Thursday, April 28, 2011

How I Plan My Shopping Trips and Some Tips To Help Plan Yours

I was hoping to have some nice shopping trips to share with you today, but I've been a bit under the weather and  getting out of the house just did not happen today.  In fact, I wasn't even ready to go on my shopping trip yet.  I had to be away from home most of the day yesterday after the exterminator paid us a visit, and so my planning got postponed as well.

I was a bit sad that I wouldn't have any shops to share today, but then I got to thinking that the shopping isn't really the most important part of couponing anyway.  Being prepared to shop is!  For this reason, I thought I would walk you through how I go about planning my shopping trips, and hopefully let you see that it is much easier than it can seem when you are first getting started.

First of all, if you've been watching Extreme Couponing on TLC, I'm sure you've heard that these people spend something like 60 hours each week in order to do what it is they do.  If that is true, then to me that goes a bit beyond extreme.  Now, granted, it might take me a bit longer if I had 30+ newspaper subscriptions to clip through!  That is a bit extreme, as well!  I suppose that is why they are on TV and not me! ;)

Quite honestly, seeing that show and everything that they go through overwhelms me, so I can only imagine how people who are new to couponing may feel.  Well, let me just say that all of that is NOT necessary.  You do not have to turn couponing into a more than full time job in order to see significant savings.  Of course, the more time you spend on it, the more you will be able to save, but you must find a balance that works for you.

Also, depending on what is on sale, and how many stores you wish to shop at in a given week, your planning time will vary.  For the past three weeks, I have spent hardly no time at all on couponing because I was thoroughly unimpressed with the sales at the stores around here.  Because of this, I limited my shopping to getting only the items I needed at Aldi, a store that mainly sales their own store brand and therefore does not accept coupons.

This week, there is not much incredibly exciting going on at one particular store, but several stores have a handful of items on sale that I want to take advantage of, so I have spent my day today (on and off as my children have allowed) planning trips to 3 different grocery stores and gather the coupons I will need.  I will also stop by Aldi, and I want to make it to CVS as well, so that is 5 different shopping trips, 4 of which I will use coupons for.  So, as you can see this is a pretty busy coupon week for me, but even including my shopping time tomorrow with 2 preschool children, I still do not think it will add up to over 10-12 hours total, and most weeks I only got to 2-3 stores, so I would estimate about half of that time spent in an average week.  Certainly not 60 hours!

So how do I do it?  To start off with, I browse through all of the sale ads when I first get them Wednesday morning.  Yes, most of them are available online late Tuesday night, but I can't work like that.  I like to hold it and write on it, but that is just person preference.  Here you can see this week's Kroger ad, that I have marked with stars a couple items that I will be shopping for:


Once I have looked at the ad, I begin writing down a list of the items that I wish to buy.   To help me find the coupons that I will need, I will go to a coupon database (my favorite one is afullcup.com) where I will type in the item I am looking for.  If there is a coupon for that item, it will tell me what insert to look in by date and type.  ex:  4/17 RP would tell me that my coupon was published in the Red Plum insert from April 17th's newspaper.  I keep my whole inserts dated in a box to clip from as needed (I do pre-clip and store in a binder those that I am sure I will use).  If the coupon in an internet printable, the database will link you directly to where it can be printed from.  Once I gather up the coupons I will use, I can determine how many to put on my list, and subtract their values from the prices.
You can see here that the pizzas, on sale for $1 will cost me just $0.50 each after my $1/2 coupons and my $0.50/2 (which will double to $1).  The next thing listed in Goldfish crackers.  They are on sale for $1.  I have two coupons for $0.35 off the graham variety which my store will triple up to the price of the object, so I will get them absolutely free!

When I am finished collecting my coupons to go with my list, I fold the list up, and place it and my coupons for that store into an accordion file that I have separated by the different stores that I frequent.  This list and stack of coupons is being placed into my Kroger section.

I make up other store lists the same way, and then place them into their appropriate place in my file, also.  You can see I have a few lists folded up in there.  I also keep a stack in front of any coupons for free products that I have or anything that I know we use alot and might need to pick up.

Then, when I am ready to go shopping, I need only grab my little purple coupon file.  Although I have a large binder, I do not shop with it anymore.  It is just too much to carry having a 4 year old and a 21 month old with me.  Certainly I miss out on some clearance deals at times, but that is ok with me.  Life will go on.  And if it won't, I live close enough to the stores that I second trip would not be out of the question (though I've never actually went back home for a coupon....except when I left my $5/$25 CVS coupon on the printer, but that is literally two blocks away).

I hope that helps explain the process of planning a trip by shopping the sale items that you have coupons for to get even greater savings. (Do not be my grandmother, who runs off to the store and buys the item the day the coupon comes.  Hold on to that coupon and wait for a good sale price, or you could end up paying more with the coupon than it is on sale for with out one the very next week.)

If you need help with matching up coupons to sales, there are many blogs who do wonderful coupon match-ups.  I'm not going to tell you which ones to go to, because they will all depend on which stores you have in your region, and in some cases, which region that store is in.  If you can find any blogs that are local to you, those are more likely to cover the stores that you have, so try to add a local site to your list of resources if you can.  You can also do a search for "(store name) match ups" and that should bring up some sites that cover your stores (be sure to check their prices against your sale ad to make sure the prices are the same.  Also, beware if they are using different doubling rules than your store allows because this can make your final price look drastically different.

I hope these tips help you when you sit down to plan your shopping trips.  Please let me know if you have any questions, or if you have any more pointers that I may have left out.

If you are having trouble finding a site that does match-ups for your stores, email me at savingmyselfsilly at gmail dot com, and I can try to aid in your search.


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3 comments:

JRFrugalMom April 29, 2011 at 4:46 PM  

Thank you for linking up to the Fantastic Frugal Friday Amanda.

I'm going to send you some info on how to make the button.

I was amazed to see how similar our coupon and shopping style is. I do the same as you, although I do have about 10 inserts for each week, which means I can stock up, when there is a great deal. I have also stopped clipping, and my husband brought home a second hand file cabinet, which works very well for the coupon inserts, and I love having them organized.

I also make a very detailed list before I leave home, because with two or three boys it just gets crazy even without coupons:)

Saving Myself Silly April 29, 2011 at 5:20 PM  

I would appreciate that very much!

I would love to have multiple inserts. I have one sunday only subscription to the Dallas Morning News, and also a thursday subscription to a local paper that I was told had all the coupons from sunday on Thursday, but they have only had the Smart source. My mother used to save hers for me, but their paper never got the good coupons in the first place and now they've stopped getting the red plum altogether! I have tried to find extra papers on really good weeks, but there are none to be found around here. I guess I might have to buy some online, I'm just concerned that they would be from areas that didn't get many coupons like where my mom lives. How do you get your extras?

Deals and Dishes April 30, 2011 at 6:53 PM  

I write out my shopping list the same as you =)! I'm now a follower.

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