EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Lifestyle

November 29, 2012

When it's time to pounce with a coupon

Using a coupon at the opportune moment is key to saving big on groceries.

If I have a $1 coupon for toothpaste, I don’t want to use it when the toothpaste is selling for its full $2.99 price. I’ll hold onto it until the price dips to $1. A dollar coupon matched to a dollar sale makes the toothpaste the best price of all: free.

When you’re new to couponing, how do you know what the best prices are? Is this week’s sale on cereal a good time to use a coupon for that product, or should I wait for an even deeper discount in the future?

Modern coupon shoppers have many tools that help them plot the best time to buy. But before the advent of online coupon assistance, traditional couponers tracked store sales by creating a price book.

A price book is exactly that: a book of prices on the items you buy most, week by week, noting the highs and lows. In time, a cycle of pricing, low to high, will emerge for every product.

It’s a lot of work to maintain a price book. To begin, write “Week One” on the first page of a notebook, take it to your local store and walk around with it, writing down the prices of everything you plan to buy on this trip and any trip in the next three months.

Make note of the brand, size and price of a product, such as “Raisin Bran, 14 ounces, $1.99.”

Next week, turn the page and copy the same list of products. Note the changes in sale prices from the previous week - “Raisin Bran, 14 ounces, $2.49.” Most supermarkets operate on a 12-week cycle, during which time prices on all products in the store will hit both a high and low. After maintaining the book for three months, go back and create a master page, such as “Raisin Bran, 14 ounces - High: $3.79, Low: $1.69.”

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Lifestyle

Photos of the Week