9 Tips to Save Money at Warehouse Clubs

Warehouse Clubs

I’ve had many people ask if it’s worth it to have a warehouse club membership such as Sam’s Club or Costco. The warehouse clubs claim to offer great savings because you are buying in bulk, but are you really saving money? If you think about it, every time you walk into a Sam’s Club or Costco you almost always walk out having spent at least $200 if not more. And on top of it you have a $45+ yearly membership fee.

I have a Sam’s Club membership because they do have good deals on certain products that I use regularly and I can’t always find those products on sale at a grocery store. But when I shop at Sam’s Club, it’s rare that I spend $200 in one shopping trip. So how is it that I don’t spend hundreds of dollars at a warehouse store? Here are 9 money saving tips how to save money at warehouse clubs and how to save when buying in bulk:

[Read more…]

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

Buying Groceries on a Budget: Organization & Patience

This is the last of the Buying Groceries on a Budget series.

I know this can be difficult, but stay as organized as possible with your coupons. Every couple of days take the coupons you’ve clipped or printed and organize them in your binder. If you have a pile of coupons all over your house, you won’t be able to utilize them, let alone know what you have. Keeping it in organized in one location will help you to save time because you can quickly locate the coupon you’ll need to use with a sale.

When you start clipping coupons, remember it’s going to take time to build up the coupons you need to use with sales. You also have to be patient and watch for the right sales to come around that you can use with your coupons, as well as watch for items to reach their “rock bottom” price. This will maximize your savings.

It will take some months before you really start to see a decrease in the amount of money you spend each week at the store. It took me about 7-8 months to get to the point where my food pantry and storage was stocked well enough that I could mainly focus on sale items paired with coupons.

It’s definitely been worth the amount of money we save on our grocery bill to continue doing this. I hope that you’ve been able to take away some helpful tips from this Buying Groceries on a Budget series. Please let me know if you have questions or if there are other money-saving topics you would like me to cover.

Other Posts in the Buying Groceries on a Budget Series:
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

Buying Groceries on a Budget: 8 Additional Tips When Shopping at the Grocery Store

Here are 8 additional tips when shopping at the grocery store:

1)   Never shop hungry
You have probably heard this many times, but it’s true. If you shop hungry, you’ll end up with extra items in your cart because it looks good. This will definitely use up your grocery budget more quickly.

2)   Bring a calculator to the store
Use a calculator to keep a running tab of all the items in your cart so you don’t overspend on your budget. Also, use the calculator to compare unit costs to see which items are cheaper. You’ll often find that it is cheaper to buy two smaller packages with coupons than one slightly larger one.

3)   Look high and low for deals
Look at the highest and lowest shelves in the grocery store to find the best deals. The worst deals are located at eye level.

4)   Search for deals at the end of aisles
Grocery stores place the best deals at the end of aisles to draw shoppers’ attention up the aisle. This will save you time if you don’t have to walk the length of an aisle. And it will save you money because you are less likely to place an extra item in your shopping cart.

5)   Don’t be brand loyal
To save money on groceries, you need to be willing to try new items. Use coupons to buy a different brand for half price. Also, check the store brands because sometimes they are less expensive if you don’t have a coupon.

6)   Buy products in season
Buy the items that are on sale for that season. For instance, snack items go on sale around the time of the Super Bowl in January and February.  Household cleaners go on sale in the spring. Baking products go on sale around the holidays in November and December. And make sure to buy produce as it’s in season. After a holiday, such as Valentine’s, Easter, Halloween, or Christmas, this is the best time to pick up items for the next year for more than 50% off the retail price.

7)   Don’t Overbuy because of Advertising
Many people buy more than they really need to buy because of the way the store advertises its sales. For instance, if the store states a “2 for $4” sale you can either buy one for $2, or two for $4. You don’t need to buy two items. Make sure to read the fine print since some specials do require a certain quantity. If it’s a really good deal, then stock up, but don’t do it because the signage persuades you.

8)   Watch the scanner
Keep an eye on the scanner at checkout to make sure the items you are buying and the coupons you use are ringing up correctly. There have been many instances where I’ve saved money because I caught when an item was rung up wrong or a coupon wasn’t applied to my purchases.

