Think Before You Shop for Groceries
Part 18, concluding a series on becoming successfully self-employed.
We all have to shop for groceries. But when you are strategizing on how to become successfully self-employed, making just a few changes in your approach to buying groceries can make a big difference in getting you closer to your goal to quitting your job.
I encourage you not to scoff and think of this as “nickel and dime” stuff. If your mind is running along that line, stop and consider how fast those nickels and dimes can add up. By using grocery coupons, for example, the average shopper can, without much effort, cut $12 to $20 per week off his or her grocery bill. At this rate, you can use the $600 to $1000 savings to help pay off the credit card bills or add to your growing savings or investment account.
The baby boomer generation has not been great coupon-clippers, but anyone who has seen their 401(k) plans shrink alarmingly in the stock market slide are not going to be so cavalier about throwing out $20-$25 in grocery coupons each week. But more important, computers and the Internet have made couponing easy.
Now, shoppers can go online, print out a list of coupon offers, bring it into the store to be scanned.
Here’s how to play the couponing game:
Use a manufacturer’s coupon when an item is also on sale. Here is an example you might find available in a given week: When Betty Crocker has its pouches of brownie mixes on sale for $.59, by using a $.35 manufacturer's coupon you can pick up those brownie mixes at $.24 per package. That is a 75% savings.
Use a store coupon and a manufacturer's coupon in combination whenever possible. Check for stores that accept each other’s store coupons and manufacturer's coupons together. This allows you to shop one store and get all of those great store coupon savings.
Subscribe to the Sunday newspaper. Sunday only newspaper subscriptions are inexpensive and by using the manufacturer's coupons you will save greatly on your grocery bill each week. Having more coupons will increase your savings.
Manufacturer coupons are found in newspapers, inserts tucked in weekend papers, direct-mail pieces and magazines.
The ultimate way to save is to wait for your supermarket to feature a special price, use your coupon, mail in a rebate, and shop on specially advertised discount value days. It doesn't come together all that often and it's hard work. But if you start thinking about combining offers, you'll often get two discounts on one item.
Shop when you're in the mood
You've heard the rule: Never shop when you're hungry. You'll end up with all kinds of impulse items in your cart. Another rule is not to shop when you're stressed out. The crowds and lines will only make you more frustrated. Some people, however, find the supermarket to be therapeutic. Figure out which type of shopper you are, and shop when it suits your mood.
As supermarkets embrace this new medium, there are more and more opportunities for shopping on-line. Several services already offer personalized ordering services on-line, and more are soon to follow.
Purchase Store Brands
They cost less than name brands and usually offer the same quality. Now that supermarkets cater to many customers' gourmet tastes, store brands often equal or surpass the quality of name-brand items.
You can save more than $2,000 a year buying store brands every week. This varies based on where you live; private-label prices are most competitive in the New York area.
Compare the quality and taste of store brands, in addition to price. Compare ingredients lists, package sizes and net weights with the national brands. Read carefully. When comparing pasta sauces, for example, the first ingredients listed may be tomato purée, crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce. Some, though, may list water.
Use rebate offers
Manufacturers offer rebates for the same reasons they provide coupons: to build sales and get shoppers to use a particular brand. There's one big difference. The average value of coupons is about 50 cents, while the cash value of rebates is about twice as much.
Rebates can take a lot of work because you have to save just about everything from the package to the sales receipt. Most require proof-of-purchase seals, universal product code seals (those vertical bars scanned at checkout), and cash register receipts.
Finally, don't forget to follow the same rules for rebates as you would for coupons: Use them to save money on the products you use or want to try. Don't clutter your drawers or coupon file with those you'll never use. Organize by brand names, products and expiration dates.
Be careful of impulse buying
When stores place complementary items together -- like beer and pretzels or baby food and diapers -- they are playing on shoppers' impulsiveness. If the items are on your shopping list -- or are big savings -- go for it! Otherwise, you might be the next unwilling victim of impulse shopping. Impulse items may be new products, samples, well-displayed items or products at unexpectedly low prices.
Be Aware of Shelf and Display Tactics
One of the best ways to save money at the supermarket is to be aware of marketing strategies used to encourage you to buy more and spend more. The following are some of the most common tactics:
1. Higer-priced products are usually at eye level on the shelf.
2. End-of-aisle displays don't mean the products are on sale. Check carefully; sometimes these products are near their freshness expiration dates.
3. The most expensive children's breakfast cereals are often placed at their eye level (not adults').
4. Grocery stores often place candy and breakfast cereal on opposite sides of the same aisle (a parent's worst nightmare).
5. Marketers will often rearrange shelves, making shoppers search for their regular items and discover new products in the old, familiar shelve spaces.
6. Produce departments now sell pre-cut fruits that are more expensive.
7. Massive end-of-aisle displays, large window signs and a cluttered look can suggest the store is filled with bargains.
It’s always good to learn to shop smart, but especially when you need all the tricks you can conjure up to put you in a better position to quit your job and become successfully self-employed!
Tags: Coupons , Rebates , Food Expenses , Supermarkets , Grocery Marketing , Cut Food Costs
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