Last week, I left readers with this thought: The most expensive time to buy a product is when you actually need it. This is one of my core money-saving mantras, and it holds true with anything in life, not just groceries.
If I want to buy a new winter coat, I will pay a high price for it in November and December. But as spring approaches, look for those same coats on clearance racks priced 50 percent to 75 percent off.
I shop sales cycles in many areas of life, not just at the grocery store. Last year, I bought my son a $49.50 down ski jacket for $3.97. I purchased it as winter was ending, and then kept it in the closet for the following winter. In the fall, I bought my daughter a new sleeping bag for less than $4. It was bargain-priced because camping season had just ended.
It's simply smart shopping to buy ahead of your needs. If you need something right now, you're stuck paying whatever price the store wants to charge for that item. I remember a few years ago, one of the strings of lights on our Christmas tree stopped working about a week before the holiday. My husband wanted to go buy a new string and I wouldn't let him. I knew lights would be 90 percent off about three weeks later, once the clearance sales began! That's when I went to the store, picked up a new set for 49 cents and put it in the Christmas decorations box for next year.
Smart shoppers think about prices at the grocery store in the same way. Prices on the same items fluctuate, high and low, even though the product doesn't change. Why would I spend $3.99 on a box of cereal when I know it will drop to $1.49 at some point in the pricing cycle? Even without a coupon, I would save more than half the full sticker price by buying it on sale.
This is why stockpiling is so important. By stocking up during good sales, I avoid having to pay full price on the products I purchase. I buy ahead of our needs so that I'm not faced with buying something at full price because we've run out of it and need it right now.
I fill my pantry with the staples our family uses the most: bottled juices, cereal, pasta and pasta sauces, cooking oil, flour and sugar, laundry detergent, household cleaners and personal care products like toothpaste, razors and shampoo. By buying these products when their prices are low and using coupons, I take them home at a fraction of the prices I might pay if I simply bought them when our household needed them.
Yes, this is a different way of shopping. Many coupon shoppers are quick to embrace it when they see how stockpiling and coupon shopping go hand in hand. Others resist. The "old way" of shopping has become so ingrained that they fail to see the value in shopping ahead of their needs. They take the seemingly simpler route, buying what they need when they need it. In doing so, they pay significantly higher prices.
At times I hear stockpile-resistant shoppers saying things like, "I just don't want a house full of groceries." You don't have to fill your home with groceries. Devoting even a small set of shelves to grocery stockpiling can have a significant effect on your budget's bottom line.
Think back to the winter jacket example again. If I'd said, "Well, I don't want this coat hanging in my closet for a few months," I would have paid more than $45 more for it. With our family of five buying coats in the same sale, we saved more than $220, buying winter gear before we actually needed it. When low sale prices appear, apply the same strategies to the groceries you're buying.
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about couponing at her web site, www.jillcataldo.com. E-mail your own couponing victories and questions to email@example.com.