Other Posts in the Buying Groceries on a Budget Series:
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

Buying Groceries on a Budget: Tips During The Shopping Trip

I regularly shop at a store where I can price match the deals I find. It also helps save me time and money because I’m not running around to multiple stores. However, I will run to other stores if there are hot deals. 

I’ve calculated that I price match about $40 – $60 worth a groceries a month and use about $30 in coupons. This may not seem like a lot, but over the course of a year, it adds up to savings of nearly $1,000!

While at the grocery store, here are a few tips to make your experience run more smoothly:

Within the grocery cart, separate your regular purchases from your price matching items. Another idea is to place a sticker with the price on the items you want to price match. And take a minute to group together all the coupons you’ll be handing over to the cashier before you get to the checkout counter or while you are standing in line.

When checking out, place your regular purchases on the counter first followed by the price matching items. Make sure to place a divider in between these two groups. If you don’t clearly separate the price matching items from the non-price matching items, the cashier might ring up an item that is supposed to be price matched. If the cashier has to constantly go back to fix transactions, it could lead to frustration for both of you.

Find a cashier who looks friendly and good-natured. I’ve learned that the checkout experience with price matching and coupons will go much better with a pleasant cashier. When I arrive at the store, the first thing I do is walk through the front of the store and scope out the checkers before I begin shopping. Make sure to smile, be polite and build a relationship with the cashier.

For those of you who shop at Walmart, head over here to read “Tips on How to Price Match at Walmart.”

Other Posts in the Buying Groceries on a Budget Series:
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

Buying Groceries on a Budget: Valuable Tips to Prepare for the Shopping Trip

Before heading to the grocery story, make sure you are prepared and have completed the following items to ensure a smooth grocery shopping experience and to make sure you are getting the best deals.

1)  Deal and Coupon Sites
Take a few minutes on a regular basis to skim through the posts of 2-3 couponing and deal sites like Saving Cent by Cent. Throughout the week as you see deals, write them down on your shopping list, and print off the coupons you will need or use. Couponing and deal sites do most of the work for you and keep you informed about great deals and coupons. I suggest signing up to receive their e-mails so you can easily skim through and pick and choose what deals you have the time and energy to do.

For those of you in Utah, I post the best Grocery Deals to Price Match every week. I look at about 10 grocery stores in northern Utah and compile a list of the best deals for that week.

2)  Write Out a Shopping List
It’s important to write out a shopping list and take it with you to the store. You’ll be more productive at the store if your thoughts are organized and written on a grocery list. You will also be less likely to pick up extra items on a whim.

3)  Weekly Sales Fliers
The day before the shopping trip, look at the front and back of the grocery ads that come in the mail, mark the items on sale and the ones you can stack with coupons, and place them on the shopping list. The front page deals are called “loss-leaders,” which means the store actually loses money on the products. The stores are trying to “bait” you into shopping at their store.

Looking at the front and back pages will save you time by not browsing through the entire ad. But don’t always neglect to look through the full flier. Sometimes there are great deals hidden in the middle pages. And remember that just because something is listed in the sales flier doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great deal. Over time, you’ll start learning what the rock-bottom prices are for items you buy and how often they go on sale.

4)  Plan Out Meals
Take 15-20 minutes to plan out your family meals for two weeks and incorporate what’s on sale into the meals. Planning meals will save your sanity and your budget.

If you don’t plan out your family meals, you are more likely to run to the store every few days, if not daily, to pick up items for dinner. The more you enter the store, the more likely you will add extra items to your shopping cart that you don’t need. This not only cuts down on your grocery budget, but you also pay full price for the items rather than picking them up when they are on sale.

Most everyone usually makes the same 7-10 meals once a month for their family. Watch for sales on those items to keep them stocked in the pantry. For example, when tortillas go on sale for $0.79 or less, I’ll buy 10 and freeze most of them. Another example is when I see broccoli on sale for $0.49 lb., I’ll buy a bunch, blanch it, and freeze some. Then I will add chicken broccoli casserole to our meal list.

5)  Check GrocerySmarts.com
Additionally, check GrocerySmarts.com. This is a great site that tells you which products are on sale for the week at almost all of your local grocery stores. It also tells you which coupons to use with sales to get the best deal. This is how I check deals for stores that I don’t receive their weekly ads in the mail. It also allows me to double check stores like Smith’s, Albertsons and Maceys to make sure I didn’t miss any good deals or coupons. If you live in the Utah area, check Rancho Market’s and Sprouts’ weekly ads to pick up or price match produce inexpensively.

