I honestly never got the whole concept of why you'd want to spend the time looking through ads of other stores, when you can just go to the stores you normally shop at and buy what you normally buy. I also thought that if a particular store was running a great deal one week, why not just stop by that store for only that deal? Why mess with the whole "price matching" thing?
Here's what I've discovered in the past few weeks: price matching is not nearly as difficult or as time-consuming as it seems like it might be. Who has the time (or gas money) to drive around to a bunch of different stores, particularly if they aren't even in the same town or otherwise near each other, if you can get the same sale price at your one-stop-shop for the week? In other words, if I'm already going to make a Walmart trip once a week, why drive around to the other places if Walmart will give me the same price on the same item?
It does take organization, though. I'm still working to figure out the best system for myself, and I will also add that it DOES take more effort to be paying attention to which coupons I have, what sale prices are at which store, the items we need today vs. the items we don't need just yet, and keeping my two-year-old occupied in the cart and not knocking a fire extinguisher to the ground, sending every employee within a six-aisle radius running in our direction (true story).
Here's what I traditionally do to keep organized throughout the store:
- Plan the week's meals out ahead of time, so I know exactly what ingredients I still need to purchase for that week.
- Do a quick scan through the pantry, fridge, and freezer to see what commonly-used items we are running low on. I try to keep at least one ahead of most things we do use frequently (except items with a short shelf-life, of course) to minimize the last minute trips to the store.
- Pull various store ads from the weekly paper and take a quick look through each of them. Circle or mark down in some way the items that would be good to price match.
- Clip new coupons, and throw out expired ones. Pull all coupons I expect to use for that week, and put them in the order in which I'll be coming to that item in the store.
- Write my list out in the order of the store. This keeps me from having to make several trips back and forth across the store, because I don't forget things I've already passed (usually).
- Put a star next to any items I have coupons for, so that I don't forget to use them.
- Include price match items in my list. I make a note of which store has the best price by writing only the first initial of the store, and circling it on my list. (M = Meijer, C = CVS, W = Walgreens, etc.) I write that store's price next to the item on my list, and I also make note of any special consideration (how many ounces that price is good for, if there is a limit on how many you can buy at that price, etc.).
- If an advertised sale price is something like "2 for $6," I've found it's easiest to break it down into how much each ONE item is. It seems to be less confusing if I just tell the cashier the item is on sale for $3 each, instead of saying "I have three of these, and they are on sale 2 for $6."
- Know which stores will honor competitor's prices, and which ones don't. Walmart does price matching, but not against other Walmarts. (Strange, I know. We discovered this two years ago when Sassy's formula was nearly $7 more expensive at the Walmart two minutes away from us than the one in the town to the south of us. In that case, it was worth the ten-minute drive once a month or so to stock up.) Our regular grocery store does NOT price match, but they do double coupons up to fifty cents.
I do make sure to take all my ads with me to the store, but so far, the cashier generally does not ask to see the ads. I guess I either look like an honest person, or they take pity on a mom with a toddler! Besides, who's going to lie about baby carrots being on sale for $1, instead of the normal $1.88? :) I still take them anyway, just in case I'm ever asked. I can refer to my list to help me remember which ad a specific price was in.
Price matching is apparently more common than I realized. I've had a few cashiers tell me they see people bringing in a stack of ads frequently! I guess when I realized how "easy" it is, I don't mind putting forth a little extra time and effort to save some money on our regular shopping bills. It's amazing how fast the normal items really can add up, so this has been one little way I can stretch my husband's paycheck just a bit farther, and I'm always proud of myself when I accomplish that!