No shopping this week … well, maybe just a little …

I haven’t done any stockpiling or even regular grocery shopping this week. The only thing I plan on doing is stopping by Publix and Bi-Lo for some fresh food for salads and some fruit for snacks. Other than that, we don’t need anything. There are some really super deals this week, though. I might not be able to pass some of them up.

The budget we work with for household, personal and grocery products is $125 a week. I have found that I actually spend that much only about 12 weeks out of the year, and during those 12 weeks, which are often determined by sales cycles and added on discounts (coupons, rebates, store promotions, gift cards, etc.) is when I pile up what I can stockpile. I try to get at least an 80% discount on those stock-up weeks, which means, I’m actually getting around $625 worth of products those weeks. You just have to be ready for it when it is right for these stock-up weeks to happen.

I’ve made plenty of miscalculations. I had not kept track of how quickly we were going through some really common items – like deodorant, liquid hand soap, kleenex, and a few other things that you touch every day. I think what was going on was, things that were so common, I just didn’t bother to track, I just guessed. In May of last year, there were some great promotions with the exact brand of deodorant that my husband likes the best. There was a Buy One Get One Free at a store with a Buy One Get One Free coupon in the newspaper, there was also a Plus UPs money back at Rite-Aid, and … I think at least one other good deal that also came around in the same month. Anyway, between the coupons and the promotions and the money back, I realized now was the time to stock up on this thing that was used every day and was my husband’s favorite, so I did ALL the promotions and I think bought about 24 of them, total. I still have several left. Sure, if you are shooting for a one-year or more stockpile, that’s great, but it wasn’t necessary. Those sales come around a few times a year, so I could have just bought maybe 6 of them, and chased other deals instead on things I ran out much quicker, like kleenex. And really, it is annoying to run out of Kleenex! So I have learned, sometimes by careful tracking, and sometimes just by making mistakes, to track usage and let that guide stockpiling, THEN after that look for the sales and find your opportunity to stock up.

It’s important in these times to not get discouraged and not feel like you failed. Just keep adjusting your long-term plan and keep tracking your inventory. Then when the opportunity comes around, you’ll know what you need and how much to chase it down!

The one thing I would recommend, especially in the beginning, is use your Price Tracker sheets. Until you get used to sales cycles, and until you get a little mental Rolodex of regular prices and lowest prices of all your stockpile items, keeping it in writing is the best way to not be fooled by fake sales and not overdo it when it is time to stock up.

I’ve seen it in sales circulars – they will advertise, for example, “Hot Dogs on sale!” and the sale price is $4.49. Considering the regular price is $4.99, that’s not much of a sale. It’s only 10% off. I don’t even bother to put it on my list if it isn’t at least 50% off to start, if it’s an item that ever goes on sale.

Aha – I just brought up a new point. Is it an item that ever really goes on sale as deep as 50% off? Some items just don’t – like pecans, diapers, toner cartridges, and lots of other things. You would never really know this if you don’t price track. How will you know if it’s a “good” price advertised, if now is the time to stockpile? Of if it’s a fake sale that you should just ignore? In those cases, you need to be a bit more creative to get 25%, 40%, 50% or more off of those things that never really go on sale lower than 10% or 15% off. That’s when I use other strategies to lower the price – coupons, store promotions (like Bi-Lo’s “meal deal” or “hot price”), gift cards that you get as a reward for other purchases (Publix does this a few times a year), Catalina deals (like the Uncle Ben’s deal I mentioned earlier this month), overages (coupon amount is greater than the item purchased) that can be applied to the non-discounted item, “try me free” mail-in rebates, and others. Again … the eternal debate … time vs. money. If you want to save more money, you have to put in more time.

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