6)  Organize Coupons
Once your shopping list is compiled with all of the deals, then pull out the coupons from your coupon binder to match up with the sales. Also check if there are any other coupons you want to be sure to use, such as high-value coupons or coupons for free items.

With the coupons that are about to expire, if it’s for a product that I am low on or really need, and the store brand isn’t cheaper, then I’ll use it. However, don’t use a coupon just because you have it. Remember to ask yourself, “Do I need this item? Will I be able to get it on sale in a month? and Will my family eat it?” Unless you were already planning to purchase the item, using the coupon just because it’s going to expire will not save you money.

Other Posts in the Buying Groceries on a Budget Series:
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

Buying Groceries on a Budget: Find Sales & Stack Coupons

The way to save the most money is to watch for a sale on a product—preferably when it is at its rock-bottom price—and then purchase it using a manufacturer coupon and/or an in-store coupon.

For example, Target had the Purex Complete Crystals Fabric Softener on sale for $2.99. There was a $2.00 off Purex Complete Crystals manufacturer coupon in the Redplum insert. And there was a $1.00 off Purex Complete Crystals Target printable coupon. With the sale and two coupons, the product was free!

Here’s another example: Huggies Little Swimmers was on sale at Walgreens for $6.99. There was a $2.00 off Huggies Little Swimmers manufacturer online printable coupon. Plus Walgreens had a $2.00 off Huggies Little Swimmers coupon in their May Coupon Booklet, which is located by the front entrance. With the sale and two coupons, the final price was only $2.99!

Begin to practice the “Buy Ahead Principle,” which means that other than items like dairy and produce, aim to never pay full price for anything. By being patient and watching sales, you can buy most items at a discounted price.

And when an item reaches its rock-bottom price, don’t just buy one item. Purchase as many items as your grocery budget will allow to keep you stocked until the next sale. Most sales re-occur about every 12 weeks.

For instance, if you purchased 10 boxes of cereal at a retail price of $2.50, you would pay $25. However, if you practice the “Buy Ahead Principle,” and collect $1.75/2 coupons, then wait until the cereal goes on sale for less than $2 a box, you’d pay less than $8 for the 10 boxes. That’s at least $17 you saved.

Don’t go out and spend hundreds of dollars now to begin building a stockpile. Instead, designate a small portion of your grocery budget to by buying extra of the discounted items that you will use in the next few months. Even $5 or $10 a week devoted to stocking up on discounted items can go far. If you don’t find any really good deals one week, save your designated stockpile money for the next week.

And determine when enough is enough. If you have a lot of unopened toothpaste, you don’t need to go out and buy more. And remember that time is money. Don’t feel like you need to hit every deal. Just focus on the best deals that week for the items you need.

Other Posts in the Buying Groceries on a Budget Series:
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

Buying Groceries on a Budget: Organizing Coupons

Once you’ve started clipping coupons, you’ll need to create an organization system that works for you. 

I like to use the “Clipless Coupon Method” to help me save time. What you do is browse through the coupon inserts and clip out the coupons you think you would use. With the packet of unclipped coupons, write the date you received it on the top front and file it away. If you hear about a deal later on, you can easily pull out the coupon insert and clip the coupon you need.

With the coupons I clip and print from online, I file them in my small plastic pouch (as shown above). I created homemade dividers from colored cardstock. And on each divider I’ve listed different categories such as dairy, dry goods, cereal, condiments & sauces, baking items, household/cleaning, personal care, baby, medicine, etc. Within each divider, I organize the coupons by their expiration date.

Some people use binders and purchase the baseball card holders to place inside it. I like my small coupon pouch because it easily fits into my purse. For those just starting out, this small pouch isn’t overwhelming, and it also shows that you don’t need lots of coupons to start to save money.

Other Posts in the Buying Groceries on a Budget Series:
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

Buying Groceries on a Budget: Where to Find Coupons

There are often coupons available for fresh fruit & vegetables, cheese, milk, flour, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, shaving cream, and more. Start by clipping coupons that you think your family might use or items that you regularly use around the house.

