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Couponing, Anyone? (Part TWO)

Monday: Grocery List Assembly!!

 a.k.a. Preparing for Battle
Mondays are probably the one day of Couponing that I would rather do without…but is absolutely necessary to the success of getting the most savings with the coupons you have on hand.  It is the day that I spend at LEAST five hours preparing my grocery list for the different stores I have planned to attack for the week’s groceries (and other necessary items).  In order to get the best deals possible, it’s important to take careful steps to know what kind of deals are out there, what coupons match up, and how the coupon policy of each store works.  For me, a typical Monday will look like this…

STEP ONE: ONLINE RESEARCH

Lucky for us, there are so many people out there who post detailed and comprehensive savings lists on their websites.  The best ones usually indicate the store name, where to find the coupon (i.e. which Sunday’s insert, etc), detailed description of the item, the SALE PRICE of the item in the website author’s immediate region, the coupon value, the value after applying the coupon (with whatever doubling policy the store may take), and the percentage savings on that item.  My go-to website is always “CouponMom.com” because I can click on the item I am considering purchasing and it makes me a printable list of everything I choose by store.  The only problem with this website is that the website owner (Coupon Mom, Stephanie Nelson) lives in the Southeast region…so many of the prices don’t match up with the ones here in the MidWest.  So, I obviously need to do some more extensive research.

STEP TWO: CIRCULARS REVISITED

Remember all those wonderful Sunday circular ads that we looked at on Sunday?  Well, it’s time to break them out again (and for those of us who don’t like them laying around cluttering our home, all of them can be found on the store websites).  This time, we’re not just scanning…we’re actually looking at individual items we are interested in buying and beginning to calculate whether the sale/coupon combo is worth the purchase of it.  Now, depending on the percentage one wishes to save and the amount of product one wishes to buy, this will be very different from person to person.  I personally try to buy just enough to get the best deal possible (i.e. Kroger has a “Buy 10 Participating Items, Get an Additional $5 OFF”…so I make sure to buy 10 or 20 participating items, depending on how much I can save with the coupons I have) and usually aim for at LEAST a 50% savings on each transaction (and I end up with anywhere from 5 to 12 transactions total per week…ranging from just one item at one store to three separate transactions of multiple items at another). 
…and for those who want to save even MORE…
Another thing to look for while going through circulars and websites are store rewards.  These are usually in the form of coupons that the store gives you after your purchase for your next transaction at that store…ranging from specific items, general categories of items, or the complete order.  Different stores call these coupons different things.  Grocery Stores (here in our area, Kroger and Meijer) give out “CATALINAS” (for more info, go to http://www.hotcouponworld.com/catalina-coupons/).  Walgreens have their “Register Rewards,” and Rite Aid has their “+UP Rewards”.  I know that CVS has something similar, but there aren’t any CVS stores in our area.

STEP THREE: FIELD RESEARCH

Yes…serious couponers don’t just depend on circulars and websites to tell them about deals.  Serious couponers go to stores earlier in the week to scope out what exactly the prices are at the stores.  This is because many of the stores in your region may not list all of the items on sale (there may be some insanely awesome sales of items not listed in the circular).  Also, since website owners are limited in their scope of what the prices are around the nation, going to the stores to verify those website prices is important (there were MANY times I found the sale prices at my store did NOT align with those from CouponMom).  This could be a quick run through specific areas of the store (if you’re only looking to buy beauty products or produce or cereals that week) or a complete rundown of what’s in the entire store and where it is located to make shopping day a lot quicker (if you have a huge haul of many types of items planned).  It is important NOT to skip this step…I have run into a lot of snags in my plans when I didn’t go and check out prices at the stores.  It really does make shopping-day SOOOO much easier and profitable.
STEP FOUR: CHECK UP ON STORE COUPON POLICIES
Last week is probably the best example of what happens when you I do not know the updated store coupon policy.  With so many more people catching onto this “Extreme CouponingWalgreens trip broken up into three separate transactions and Kroger trip into two in order to save me an additional $29.00 overall).
My Meijer/Kroger Spreadsheet for This Week!!

STEP FIVE: TIME FOR MATH!!

Yes…it’s time to break out the calculator, Excel spreadsheet, and your understanding of basic math to begin calculations of about how much you are planning to spend that week.  This means listed number of items, total price before coupons of each item (individual price X no. of that item), the total value of coupons for each item (value of coupon X number of coupons), and the calculate what the price will be after coupons.  (Note: Sometimes you will get a negative amount.  Many store do not count overages towards the total transaction.  So, negatives become ZERO!!)  Then, calculate the total for each store (or in my case, each group of stores).  If you know what you should be spending going into the shopping trip, it will help you make sure that each item and coupon rings up properly when you check out…making SURE you save what you have planned out to save.

Next Time on Letters to Lydia…
Tuesday/Wednesday: Let the Shopping COMMENCE!!

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