This is part two of a series. If you missed part one, you can read it here.
Despite giving up coupons, I still enjoy going through the junk mail each week and browsing the store circulars. It’s fun to observe the prices of produce and begin to think of recipes that will taste great with the new season crops. With a family who eats pepperoni regularly and faithfully, it’s also important to not miss a good sale on Hormel.
Over five months have passed since I quit using coupons. Over this time I’ve learned to be creative with our budget by doing my own butchering, bake my own bread and even eating meatless meals at least once a week.
Much of our stockpile is still sufficient for our needs; however, certain things are starting to dwindle. There’s plenty of toothpaste and shampoo to last us a few years (scary?), but feminine hygiene and contact solution are running low (and even empty). The girly stuff isn’t cheap and contact solution is downright expensive. I can get a good deal on both at Costco, but spending $20 out of my lean budget on contact solution is a tough pill to swallow.
Last week I found myself sitting on a chair outside, soaking up the few precious minutes of sunshine the day had, enjoying the ads while my kids were riding bikes. The incredibly low price of pasta found at the Mexican store the next town over jumped out at me. I got that same deal when Dollar Tree had a 4-pack for $1. Why should I have to drive 30 miles to save a few bucks?
The price of brown sugar was really low to and ordinarily I wouldn’t care except that I had ran out the night before. The batch of brown sugarless chocolate chip cookies came out just as good, but it was still on the grocery list for other recipes. Recalling reading Crystal’s most recent series, didn’t she post a coupon for brown sugar? And while checking to see if Target’s Daily Deal was something on our Christmas lists, I thought I saw that Target had a coupon for the same brown sugar too?!
My wheels started to turn and the concept finally hit me. I didn’t have to think about deals and coupons 24/7 in order to save a few pennies. There is a way to find balance between life and a budget!
For those who aren’t familiar with the term, price matching is when one store honors the advertised price of the same item from another store.
There are rules and stipulations with price matching, just like couponing, but for the most part it’s much easier and straightforward.
- You must have the price to be matched in writing.
- “BOGO” and percents off don’t count.
- The items must be exactly the same.
- The two mainstream stores that price match are Target and Wal-Mart.
How exactly do we go about price matching? What do we look for? Is it really as easy as it sounds?
Yes, it really is as easy as it sounds. Like the homemade yogurt, here is a for-dummies version on price-matching (for-dummies because I’m using simple terms and basic steps, not because you guys are dummies… just in case you were wondering. I promise not insulting you! )
1. Arm yourself with the competitor ads, via junk mail or computer.
2. Carefully go through each ad and look at each item, asking yourself honestly if you use it. If you don’t, then move on to the next item. If you do, compare the price to what you normally pay. Buying something simply because it’s a good deal is not allowed.
For example: Looking at the Food4Less ad that ends today, Pepsi 2 liters are on sale for 88¢ each. We don’t drink soda so I move on to the next item, 4lb C&H granulated sugar for $1.78. We do use sugar, so I make a note (physical, not mental) and keep looking.
3. When you have a list of items you use, compare it to your on-going list of things you need. Check your pantries to see if you’re running low on anything. Double check your meals for the month and verify whether you do or don’t need something.
4. Make a list of what you want to buy, the price and the store advertising that price. Then take your ad to Wal-Mart or Target and shop. When you’re checking out, tell the cashier you’d like to price match – name the item, the store and the price. Be prepared to show the ad (some stores require it, some don’t, and some cashiers don’t know their own policies).
That’s it! Enjoy the savings from there. Price matching alone can easily save you up to 25% on your grocery bill. I’ll continue with the example above, as well as the rest of the ads I have and walk you through so you can see easy it really is.
Granulated Sugar. 10lbs of sugar is $5.29 at Costco, my normal place to stock up. Food4Less is advertising it at $1.78 for 4lbs, or $.45/lb. Compared to $.53/lb at Costco, Food4Less has the better deal.
Verified Good Deal: Safeway is advertising the same sugar for $2.49, Mi Pueblo at $2.50 and Savemart’s store-brand 4lb sugar is advertised for $2.88.
Maseca Corn Flour. Walmart carries the 4.4lb package for $2.88, but Food4Less has it advertised for $1.98. This is a savings of $.90.
Green Giant Vegetables. In bulk at Costco is where I usually buy these where its $7.69 for 12 cans. Food4Less is offering each can for $.50 for a savings of $.14 per can.
Verified Good Deal: Savemart has Del Monte Vegetables on sale for $.79 per can.
Various Mexican Pasta. I bought these 7oz packages at Walmart just last week for 33¢ each. This week Mi Pueblo is advertising this same pasta for 25¢ each, for a savings of 8¢ per pacakge.
Taylor Farms Fresh Spinach. The going rate for fresh spinach is $1.99 for 9oz. Savemart is advertising the same size package for $1.50. This is a savings of 49¢.
Kettle Potato Chips. These chips do not contain hydrogenated oils and are one of the only brands that offer salt & vinegar flavor. They’re priced at $2.88 on Wal-Mart’s shelf, but Safeway has them listed for $1.88. That’s a $1 savings!
Betty Crocker Cake Mix. I usually make cakes from scratch, but having a back-up box on hand is convenient. One box costs $1.34 at Wal-Mart and Food4Less has an in-ad coupon for only 68¢ each, saving $.66.
Verified Good Deal: Safeway is advertising this same cake mix for $.99.
How does this look in my cart?
Without Price Matching:
(1) 10lb C&H Sugar, 5.29
(1) Maseca, 2.88
(1) 12pk Green Beans, 7.69
(6) Mexican Pasta, 1.98
(1) Spinach, 1.99
(2) Potato Chips, 5.76
(1) Cake Mix, 1.34
Total = $26.93
With Price Matching
(2.5) 4lb Sugar, 4.45 (I know you can’t buy half a package of sugar, but I’m keeping it fair)
(1) Maseca, 1.98
(12) Green Beans, 6
(6) Mexican Pasta, 1.50
(1) Spinach, 1.50
(2) Potato Chips, 3.76
(1 ) Cake Mix, .68
Total = $19.87
Without using coupons, I’ve saved over 26% of my grocery bill.
At this point you may be wondering why I told you my story of using and quitting coupons yesterday when today’s part 2 doesn’t seem even remotely related.
Oh but it is.
Immersed in the coupon world, I thought it was an all or nothing deal. My choice was either use a lot of them to save a lot, or use none of them to save nothing. I didn’t realize that there was a middle road.
Price matching can be the middle road. By using the friendly competition between stores to my advantage, I can balance saving money with saving my sanity.
What’s even better is that if you do use coupons, that savings becomes icing on the cake!