Here are a variety of ways to find and clip coupons.

1)  Printable Coupon Websites
You can find printable coupons online from Coupons.com, SmartSource.com, and Redplum.com. These are the three main printable coupon websites. Each coupon can be printed twice per computer.

To save money on ink, change your printer settings to print in black and white only. To save money on paper, print 2-3 coupons per page.

2)  Sunday Newspaper Inserts & Weekly Mail
For those of you in Utah, there is a deal to get a Sunday newspaper subscription for only $20 for a year! That’s just $0.38 per paper! Head over here to sign up and get all of the details.

The Proctor & Gamble insert comes in the Sunday newspaper at the beginning of each month. The SmartSource insert comes in the Sunday paper weekly. For me, the Redplum insert comes in the mail each week. The only exceptions when you won’t receive newspaper inserts is if it’s a holiday week.

Don’t just throw out the inserts. Make sure to look through them. If you don’t receive the Sunday paper, ask family and friends if there is anyone who doesn’t use their coupon inserts and see if they’ll give them to you. I asked my mother-in-law if she would give me her Redplum, which she regularly does. And I have friends who give me the SmartSource and P&G coupons from their newspapers.

3)  Magazines
Women’s publications such as Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, Parenting, Family Circle, etc., frequently carry manufacturer coupons.

4)  Inside Stores
Watch for coupons at the entrance of stores as you walk in, on shelves, and on products. Watch for tear pads or blinking dispensers on aisles. At stores like Walgreens and Smith’s, coupons will print at the register.

5)  Store and Manufacturer Websites
Visit store websites such as Target.com and Walgreens.com to find printable coupons. Manufacturer websites, such as Johnson & Johnson, Frigo Cheese, Las Palmas, etc. often have coupons you can print from their site.

If there is a product you really like to use, try writing to the company to let them know you love the product, and politely ask if they could send you some coupons.

6)  Facebook
I receive a lot of high-value coupons from companies on Facebook. In order to receive the coupons they are giving out, you need to “Like” their Facebook page. It’s worth it to get the high-value coupon. Later on, you could always “Unlike” their page.

7)  Free Product Offers
I used to think that signing up for free samples was a waste of time. But they really add up to save you money. Not only can you get full-sized products and free product coupons, but the sample sizes help decrease how often you have to buy products such as shampoo, toothpaste, laundry detergent, and more. They often include high-value coupons, which could get you a full-sized product for a great deal.

One time, I received five sets of Pantene Shampoo & Conditioner samples over the course of a month. I calculated that the sample size bottles added up to about two-thirds of a bottle of shampoo and conditioner. It all adds up and saves you money.

And, of course, it’s fun to check my mailbox daily to see what free items arrived that day.

8) Grocery Cash Back, Coupon & Money-Saving Apps
This is an easy way to save money by using apps such as Ibotta, Checkout51, Target Cartwheel and Savings Catcher on your smartphone. Check out and download these 10 apps that will save you money on groceries.

Other Posts in the Buying Groceries on a Budget Series:
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

Buying Groceries on a Budget: Couponing Misconceptions

This week, I wanted to talk about Buying Groceries on a Budget: Couponing Misconceptions.

Before I started this blog, I actually stayed away from using coupons. My thinking of coupons was that when you used a coupon, you still paid more for a name brand product than if you just purchased the store brand using no coupons. And yes, this can be the case if you don’t know when the right time is to use the coupons. Later in this “Buying Groceries on a Budget” series, I’ll give more information on how to use coupons correctly.

First, I want to clear up some misconceptions that I think people often assume about couponers and clipping coupons:

1)  Misconception 1: You have to be a crazy coupon lady to save money on your grocery bill.
This isn’t true. I’m not one of those ladies with stacks of coupons and a massive coupon binder. I only have a small coupon pouch that easily fits into my purse. I do enjoy finding good coupons and deals, but it’s important for the every-day person to know that they can save money on groceries without spending hours and hours of clipping and organizing coupons. You need to be willing to do some couponing, but it’s not the main focus.

