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One of the next steps to couponing is knowing your prices. I think that is one of the more time-consuming (at first) parts of couponing. It’s not impossible, but can be a challenge sometimes.
What it boils down to is knowing what your absolute lowest price is for an item. A coupon does you no good if you can go elsewhere and get an identical (or sometimes better) item for the same or lower price.
Some people can manage to keep a running mental list of how much they’ll pay for each item. I’m not that good at keeping track very well that way. Everything goes into the HandyShopper program in my Palm. From there, I can find any information that I need.
Knowing the price per unit (per ounce, pound, gallon, per roll of tp, etc) will be the most helpful. At first glance, a bottle of laundry detergent may seem to be a better deal than the one you usually buy, but once you look at the unit price, you may discover otherwise.
To find the unit price, take the total price and divide it by the number of items/units in the package.
For example, if a 12-roll pack of toilet paper costs $7.99, just divide that $7.99 by 12. That gives you the unit price of $.6658 per roll. You could then round up that to $.67 a roll. This is helpful when a different size package than you usually buy goes on sale. By comparing the price per roll, you can see at a glance whether it’s a good deal or not.
After you know your basic prices, you can then add in coupons. Sometimes you can get a generic product cheaper than a name brand product bought with a coupon. On the other hand, some stores have really good sales. By buying sale items and using coupons with the sale price, that’s often when you can get name brand items at low, low prices or even for free.
Many stores now have their sale ads online. Some are easier to use than others, but most of the major chain grocers around her do have them available. That’s a good way to do some checking ahead of time, especially if you don’t get that flyer in the mail. They also often offer some sort of “specials by email” program. Right now I get email specials from 4 different area stores.
This is something that I’m still working on though. I live right on the NC/SC state line, so don’t get most stores’ sales ads for the NC grocery stores I shop at. I often forget to check those stores’ ads online – even though I know I could get some really good deals by doing so.
Once you have a good handle on regular prices, you’ll be able to establish what your threshold prices are. A friend of mine won’t buy cereal unless she can get it for under $.75 a box. Eventually you get to the point where you know when it’s time to just buy one or two items to get you to the next sale, or start stockpiling because it’s the best sale you’ve seen in a long time.
It can be time consuming, and is definitely a learning process. But knowing your prices is certainly worth it!