Friday, July 8, 2011

When Should You Use A Coupon?

My grandmother has always clipped coupons. Not many, just a few. Every Sunday she sits at her table and looks through the inserts (usually before the sun is even up) and clips out maybe a handful that are for brands she likes (she’s very brand loyal, too). Every Monday she goes to Wal-Mart and uses those coupons. (She saves the rest for me, so I can’t complain.) Is she saving money? Sure! Is she saving as much as she could be? No way!

The reason I say this is because she does not take sale prices into account. Whenever I post a shopping trip, I always try to illustrate that most of my savings come just from buying items when they are on sale! Let’s say an item's normal shelf price is $3.50 and you have a $1 off coupon. You could buy that item and pay $2.50 for it, and you would have saved 29%. If this is less than you usually spend on that item, then that’s great! You are already saving!

However, the very next week you get your sale ad and notice that same item is on sale for $2. This is a 43% savings already, without even having a coupon. If you still had your $1 off coupon, you could use it then, and pay just $1 for that same item you paid $2.50 for last week for a savings of 71%!!

So how do you know when to buy? To answer this question, you need to pay attention to the prices of items you regularly buy from week to week. Even if you only shop at Wal-Mart, and the prices stay relatively constant, you could always bring along a grocery ad and price match, so it is still worth paying attention to them.

In order to do this, many people keep what is called a price book. They make a list of items their family uses and record the price of that item each week for a few months (I could do much better if I actually made one of these instead of trying to keep it all in my head!). Usually a pattern will emerge and you will be able to see what the lowest price of that item is, and sometimes predict when it will be at that price again. With this knowledge, you can determine when to wait on purchasing an item, and when to purchase as many of it as you need to get you to the next time it is on sale.

That will bring us to tomorrow’s topic: Sensible Stockpiling and and Why you may need more than one coupon.  Make sure to subscribe to my emails so you don't miss it!

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