2)  Misconception 2: You can only find really good deals or pick up products for free on items such as junk food, boxed foods and pre-packaged foods that aren’t that healthy.
False. First of all, I don’t buy many boxed, pre-packaged or junk food items. Purchasing hundreds of items such as Top Ramen for free is notpart of providing healthy meals for my family. I mainly make homemade meals from scratch, and I am starting to do more freezer cooking so I have quick meals I can pull out at the last minute. In fact, most of my weekly grocery lists consist mainly of produce, dairy and meat.  

In reality, most of us won’t walk out of the store with hundreds of items in our cart with a grocery total of $0.01. But with the simple tips I share in this “Buying Groceries on a Budget” series, you will be able to walk out of the store with really good deals, which will help to cut down your grocery bill considerably.

3)  Misconception 3 – “I don’t have time for coupons.” 
I laugh at myself because I used to say this. Life is busy and there are constantly a hundred demands pulling us in different directions. But adding a few minutes here and there to clip some coupons doesn’t have to be overwhelming. If you’ve never used a coupon, don’t expect to immediately save 90% off your grocery bill. It takes some time to learn how to use coupons. But clipping coupons is going to save you money.

4)  Misconception 4 – “I tried using coupons, but I didn’t save any money.”
If you use nearly every coupon you clip, then you are notgoing to save any money. Instead, you’d probably end up buying a lot of over-priced items you wouldn’t normally buy or won’t use, and you’ll end up spending a significant amount more than you save. This is not how to effectively use coupons.

Couponing to save money doesn’t have to take hours out of your week. You could see considerable savings by committing to spend an extra hour each week to make a menu plan, write out a grocery list, follow a few couponing and deal websites, clip coupons, and check sales fliers.

Using coupons wisely requires patience. It involves waiting until an item is at its rock-bottom price, which is the lowest price you’ll see it at a store, and then pairing it with a coupon so that you get it inexpensively or free!

Other Posts in the Buying Groceries on a Budget Series:
This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.

Buying Groceries on a Budget: How to Determine a Budget

Buying Groceries on a Budget - How to Determine a Budget Final
This past month, I spent a lot of time preparing to teach a class about “Buying Groceries on a Budget.” I received many comments from those who attended about how informative it was. So over the next few months, I will be posting a series of articles on this topic to hopefully encourage and help all of you too. This week, we will begin with how to figure a grocery budget for your family.

Determining a grocery budget will save you money and frustration. Without a budget, all of the work you do to find deals and clip coupons will NOT save you money. You might be purchasing a lot of amazing deals out there, but in fact, you might be spending more money in an effort to save money.  Rather than spending money freely, a budget controls your spending. Here are some simple steps to take on how to determine your grocery budget.

1)Evaluate Your Spending
First, look at what you have spent on groceries over the last four weeks and take an average. Eventually, you are going to cut down your budget, but don’t cut it in half right now.

2)Be Realistic
Don’t place excessive pressure on yourself by coming up with some extremely low figure for your grocery budget. Set realistic expectations so you won’t get discouraged and give up. You want to be able to persevere and see the long-lasting benefits.

3)Pay Attention to How Much You Waste
Are you throwing away more than you are eating? If you are, then you are throwing away money. Try cutting back on those food items you are throwing away or find a creative way to use them.

4)Slowly Lower Your Budget
It takes time and practice to reduce your original grocery budget fairly significantly. You are not going to cut your grocery bill in half this month. However, slowly challenge yourself to slowly start cutting 5% here and 5% there from your grocery budget. Within 8-10 months, it’s possible to have lowered it by 30-50% or more.

5)Try a Cash-Only Budget
It is easy to justify over spending when you are using a debit or credit card. With each paycheck, take out the amount of cash you will need for the month to buy groceries, and place it in an envelope. Then calculate how much you can use each week. Paying with cash forces you to stick to your budget and you’ll quickly see how easy it is to overspend. You will be more likely to carefully evaluate every purchase or great deal you find, and you’ll begin to ask yourself, “Is this in the budget?” and “Do I need this?”

Our family of five has a grocery budget of $350 a month. I usually only spend about $250 a month at the grocery store, and with the rest of the money, I use it when there are case lot sales or to pick up bulk items at Sam’s Club or Costco when the sales don’t come around soon enough. If you have more than three children, teenagers, or family members who have food allergies, your budget will probably need to be a little more. Remember that each family is different, so determine a budget that will work for your family.

Other Posts in the Buying Groceries on a Budget Series:

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Disclosure Policy here.