Friday, May 6, 2011

Coupon Boot Camp - Lesson 4: Stockpiling and Budgets

Miss the first three lessons of Coupon Boot Camp? Get caught up:

Lesson 1: Introduction to Couponing

Lesson 2: Getting Organized

Lesson 3: The Right Way To Menu Plan

Today we'll learn about Stockpiling and Budgets. Stockpiling is buying items when they are available at the absolute lowest prices (usually with the combination of sales and coupons) in bulk. Now when I say "in bulk" I mean a quantity large enough to supply for family until that item is available for a price that low again. Most of you have probably seen TLC's Extreme Couponing. Those mentally disturbed people are not just extreme couponers, they're extreme stockpilers. I don't know about you, but I don't have the room or the need for 1,700 jars of peanut butter. The idea is to, instead of buying just a few items on sale at a great price, buy just enough to get you through until that price comes around again. You'll need to start paying attention to store sale cycles.

Most store sales run in three month cycles. Give or take a little. Some sales only come around every six months, others just once a year. Once you start paying attention to sale cycles, you'll see which sales come around all the time and which sales are less frequent. The majority of sales are in three month cycles, so when you find an item on sale for a rock bottom price, you'll want to buy enough to last you for three months, until that item is available for that low price again.

For instance, if I'm using sauce in a jar, I like Paul Newman's. They are regular price $2.99 each at Shop Rite. They are often on sale 2/$5.00, so you'd pay $2.50 each, saving a whopping .49 cents. Less frequently they go on sale 2/$4.00, so you'd be saving .99 cents a jar. Once about every three months they go on sale 2/$3.00, so you're paying $1.50 a jar as opposed to $2.99 a jar - half the price. Paul Newman's issues .50 cent off any Newman's product several times a year. When these coupons come out, I get my hands on as many of them as I can. (Incidentally, there's Newman's Own coupons available online here at the moment.) I use my .50 cents off coupons when the sauce is on sale $1.50 each and get as many jars as I think I'll need until they go on sale for that price again. Shop Rite doubles my .50 cent coupons, giving me $1.00 off and I get my Paul Newman's for .50 cents a jar, a fraction of the regular price.

Following sale cycles and stockpiling is crucial to smart couponing! If you used the same coupons when the sauce was on sale 2/$5.00 or $2.50 each, Shop Rite would double your coupon, giving you$1.00 off. You'd be paying $1.50 a jar, which is less than you could have paid, but why would you want to pay $1.50 when you could get it for 50 cents instead?  This is a great example of matching coupons with store sales to get the maximum savings possible! We'll talk about that next week.

Many items are on seasonal sale cycles. You're not going to see the sales on BBQ items like hot dogs or ketchup and mustard in December that you'll see in July. It pays to stock up on more seasonal items during their prime time. Build your stockpile on those types of items during the summer to have enough to last you through the winter. 

I should also add that it's important to know you'll like and use a certain item before you buy 35 of them to add to your stockpile. One time Shop Rite had several varieties of Ajax laundry detergent on sale for .99 cents each. I had 16 coupons for .50 cents off Ajax. I bought 16 bottles, used my .50 cent off coupons which Shop Rite doubled. I got the detergent for free and made a penny on each bottle. Which was that moment...until I used it and realized it was the worst laundry detergent on the face of the planet and was stuck having to use 16 bottles of it. 

It's also important to use what you have in your stockpile! Can and will you use 42 cans of pinto beans before they expire? If you can't or won't, then it's not smart to get them...even if they are super cheap. It's all well and good to get free and really cheap stuff, but your budget can seriously suffer if you're buying a ton of stuff and not using what you're buying.

Speaking of budgets...

The specifics of how you work your grocery budget really don't matter, so long as you know how much you're spending and what you're spending it on. You need a standard to look at so that you can see how you've saved since you started getting serious about couponing and saving money. Try to think of your budget as a monthly figure and not a weekly figure. It will help free you up for those times when certain things are on sale for great prices and you need to stockpile those items. Stockpiling can be tricky when you're on a really tight budget. If you only have $100 in your pocket to get food to last your family the next 10 days, it can be almost impossible to get what you absolutely need plus stock up on great sale prices. Start out slow and you'll find a way to make it work. 

Try not to compare what your spending, what your saving or your budget to that of others. Just as everyone's family is different, so is everyone's budget. Your goal is to save as much money as you can. Don't get down on yourself if you can't get your budget as low as you might think it should be. These things take time. With proper menu planning, stockpiling and coupons, you'll be there before you know it.

A lot of people are interested in using coupons to get free stuff, especially with regards to stockpiling. You can and will get free stuff couponing. When I first started couponing I wasn't really saving any money...I had a closet full of free stuff, but I was spending as much as ever. The key is to both get free stuff AND reduce your budget.

Next week we'll learn more about how grocery store sales work, starting a price book and combining coupons with store sales for maximum savings!!! 

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