the amount specified to use towards your next purchase. The only thing you need to remembers with Walgreens Register Rewards, is that you CAN NOT ROLL THESE! That means, you can’t go into the store and buy an item, get the Register Reward, then turn around and buy the same item, and use the Register Reward to pay for it. Another reward WILL NOT print. So be careful. (another thing to be careful about at Walgreens is that you can only use one coupon per item, (with the exception of in-ad and store coupons) so if you only buy three items, and you have three manufactures coupons, you won’t be able to use one of your register rewards to pay for the balance, unless you get a cheap “filler” item like a highlighter on sale for $0.15) READ MORE ABOUT WALGREENS HERE
- +Up Rewards from Rite-Aid are great! The best thing about these, is that you can buy an item that gives and +Up reward, and turn around and use that +Up reward to buy that same item again, and you will get another +Up reward! These will print out at the bottom of your receipt and are usually good for about 2 weeks. If you have a large transaction, split it into two smaller ones and use the +Up rewards from the first one to help pay for the second one. READ MORE ABOUT RITE-AID HERE.
- FIGURE YOUR RECEIPT TOTALS– When you get home from your shopping trip, take 5 minutes and sit down with a calculator. With receipt in hand, go through and write down all the prices of what you were “supposed to pay” for that item (if you bought gum and it rang up for $1.25, but you had a $1.00 coupon, then write $0.25 next to the gum). Then add the total of the items you wrote down, and make sure it adds up the same (plus tax) that you paid. I HAVE to do this with riteaid and walgreens because of all the +Up rewards and Register Rewards, otherwise I would never know if everything came out the right way and what you paid (if you got rewards or catalinas back).
If you have any questions or want to know more about something, let me know and I will add it!