1. Make a List
It is easy to go over budget without a plan. Decide a maximum number of extra items and stick to it.
2. Clip Coupons
Many newspapers include coupons in the Sunday paper. However, be aware that most papers do not include coupons prior to a holiday. A good rule of thumb here is to only clip coupons for the items on your list. It is not cost-effective to buy an item just because you have a coupon.
3. Read the Sales Papers
Every week, supermarkets send out thousands of ads with current sales. Often, large stores also have price-match guarantees on current sales.
4. Sign up for Club Cards
Many supermarkets and pharmacies now offer rewards cards. These rewards cards can save a significant amount of cash. They also keep track of your spending habits. This information is then used to generate coupons specifically for you.
5. Portion Control
This may take a little more planning, so you may want to start with specific recipes. Sometimes, a cut of meat can be cheaper for a slightly larger package. The more recipes you can get from a single package, the better.
6. Compare Prices
Bigger is not always better. There are more factors to look at here. Too big or not too big - THAT is the question. If you have a choice between a 10 lb. bag of flour for $4.88 and a 5 lb. bag for $2.50, 9 times out of 10 I would go with the 5 lb. bag. It is not cost-effective to buy larger packages unless you are saving at least 25%.
7. Generic vs Brand-Name
The old rule use to be that generic brands would save at least 25%. This is no longer true. With club cards, coupons, and in store sales, brand name products can be comparable to and sometimes even cheaper than generics.
8. Clearance Items
When items are being discontinued they can be reduced up to 50%. It is wise to compare the price to a similar item, sometimes the savings may only be pennies, other times it may be 50% off or better. This might also be a good time to stock up.
9. Manager Specials
This is where you want to be careful. When certain items approach their expiration date, management may reduce the price for a quick sale. Pay attention to the sell-by date and the use-by date. A good rule here is to only buy items that look good. There is no reason to get sick in order to save a buck.
10. End-of-Night Sales
When certain departments close, they will often put items on sale in order to begin the next day with fresh products. This is especially true in the meat, deli, and bakery departments. The best time to find these deals is between 8:30 and 10 pm. These deals can save money but they are usually meant for same day consumption.
Don't shop hungry. If you make a list before you shop, chances are that you won't stray too far. If you are hungry, there is the chance that you will go over budget.
Sonja Barkaloff likes to write about personal finance, and she finds Boatinsurance.org especially helpful!