Dear Nicole: Yes, it really is possible to use coupons with store sales and get $100 worth of groceries for $20 or even less. On some grocery store receipts, you will find a percent saved total. As a couponer, I focus on that figure to tell me how much I save at the grocery store. Your example of paying $20 for $100 worth of groceries has an 80 percent savings.
In my coupon class, I show an example of where I paid only $7.64 for $61.96 worth of products. In that example, my savings was 87 percent off of the normal retail price.
Big savings are out there; you just have to know what to look for. I have made money to take a product out of the store. One of my best finds was a drugstore deal on a five-count package of Zyrtec. It was on sale for $5.99, and the store had a store reward credit of $5 after purchase. I also had a manufacturer coupon for $5 off of any size Zyrtec that I had printed from the drug manufacturer’s Web site. By using the coupon during the sale, it allowed me to pay just slightly over a dollar after taxes. It became a money-making deal once you add in the value of the rebate.
One of the most appealing features of the drugstore instant rebates is that you can immediately spend the rebate on something else. You can either use the rebate to buy something you need without coupons or you can use that rebate as cash on your next coupon deal.
Please keep and mind that you will not always get 90-100 percent off your total grocery bill. You cannot live on free toothpaste and condiments alone. A reasonable couponer will save anywhere from 50-70 percent off of the entire food bill once perishable items such as produce, breads, meat and dairy are added to the weekly budget.
Your second question was about sales cycles. Sales cycles are important in order to follow the common coupon practice of stockpiling. Stockpiling is buying enough of what you need at an item’s lowest price to last until the next time it goes on sale in order to avoid buying it while it is at full retail price. This length of time between sales is called a sales cycle.
There are two types of sales cycles – seasonal and rotational. Seasonal sales cycles happen during certain times of the year. At the beginning of each month, I tell my readers what seasonal sales cycles happen during that month so they know what items to look for. A seasonal sales cycle can be for an event, such as the National Oatmeal Month promotion, or sales might occur because of produce being in season. When produce is in season, it will usually be on sale because the item is close and plentiful and does not have to be transported from other countries or grown in artificial conditions. The further an item has to travel to get to your table, the more expensive it will be.
The second type of sales cycle is a rotational sales cycle. Rotational sales cycles happen for several reasons, but they are primarily designed to encourage stock rotation. Most items have 12-week sales cycles, meaning that they go on sale at least once during a 12-week period. Cereal has a shorter, six-week cycle, and some baking goods have a longer, 24-week cycle. When you are stockpiling, you want to save the most you can on pantry, cleaning and personal-care items and then “coast” until the next sale so you don’t have to pay full price.