Monday, February 7, 2011

What makes a "good" deal?

I remember when I first started serious couponing, I kept jumping at every sale and using every coupon I could get my hands on. I would stock up on tons and tons of stuff, assuming that I would never be able to get such a good price again. And then, a month later, I would see the same item on sale again, for the same super-low price - or even worse, lower.

The truth is that it's hard to know sometimes if the deal you're getting is the best possible one. Week to week, store to store, prices vary a lot. Throw revolving coupons in the mix - new ones coming out, old ones expiring - and you start to think that the whole idea of scoring the lowest price ever is completely futile.

But after awhile, you start to get a sense of pricing trends. I can't say with any certainty that next week, I will be able to buy Brand X shampoo for $1.00 at Store Y. What I can say, with quite a bit of confidence, is that within any given 2 week period I will be able to get some brand of shampoo at some store for $1.00 or less. I know that I will always be able to find free toothpaste, somewhere. I know to stock up on chicken when it's $1.99/lb and toilet paper when I can find it for less than $0.25 a roll.

Eventually, as you keep an eye on what goes on sale, what coupons are available, and what you buy the most of, you'll start to build up your own "price book" - a mental (or written!) list of what you are willing to pay for certain items. If I see an item hit a "buy" price, I will usually grab it. When I see an item go way below my buy price, that's when I try to stock up. Everyone's buy prices will be different, based on which items you buy, how many stores you're able or willing to hit up each week, and how brand loyal you are. All of the items on my list are items that, for me, don't have to be a certain brand. Obviously, if you're loyal to one, that's going to affect the availability of deals for you and you'll have to adjust your buying patterns.

It seems like a lot of work, but in the end having this information will actually help you save time, money and sanity. You won't be jumping all over the place, feeling like you have to snap up every single sale that comes along, and you'll be more willing to let coupons expire without being used if you can't find a really good deal with them.

Just to give you an idea and get you started, here are some entries from my price book.
$0.00 Toothpaste
$4.00 Hair color
$1.00 Shampoo/conditioner, 10-13oz
$1.00 Body wash, 10-12oz
$0.50 Razors, disposable, each
$2.00 Lotion, 10-12oz
$0.25 Toilet paper, roll
$3.00 Laundry detergent, 48 loads
$2.00 Cleaning spray (ie Windex or Fantastik), 32oz
$1.50 Pasta sauce, 26oz
$0.50 Pasta, box
$0.50 Soup, can
$2.00 Cereal, 10-15oz
$1.00 Cake or brownie mix, 18oz
$2.00 Crackers, 10-16oz
$0.40 K-cups coffee, each
$1.00 Soda, 2 liter
$2.00 Juice, 64oz
$0.40 Yogurt, 6oz
$0.75 Frozen veggies, 10oz
$2.00 Frozen dinners
$1.99 Chicken breasts, lb
$2.99 Ground beef, lb

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