Don't Buy in Bulk! Busting Down the Myths of Bargain Shopping and Coupon Clipping
We all think we “know” how to save: Buy in bulk, buy generic, and you can’t go wrong. And, of course, you can only save on things that are really, really bad for you. Well, guess what? Everything you’ve heard about saving money at the store is wrong! Here, some realities behind common bargain shopping myths.
Always buy in bulk
It seems to make sense: Bigger is better, so buy pallets full at the warehouse store. With a little strategy, though, you can save so much more buying smaller items at regular grocery and drug stores. Here’s why:
You can’t use coupons at warehouse stores. Sam’s Club and Costco don’t accept manufacturer’s coupons, one of the biggest ways to save.
Warehouse stores don’t have sales. Even big box stores have fewer big sales than grocery or drug stores -- where everyday prices are higher, but sale prices much, much lower. Be patient, and the best sale prices at grocery and drug stores beat the everyday prices at big box and warehouse stores.
Using coupons on smaller sizes gives a higher percentage of savings. Save 10% when you use a $2.00 coupon to pay $17.99 for a $19.99 box of diapers. Save 20% by using the same $2.00 coupon to pay $7.99 for a $9.99 bag of diapers. Or, save 25% if you wait to use that $2.00 coupon until the bags go on sale for $7.99, and pay $5.99 each.
Grocery and drug stores often offer money-back coupons. Check Walgreens and CVS weekly ads for offers like “buy three packs of Huggies diapers, get $5.00 off your next shopping trip.” Sales combined with money-back offers and coupons usually get diapers down to $.15 each -- instead of $.30 or more at big-box stores. Get other things better than free: When they advertise toothpaste at $3.00 with $3.00 back, use a $1.00 toothpaste coupon to make $1.00 by shopping!
Match up coupons with sales, use coupons on smaller sizes, and watch for money-back offers to save 50% or more over big-box prices. Stock up on lots of small bags of diapers at significant savings, not one huge box at everyday prices. Get toothpaste for free instead of paying for a six-pack at a club store.
Always buy store brands
People who hear I’m a bargain shopper picture shelves of old black-and-white generic boxes. Nope! My little stockpile of groceries and drugstore items is all name brand -- and all cheaper than the store brand, sometimes even free. Here’s how:
Use coupons. You don’t see a lot of coupons for store-brand items -- but you do see a lot of coupons for national brand items.
Shop sales. While generic items have low everyday prices, sale prices on name-brand items almost always beat those. Be sure to match those sales to coupons! Stock up on name-brand items on sale, and you won’t need to buy store-brand items in-between.
Look for loss leaders. Grocery and drug stores always put a few items on super sale. Most people come in for that one thing, then do the rest of their shopping at the normal high prices. Smart shoppers just grab super-saver items -- your $.99 box of cereal or your $.10 apples -- and get on out. “Cherry pick” the best deals to do better, even factoring in time and gas. Match coupons with loss leaders to often get things for free.
Look for money-back promos, usually on name-brand items -- buy X$ of a product or X number of items, get a coupon for X$ off your next shopping trip. Since money-back promos trigger on pre-coupon prices, they can make for great deals!
If you compare everyday, non-coupon, non-sale prices, buying generic wins. Just a little shopping savvy, though, lets you do much, much better on name-brand items by stalking sales and using coupons strategically.
You can only save on bad-for-you overly processed items
The last major myth? Coupons are only for “junk food.” But, you can see significant savings even if you eat organic or have dietary restrictions. Here’s how:
Look for organic/natural coupons. Visit company websites like Stonyfield Farm, Earthbound Farms, and Horizon for printable coupons; sign up for mailing lists for more. Print organic/natural coupons on sites like Mambo Sprouts (http://www.mambosprouts.com/), and print Whole Foods coupons off their website (http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/coupons/).
Email companies for coupons. Drop your favorite brands a line and tell them how much you like their products. Include a mailing address, because many companies send out coupons for compliments.
Check the major coupon sites and coupon inserts. On Coupons.com today, I found coupons for Cascadian Farm, Muir Glen, and So Delicious products. Always look before you shop. And, coupons for conventional products work just fine on that company’s organic versions.
Shop deals at multiple stores. Instead of shopping exclusively at Whole Foods or another high end store, save those trips for items you can’t find elsewhere. Pick up other organic and natural items on sale at the grocery store. One of mine recently sold organic Santa Cruz lemonade for a dollar (around $3.00 at Whole Foods); another put out stacks of $1.00 coupons for any store-brand organic product (I got free organic pasta and carrots!). Be a savvy shopper by comparing prices.
Look online. Amazon.com often runs sales on organic, natural, and gluten-free items. They recently sold 2 packs of organic coconut oil for $10.00 -- about half the normal price.
Use savings elsewhere to offset food costs. Get toothpaste and razors for free by matching up coupons with sales with money-back offers? That’s money saved to buy organic milk, meat, or produce. Saving elsewhere lets you reallocate dollars toward your family’s priorities.
Shop farmer’s markets. Small local farms can’t afford the expensive USDA organic process, but may have acceptable practices -- plus, buying local is a bonus. Talk to the booth staff and ask about their farms.
Being a savvy healthy shopper means shopping strategically. You can find ways to save with just a little time and effort. Take the time to plan, and save much more than by sticking to the common myths.