Believe it or not there is a wrong way to use coupons and shop the deals, even when you are saving money with your grocery shopping. Grocery chains spend so much money on marketing and advertising. They spend this money knowing it will pay off! After all, they are a business that is in it to make more money.
It’s no surprise that they spend so much on studies and human behavior in order to know exactly what will attract the most spending by us! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these companies are bad! From a profit standpoint, they actually do a very good job! It is up to us to be smart enough to see and realize the right way to use their coupon and ad system to our advantage rather than theirs!
I learned this early on in our marriage when we started grocery shopping together for the first time. My mom was a devoted couponer and her mom before her. They didn’t go crazy enough to get shopping cart-full for pennies but they were pretty close!
It took a while for me to catch on to how I was being played by the grocery ads. I wasn’t using them to my benefit as my mom had done when I was a kid. 5 kids later and it is absolutely essential for me to get this right when I go grocery shopping! This is a great way to actually save money shopping instead of feeling like you’ve been played!
Before kids, we would grocery shop together (back in those romantic days) and I would bring my coupons along and know what was on sale. Like most newlyweds we had little money and wanted to keep as much of it as we could! We bought everything that was on sale or that we had coupons for, in the name of saving money.
This turned out to be a disaster! It seemed like we were saving money but ultimately that was not the case! We were missing some key elements that everyone should consider when trying to save money on their groceries!
We did not look around at other locations once we found a coupon. If avocados were 2 for $3 with a coupon, I didn’t bother to see their regular price at other stores. This is a huge deal because sometimes the coupon or ad prices don’t beat the competitions regular prices on certain items!
Grocery stores do this because they can’t afford to sell everything at a deal and tend to try to make some good money (this is called profit margin) on high demand items. So it’s important to see if the “deal of the week” is actually a deal or if you could find it for much less at another store. Just because it’s a featured ad or on a coupon doesn’t mean it’s the best out there!
Buying Only What You’ll Eat
This one was huge for us but is 10 times more important now that we have 5 little mouths to feed! Our kids tend to be picky eaters (as all kids are) and there is no point in getting a deal on something that will rot away in the fridge because no one likes it! Sure you can get ten cucumbers for $6 but if nobody likes them, then you’ve wasted $6-not to mention your time shopping.
My husband (who is in the Finance world) calls me the “Home Economist”. It’s my job to save money and keep our lives running as efficiently as possible just like it’s our business (which it is). I have to keep us running at a profit in order to use our hard-earned money for important things! And throwing out food is not on my list of important!
It may look like a great deal on the ad page but it’s not worth it if it’s a waste of money! Just like those Black Friday deals that are selling luxury spa sets that you know you’ll never use but like the idea! You buy it and there it sits in your closet because it was “such a great deal”. We can’t afford to do this every time we go to the grocery store!
Getting a Little Extra
Speaking of shopping for what your kids will actually eat; get an extra one or two when it’s on sale! If your kids eat bananas faster than monkeys in the jungle, buy some extra when they go on sale. Just don’t buy so many that you’ll have to be throwing them out at the end of the week.
When blueberries or some of their other favorites go on sale or have a coupon, I like to buy extra so that on my next grocery shop, I can skip that item knowing we have some at home. It saves money and adds to the concept of not throwing out expired or rotten food, because they devour it!
Even when shopping just for yourself this concept saves some serious cash! If you consume coffee like an addict (guilty) and your favorite brand goes on “buy 1 get 1 free” go for it! Buy 2 or more and stock up and save money! That way when it is back at regular price, you won’t be buying any at least for a while.
I had a friend who used this concept with gift cards. During the Christmas season his wife and he would purchase Target gift cards that were marked down on a sale for 10% off. They bought $900 dollars’ worth of gift cards! Yikes! However as a result; they now had $1000 dollars in gift cards! They use these the rest of the year buying NECESSITIES (that’s the key word there) at the store. Yes, still shopping the coupons and best deals there. So right off the bat they were ahead $100!
That’s some serious home economics!
Learning the Layout
Grocery stores (and all stores) are laid out to maximize store profit (you’re spending). I actually know this because my husband has also worked in markwting and for a large grocery chain as well! This is why the toilet paper is usually at the back of the store! Therefore; you have to pass every other item to get to it! Let the spending commence!
From insiders: all of those cameras in stores are not just there to catch shop lifters. No, they’re there to study our shopping habits, how we enter the store, which direction we walk, what catches our eye. Yes they’ve put this much thought into it down to what you smell when you walk through the door and what music is playing to get you in the shopping mood! Grocery stores usually have the upbeat tempo and smell of fresh baked goods to put you in the mood!
No wonder they make so much money! My advice on getting through this system that is designed to make you spend is something that I force myself to always do: Bring A List!
If you sat at home and wrote down all of the essentials that are needed than you can shop confidently knowing that anything not on that list is not needed.
When I have my list, something will catch my eye (like it’s supposed to) and I will sit there and debate if I need it. If it’s not on my list that’s my answer. It’s like the little Angel on my shoulder telling me what to do “if you didn’t write it down it wasn’t important enough to get you to the store”. If it is on my list, that’s my permission to get it, it’s a necessity that is needed in our household. Also, I’ve looked at the ads and researched which location it is the cheapest at!
Getting the Best
This one is a personal habit and can be difficult if your schedule doesn’t allow for the right timing. Grocery stores have fresh delivers on specific days of the week. For some its Tuesdays and Thursdays while others could be every Wednesday.
Knowing when the store gets their product trucks unloaded is really nice! There have been a number of times where I’ve seen a great deal, but by the time I get to the store, they have run out of the item. You know, because everyone else saw that deal too! Instead of having to come back for one or two items, it’s nice to know what day they get their shipments in and make it there preferably that day or night!
This allows my grocery stop to be one stop, per store and I walk out with everything I’ve needed at the best price possible!
Before I followed these guides for shopping my food budget was much higher! I’ve managed to cut that budget IN HALF by spending a little more time planning for my grocery shop! It has been a life saver as our family grows and our kids eat more and more!
My grandma is a now a multi-millionaire and still cuts coupons and shops using these methods! These shopping tricks have helped us free our finances and free up income to use for our long-term goals! I truly believe if you put in the effort to follow these rules you too will see your household budget grow rather than the grocery stores!
Remember that being a home-economist is a full-time job! The money you save is money you earn!
“A penny saved is a penny earned.”