I recently did a grocery-shopping trip with a local television reporter to demonstrate coupon savings strategies. The reporter asked me an interesting question: "What are the top five mistakes shoppers make that causes them to spend too much money?"
I gave quite a bit of thought to her question, and explained what I thought the top five mistakes were, and how shoppers could save if they knew how to avoid making these mistakes. I'll share them with you to help you save money, too.
1. Not having a plan.
Although life can make it difficult to be organized every time you shop, it is a proven fact that shoppers who plan and stick to their shopping lists spend less money than shoppers who go to the store with only a vague idea of what they need to buy. The shopper without a plan is much more likely to buy items on impulse, to pay higher prices than necessary because they aren't aware of current sale bargains, and to come back to the store sooner because they didn't remember everything they needed during their unplanned trip.
Conversely, the shopper with a plan would have their meals planned around what the best sale bargains were that week, they would have thought through everything they needed to last at least a full week to avoid frequent (and expensive) trips, and they may even have coupons to match sale items. The shopper with a plan would most likely spend 50% less overall than the shopper without a plan. The 30 minutes required to make a good plan pays off.
Even if you find yourself in the store parking lot without a plan, you can stop and jot down your best attempt at a shopping list, and grab the store sales flyer as you go in the store. Quickly scan the front and back pages of the ad to make sure you get any super-bargains. And shop quickly to avoid spending more time and money than necessary.
2. Throwing away the coupon circulars. Over the years I have heard countless reasons why people choose not to use coupons (too busy, coupon food is unhealthy, etc). I also know plenty of busy shoppers with healthy eating habits who save hundreds of dollars a year with coupons. Use the "no-clip" system at www.couponmom.com and you can save easily on items you like, even if the only "coupon items" you find that you use are deodorant and toothpaste. Check your store's best deals list and your newspaper's Virtual Coupon Organizer on the site and you may be surprised what coupons can save for you. Be sure to save the entire circular and put the date on the front so you can find coupons when you need them. You may miss free deals listed on the site if you selectively cut out a few coupons and throw the rest of the circular away.
3. Being too brand loyal.
Most shoppers buy the same products repeatedly, whether they actually prefer the brand or are simply buying the product out of habit. When you begin watching sales and using coupons, you will find that other brands may be free with a coupon. At that point, it's worth it to try a new brand. If you must have the same brand for a particular item based on a true preference, then watch for sales and stock up when it hits its lowest price.
4. Not knowing your store's coupon policies.