Everyone needs to save money when attending college, whether you’re a freshman in a dorm for the first time or a college commuter returning for a degree. College can add extra expenses that require students to manage a tight budget, and saving money on the basics is essential. Most people know or have seen on TV at least one person who seems to have cracked the code for saving tons every time he or she steps into a grocery or retail store. In extreme cases, some savvy shoppers can even reduce their grocery bills from hundreds of dollars to as little as $9.99.
It seems like they must have a magic guide helping them along the way to amazing savings, but the truth is, it’s easier than one might think to save tons on daily expenses. The key to saving money is to know how to navigate around local stores and use coupons, deals and circulars to put money back in the shopper’s pockets. Before jumping into extremes like the shopper saving hundreds of dollars a cart it’s smart to learn the basics.
Thinking like an extreme couponer:
The average person decides what they need and generates a list, thinking in terms of what to purchase at the time. An extreme couponer has a different take on grocery shopping. It takes some getting used to, but the best way to save money is to create a list based on what items used are currently on sale. By generating a list based only on what items the house needs for stock, the average shopper is making a grocery list of things not on sale, rather than the opposite.
If a student watches the circulars for our local stores closely, they will notice that sales have a pattern. The same items tend to go on sale in a 4 to 6 week cycle, so if something is currently on sale now; it will be again in a month or so. In many cases, manufacturer coupons found in the Sunday news collaborate with those sales trends allowing the shopper to save even more money.
To become a savvy shopper, it is wise to first understand your local grocery store’s inner workings:
• The first step is to identify which stores are in the nearby area. This can be done by driving around, asking other students or watching the sales circulars, which are mailed out to customers within a certain radius.
• Once the stores have been identified, the next step is to locate each one’s coupon policies. This is an important part of a solid shopping game plan, as no two stores are the same. Must-know information regarding double coupons, item limits and price matching will assist in saving money down the road.
• Step three is to watch the circulars mailed out weekly to identify the patterns in sales. Keep tabs on which stores have a 4 week cycle and what items used most in the home are a part of that cycle.
• The final step is creating a coupon folder to house in-store and manufacturer coupons. This can be done for as little as five dollars. Purchase a three ring binder and some pocket inserts, as well as colored tabs. Be sure to separate coupons into categories such as food, clothing and beauty supplies for easy access. Don’t forget your coupon book when heading out for a shopping day.
• Begin clipping any manufacturer coupons that come in the paper or other sources and saving them in the coupon binder.
Have a plan of action:
Like those that made a vow to never pay retail, the shopping trip begins at home with a plan. Each week, create a list based only what’s on sale for rock bottom prices and purchase enough of that item to last until the next cycle. So if for example, yogurt is household staple, when it’s at its lowest price, purchase enough stock to last until the next time it reaches that price again. Combine store deals with manufacturer coupons to get the most extreme deals possible. The average extreme couponer follows a strict guideline on shopping day which includes:
• Begin with the weekly circular for the choice store of the shopping trip. Knowing the stores sales patterns, read through and generate a list of the items at rock bottom price for the week that is needed.
• Bring out the trusty coupon binder and sift through for the manufacturer coupons on each item for the shopping trip. A great day to choose for grocery shopping is on a Monday after the Sunday paper sales ads have ran to assure as many items on the list have an additional coupon as possible.
• Clip together the day’s grocery list with the designated coupons to stay organized, but bring along the binder just in case any surprise deals occur.
• Stick to the list and avoid impulse buys. The grocery list complied at home should remain the set-in-stone rules for each trip to keep from going over budget. In addition stick to the allotted amounts designated on the list. Each shopping trip should not only detail what sale items to purchase, but how many to last until the next cycle and it is important not to trail from the plan.
Becoming an extreme couponer is a time investment and will take at least one cycle to really feel the savings. It is impractical to run out of the needed items in the household so of course normal items will still have to be purchased off cycle at first. But as each new item becomes avialable on the sale cycle and the shopper stocks up, the items will begin to reduce in price one item at a time.
College students can begin today taking the necessary steps for saving a ton during the semester by collecting the circulars back out of the bin and doing the necessary research. Starting small and working up to great savings will lead to hundreds back each school year.
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