Learn How To Coupon | Day 23: Planning Your Shopping Trip {Part 1}



Welcome to Day 23 of the monthly series: Learn How To Coupon!


This is a monthly series for any Coupon Newbies out there that would like to learn more about couponing! We have been exploring all different kinds of coupons, stores and general issues when it comes to shopping with coupons! If you are new, or would like to catch up on what we have been doing, feel free to click any of the links below to catch up!


Day 1: Anatomy of a Coupon

Day 2: Anatomy of a Barcode

Day 3: Types of Coupons

Day 4: Where to Find Coupons

Day 5: Stacking Coupons

Day 6: Coupon Abbreviations

Day 7: Electronic Coupons

Day 8: Doubling Coupons

Day 9: Catalina Coupons

Day 10: Buy One Get One Free Coupons

Day 11: Organizing Your Coupons {Part 1}

Day 12: Organizing Your Coupons {Part 2}

Day 13: Sale Cycles

Day 14: Stockpiling

Day 15: Coupon Sites and Deal Matchups

Day 16: Coupon Policies

Day 17: CVS

Day 18: Walgreens

Day 19: Rite-Aid

Day 20: Target

Day 21: Walmart

Day 22: Shopping Online {Earn Cash Back Rewards}



Today’s Topic: Planning Your Shopping Trip {Part 1}


So we have gotten through reading and learning about many of the popular stores to use coupons with. Today I just wanted to share with you some tips on how to plan your shopping trips in general, and even how to plan them when using coupons.

If you are reading this post as a beginner couponer, then you may already feel somewhat overwhelmed! Learning how to coupon takes lots of patience and practice. I think I mentioned before, I still learn something new everyday that I didn’t know before about couponing. I still also make mistakes :) But I remember that stressed out feeling of trying to use coupons, then my transaction didn’t work as planned, and I left feeling upset and confused.

While we can’t always prevent any of this from happening, we can definitely take some steps to help us prevent many of the common mistakes that may stress us out during a shopping trip!

I have found that by using many of these steps, you will feel more confident in using your coupons.

So let’s go through an entire shopping trip (before and after as well), to see some things we can do to help make our shopping trips as smooth as possible! Tomorrow, we will talk more about what to do at the registers, and checking out.



At Home (Day of Shopping Trip)

Before even going to the store, making a better shopping trip starts at home! Doing a few simple things at home will help you have a successful shopping trip in the store!


1. Get Plenty of Rest/Sleep

This may seem like a given when doing anything, but you definitely want to be on your best when shopping for anything! Getting plenty of sleep will help you to feel energized, and able to withstand the longer shopping trips if needed. This is especially important when you are trying to use coupons. Being tired might cause you to miss wording on a coupon, get the wrong item, or even miss a possible mistake at the register.

I have had my share of “tired” shopping trips, and I always feel like I want to hurry up the shopping trip so that I can get out of there to go to sleep :) While we won’t always be able to have the perfect amount of sleep each time, trying to do this for any large shopping trips, it would be best!


2. Eat Something!

Alright, how many of us have done this? (Raise my hand :) ) You are in a hurry, but you need to buy groceries. So before feeding yourself a little something, you just head to the store. Have you ever noticed how much more you buy in the store when you are hungry? It seems harder to concentrate too, because you are hungry, and having all the food that you want around you is very tempting! So you might grab a lot of items that you didn’t intend on buying, get home and eat something and realize “Why did I buy so much stuff?”

I admit to doing this all the time! But in reality, we are trying to use coupons to help us save money. And because we are also trying to watch sales, and other things, we don’t want to blow our budgets or spend all the money we saved with using coupons just because we were hungry.

So eat something! (A Meal, crackers, something :) )


3. Choosing The Best Time

Another thing that will help you have a smooth trip, will be to try and go at a good time to do your shopping. This will take some planning ahead, but once you know kind of when to go, it becomes more of a routine. You will obviously need to see what times are best for you and your family, but it’s also good to try and plan your trip around optimal shopping times in the store.

Here are a few timing tips to help you know what time to shop at:

-Shop During Non-Peak Hours

Have you ever gone into a store after church on Sunday, or during rush-hour on a busy week night? It’s busy! Many people are buying a meal for that night, or shopping last minute, so it can be super hectic. You may notice the cashiers are very busy, and that you can’t quite concentrate as well in the aisles, because so many people are passing you and looking around you.

So your goal may be to shop during the “calmer” times of the stores. Times like mid-morning, or mid-afternoon, are times where it won’t be opening, and they have had a chance for the lunch rush to get through, and the rush hour people haven’t come in yet. This obviously won’t always be possible all the time, but as a Coupon Newbie, you don’t want to add any stress while couponing for the first time in the stores too.

You may also notice that if you had any questions, the cashiers would have more time to help you, or explain something than if they had a line of people.


Having to shop with your children is a major part of everyone’s life! So it’s no surprise that when your kiddos are with you shopping, it’s harder to focus on using coupons, or looking at items because you are also trying to keep track of them as well.

So if at all possible, try and shop during the day when your kids are in school, or during a nap time of your little ones. Maybe even shopping as a family, and having one of the parents walk around with the kids while you focus on coupons might work as well.

