Thursday, August 7, 2008

Doing A Deal - Tip of the day

Going to a store and using coupons, in itself, is easy. Making this work for you and your budget can be a little more complicated. I have come up with a few tips to help remind us that it isn't all about the coupon. There are many ways to keep deals rolling along smoothly trip to trip.
  • Be polite and in good spirits even when a deal goes awry. You don't want your favorite store's employees to cringe when they see you coming. You really want them to like you. Keeping a focus on this can turn into a blessing to you in the end.
  • If your pre-store visit calculation is around $3 out of pocket cash, take a 10 along with you to cover tax and minor calculation errors. Minor mistakes will become less common the more you deal but, if your deals are extensive it might be more difficult to stand at the register and figure out where you went wrong. Plus, as my first tip advises, you don't want your cashier to hate it when she sees you walk into the store. Be polite, go out to the car or out of the way of other customers, find the error, then go back in with the receipt and your purchase to kindly discuss the error or make a return. If the error is more than $10 I would definitely not pay until it is sorted out, however, be kind to the customers behind you by letting them go ahead while you stand aside and sort through the issue.
  • Always have your deals written up and calculated at home before you head to the store to minimize unpleasant surprises.
  • Only take your husband with you if he can keep from throwing random items into your cart. Even the most money conscious man loves a sale on gadgets or 'as seen on TV' products (or maybe that is just my hubby). If you like to shop with your hubby, which I do, make sure to perfect 'the eye' so that you won't have to actually tell him 'no'. ~;O)
  • Realize that just because you can get a $10 item for $1 doesn't mean you should. Just because it is cheap doesn't make it a good deal if you normally wouldn't have bought it. I only pick up stuff like that if I can get it for free. Example: Clean & Clear. I got 3 bottles C&C products this week for free. I would never have purchased this stuff as a regular part of my grocery shopping trip so I had to make it free to justify picking it up. Second Example (opposite): We do eat cereal. My rule is if it doesn't cost more than $1.25 a box I can buy it. Make sure the deal is a good fit for your family before you put your money down.
  • Have a plan for your money. A weekly deal budget is a very good idea. My suggestions is to start with around $20 to $30 cash the first week and then lower your budget after that until you are down to under $5 for CVS and Walgreens type deals as you collect, build, and roll your ECBs, rebates, and RR. You may want to adjust your budget for your area stores and your family's needs but make sure to keep it low.
  • STAY HONEST! There is always temptation to photocopy a coupon, especially a printable, but there are limits on these and photocopying usually isn't legal. Don't let bargain hunting turn you to greed. Selling your soul for a good deal is just not worth it and will come back to bite you in the end. Most coupon sites will let you print a coupon twice. Sometime you can find the same coupon on multiple sites and get 4 to 6 copies. Only print what the sites will let you print. Keep yourself in check and you will never have to feel guilty when your cashier is scanning your 24 coupons.
  • Don't let bargain hunting overtake your life. I am totally guilty of this one! Although starting out may take more time than you would like and you will get faster as you get the hang of it, don't sacrifice your home and family for the sake of free toothpaste. Allot yourself a specific amount of time, more at the beginning and scaling it down as you get smoother at the process.
  • When you are first learning doing deals, as I am now, don't get carried away. It is so easy to see something tagged on the shelf at the store and try to work it into your deal. This may be a good idea as you get smoother at the process but at first it is a good way to make a big mistake, spend more money than you mean to, and end up taking home items you paid for but will never use.
  • Try to shop when you don't have to take your kids with you, at least at first. This may sound odd coming from me if you have ever read my other blog however, when you are just learning severe bargain shopping and are confused easily, as I am, even the slightest distraction can cause your deal to crash. If you set aside one day a week where your husband can be home for an hour or a friend can watch your kids (or if you have a built in babysitter like we do, finally) it can be a great benefit to your learning curve. After you get the hang of it I strongly encourage you to take your kids with you so they can see and learn bargain shopping at its finest.
  • And last, always have something to write with so you can jot down any deal ideas you run across or store policies that you learn at a new store. If your Walgreens doesn't like printable coupons that is something you will want to remember in the future. Or, if a particular store has a military discount or something similar that pertains to you, or something else you don't want to forget about.

If you have anything to add please comment and let me know and I will stick it here on the list.