We finally get to the step that most Americans start at, shopping in the store. One thing first though, before I get in the store, I organize my coupons by aisles (my list is also organized this way). That way I spend even less time in the store, which ironically is a benefit of couponing. Here are some things to watch for when you are shopping.
*Bring your ad (or get one from customer service). This becomes helpful in finding the exact product, double checking prices, or finding a replacement.
*Make sure you have the right product for your coupon and especially your promo. It is very easy to get the wrong size or even brand. Now days, store brands are marketed to look a lot like name brands so be careful. I once missed out on a $12 catalina because I had one store brand box of granola bars mixed in which my name brand ones. Looks for the sale tags and promo tags hanging by the product.
*Check end displays and front displays. They often shelf the promo/sale products in addition to their usual place in the store. After you have checked all of these places and still can't find the item you want, be sure and ask for a rain check.
*However, if you are trying to earn a promo catalina or have to hit a certain amount, get a replacement item for the one that is out of stock. Always have a backup plan, especially if you are in a busy store or it is a popular item. Usually stores order extras for these large promotion sales, but they frequently run out too. Another thing to consider is being considerate of others who might be trying to get the deal...don't be a shelf clearer.
*Look for unadvertised deals in clearance section. You might find some bargains. Be careful though, you don't have to get everything just because it is on sale.
*Try to shop alone and when the store is less busy, to lower your frustration levels and allow you to concentrate, especially when you are doing complicated deals. I know this isn't always feasible, so try to keep kids occupied with free samples (from the bakery), or free stickers/balloons that a lot of stores offer. This is a challenge for me, my kids seem to have a meltdown by the time we reach the checkout counter, which is really when you want to pay attention.
*When you are ready to check out, double check your items, making sure they are the right ones. Also double check your coupons and get the ones ready you are going to use. Look for a "coupon friendly" cashier, or one you have a good relationship with, it really makes a difference (more on that later).
*Hand over coupons and reward cards. I usually put mine on the belt right at the first, so they know what to expect. Some cashiers like to scan as they item is scanned, so it is better if they have them all upfront.
*Be pleasant and knowledgeable. If a coupon doesn't work or "beeps" it is up to the cashier whether to push it through or not. Sometimes you have to decide if it is worth arguing over 75 cents, usually for me it is not. However, if your catalina you are going for doesn't work, you need to speak up. It is usually very easy to fix and a couple minutes is always worth $10 or so.
*Don't let a bad experience ruin it for you. Even if it didn't go smoothly or you had a grumpy/rude cashier, you still saved some, which is what you wanted to do.
Next is what to do when you get home...we are not done yet.