Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Let's Go Shopping: Got Coupons?

I think we can all agree that grocery shopping is a drag. And with prices gone wild it can get downright depressing. But we've all got to eat. So this week we'll examine some ways to save money at the grocery store.

It used to be that newspapers could sell subscriptions by just asking, "Would you like to receive Sunday coupons?" But printed papers are struggling and not even the Sunday coupons are saving them. Why is that? A gallon of milk costs more than a gallon of gas. Cheese costs more than it weighs. Rice is rationed. And flour outprices the cookies we bake it with. Well, the answer is simple--coupons rarely cover the stuff we really buy.

Still we've all heard stories about coupon clipping queens who claim to rack up savings at the price of a few hours of cutting up paper. One clipper, Teri Gault, has turned the hobby into the savvy Internet business, GroceryGame.com. The Grocery Game gives you a list of items that are on sale at the stores you shop. You then buy the newspapers, clip and take them to the store. The premise is that you might not have been able to locate all of the coupons without the Grocery Game list. Well, maybe you could but it might be harder. The Grocery Game list will alert you to what the best deals are and when to use those coupons to get the best savings. Users have said that they can sometimes even get items for free. The cost for this service is $10/month for the first store you signup for and $5/month for additional stores.

Have I tried it? No. You can try out the service for 4 weeks for just $1. But I don't like any service that asks for credit card information upfront and then automatically bills if I forget to cancel--The Grocery Game does just that. It's just a principal that I have. Instead I hunt around for reviews on the Internet. I found a lot of users who suspiciously love the Grocery Game. They were mostly bloggers who ask that you mention them as a referral when you signup with The Grocery Game--read kick back.

I also found one honest blogger who said that the time and money spent clipping, buying papers, and driving to different stores was more of an investment then she was willing to give. That would be my thought as well. But I won't knock The Grocery Game since it may be just what you need to make grocery shopping more fun as many users claim.

Here's a thing to remember and it's what the whole Grocery Game concept is built on. It's also the secret that all successful clippers know. Manufacturer coupons are enticements to try products. You knew that right? They are often for items that you wouldn't normally buy. Store coupons might be for items that the store is trying to move. Either way the coupon is the first indicator that a price cut is coming. The secret strategy is to clip coupons and then save them--for about 4 weeks. The items will then typically go on sale. That's when to use the coupon and that's how Grocery Gamers get free and nearly free stuff.
Serious clippers organize their coupons in categories like "produce" or "meats" and then save them for weeks until the items are on sale. photo by ninjapoodles

Do any stores double coupons any more? I've been hearing this, but haven't seen it locally. Have you?

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