Couponing, Anyone? (The Final Episode)

Tuesday/Wednesday: Let the Shopping COMMENCE!!

So D-Day has arrived.  It is time to take all of your carefully laid battle plans and head out to battle.  However, even in the midst of shopping, there are a few rules to follow in order to make sure one gets the best possible deals.

Rule #1: Take people with you!
…and no, this is not merely for the company or to show off your new couponing prowess.  This is so that you can overcome the limitations the store places on the number of coupons.  Of course, the number of people you need to bring will be determined by your knowledge of that particular store’s coupon policy (i.e. Kroger has a 3 coupon limit on the same item…wanna buy at least 6, you would need to bring one additional person).  However, when you bring along others who are simply there to be an additional person for a separate transaction, you must educate them on shopping rule #2…
Rule #2: Don’t buy items on the fly if you can help it!
One of the greatest obstacles I have to getting the best deals is InChul and my tendency to buy things on the fly…we see that OH SO TEMPTING chocolate candy or snack we’ve been craving and toss it into the basket.  If you’re not aiming to maximize your savings, this is ok.  But if you’re like me and want to make your hours of planning worthwhile, it may mean giving up buying that delicious sugary snack you’ve been dying to buy for the past week.

Rule #3: Be flexible!  Couponing takes some mental acrobatics!
There are MANY instances (almost every time I go to the store) that I have to rethink my plan of action for the shopping trip.  Just last week, I had an elaborate plan laid out for my Walgreens shopping list where I would make three separate trips to maximize the “Register Rewards” to save extra money on items I was looking to stockpile on.  However, since Walgreens did not have MANY (almost ALL) of the items in stock, I decided to forgo my elaborate plan and simply purchase the items I most immediately wanted.  This meant replanning my use of the Register Rewards.  Also, the same day, I had planned to purchase additional brownie mixes in order to meet my extra savings number of select items (ten) at Kroger.  However, on my second trip, I didn’t want to buy additional brownie mixes, so I looked to purchase even cheaper items to meet my quota…went with 49 cent canned tomatoes instead.  Be aware of all sales and be somewhat math savvy to calculate on the fly (or at least bring along a pocket calculator.
Rule #4: Always re-check your coupons before getting to the register…sometimes three or more times!
I made the mistake of not following rule #4 once at Meijers and ended up not being able to use one of my coupons – a “Save $1.00 on cake mic AND frosting” (I didn’t read the frosting part).  We in the An household do not like icing, so I paid the regular sale price for the cake mix (luckily, it was not full price).  By re-checking coupons, you will save yourself a lot of grief at the register.  Be sure to know all of the stipulations placed on the coupon so that, if the register screws up, you can defend your use of the coupon effectively.
Rule #5: Keep your eye on the register when ringing up!
All stores have different policies when it comes to ringing up your coupons.  Meijer allows U-Scanners to process their own coupons, and only get involved when a coupon won’t scan.  However, Kroger has their own cashiers ring up coupons, whether you’re on the U-Scan line or not.  Be sure to keep your eye on how your coupons are ringing up, and make sure they are ringing up as you have planned them to.  Assuming your understanding of the coupon value (Rule #4) is accurate, you should be able to get the cashier to override the system if it mistakenly won’t take a coupon or won’t double it as it should.
Thus ends the week of couponing.  Bring the loot home, organize it, store it (make sure you have some way to track expiration dates on everything!), and enjoy it.  One additional thing I like to do is figure out exactly how much I saved by adding up the total retail value of all grocery receipts and dividing the amount saved by that number to see what percent I saved that week.  It sets a benchmark for me to beat the following week. 
Hope these tips give you all a jump start on your couponing endeavors.  

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