I know it’s not always possible to shop without your kids, so if you have them with you, try and give them a game plan too! Try and tell them that you have coupons, and get them to help you out. Get them one of those little shopping carts for kids, and see if they can help you find your needed items.

Prepping for the Store

Now that you have mapped out the best times, are well rested, full of food, and are ready to use your coupons, let’s talk more about planning to use your coupons in the store. We will go through what you should do at home as far as prepping your coupons, and while your on the way.


1. Read Sales Ad and Coupon Blogs

In reality, once you have started couponing, prepping for your actual shopping trip should not take much time at all. This goes for people who don’t clip their coupons (file method), and people who use a coupon binder!

Having your coupons already organized will help you majorly when heading to the store, because you won’t have to worry about trying to find your coupon inserts, or loose coupons.

Begin browsing the sales ads and coupon blogs for any deals at the specific store that you are shopping at that week. Many people are great at knowing what a good price is for something, and are familiar with stockpiling items at a low price, so they may only need to browse the ads quickly.

But for other beginner couponers, you might want to look on couponing websites and see what sales are available at the store that week. They will usually list the best sales as well, so that you can differentiate what an “ok” price is versus a “stock-up” price.

If you don’t cut your coupons, go ahead and make a small list of any coupons that you need to clip.

2. Check Coupon Database

Sometimes, you will have an item that you want to buy, but you aren’t sure if you have the coupon for it, or even if one exists. So this is where the Coupon Database comes into play. This is kind of a “search engine” for coupons. You can look up any item and see what available coupons there are. If you don’t cut your coupons, it will tell you exactly what coupon insert the coupon came from, or where else it might have come from.

You can go HERE to access the Coupon Database.


3. Make A List 

This is probably one of the most important steps for a Coupon Newbie. Knowing exactly what you will need in the store will be one of the keys to helping you have a successful trip. Once you have seen the sales, and seen what your family does need, write it all down to help you stay on track in the store. If you are attempting multiple transactions, then go ahead and write those out too.

Write the coupons next to the items that you will be using so that you know you have one to use. This will be helpful for coupon binder users too.

If you can print a list, go ahead and do so. If you find some good deals on a coupon site, go ahead and print that list. Check off any deals you will be doing, and write any other necessary info.

Try and get a game plan for how much you think your trip should cost. This will help you stay in budget, and help you notice any problems at the registers if the total is higher than expected.


4. Cut Your Coupons

If you don’t have a coupon binder, or don’t cut your coupons, go ahead and do so. You should by now know what you need, so go ahead and get them together. If you don’t have a binder, you can use an envelope for your loose coupons, or attach them to your list with a paper clip.

If you are doing multiple transactions, clip each set of coupons for each transaction.

If you do have a binder, you can either keep them in your binder until you are sure the item is available, or you can take them out and put them in the front of your binder, ready for use.

What To Take With You

After you have planned out your trip, there are a few important things to take with you to the store.


1. Your Coupons And List

Don’t forget your list and coupons! I have done this on numerous occasions :) Put them in the car the night before if you need too.

For all you coupon binder users, I will just take the binder with me right into the store! Just put it into the baby section of the cart.

2. Scissors, Calculator, Pen

While in the store, you are almost guaranteed to see something that wasn’t planned (that may be an awesome deal). So have on hand some scissors for any un-clipped coupons, a calculator for price comparisons and totals, and a pen to rewrite any transactions or deals if you need too.

If you don’t cut your coupons, the pen is helpful for writing down any clearance deals you see so that you can bring more coupons back at a later time, because you didn’t plan on those items being there at first.

3. A Little Extra “Stockpiling” Money

As a beginner, creating a stockpile of needed items won’t happen overnight. The goal with stockpiling is to build up an 8 week or so supply (at first) of your needed items, so that it lasts you until that sale comes around again, and you can repeat the entire process and not have to spend retail in the mean time.

When you find an item at it’s best price, you may tend to only buy 1 or 2 of each. But when we start buying 6 or 8, that may get pricey for the person just beginning!

So the goal is, a little at a time. When you are beginning, you will most likely be out of most of the items you need, so you will have to spend most of the money on your regular groceries, and usually during regular sales. But you can also set aside say $10 extra dollars for “stockpiling” money.

If you have a budget of $5o a week, set aside $10 for stockpiling items on a great sale. This way, you can go ahead and be stocked up on that item for a while. And you will see that the next time, you won’t need to buy that item because you have it already! You can put that money towards other needed things.

And that my friends, is how you begin to lower your grocery bills and begin a stockpile! It will help you stay within budget as well :)

4. Some Water

Stay hydrated and focused in the store! Taking some sort of drink (coffee, water) will help you stay focused while shopping!

5. Coupon Policy

Last but not least, your Coupon Policy for that store. If you haven’t already printed your store’s coupon policy, go ahead and do so. This will be very important for clarification if you run into any problems in the store, or at the register.

It’s really nice to have this handy as a beginner as well, because you can re-read any portions of the policy that you are unsure of in the store, or ask questions about it.


So now you should be ready to head to the store! Next we will talk about what to do while “in” the store and at the registers to help your trip run smoothly.


See ya for Day 24!


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