Habit # 3 – Learn Your Local Sales Cycles
Part Of The 5 Highly Effective Habits of Practical Couponers Series
Deal Prediction Analyst
Habit # 3 – Learn Your Local Sales Cycles. Learning your local sales cycles is the only way you will ever learn to find your own deals or become a Deal Prediction Analyst.
Coupon bloggers, myself included, write posts about the deals going on in our neck of the woods. I live in Central Texas so the deals at my local H-E-B grocery store are completely irrelevant for someone living in Northern Utah because H-E-B doesn’t reach that far north yet!
What is a Deal Prediction Analyst and why do you need to become one? It’s my technical name for anyone who can foretell the upcoming sales or deals based on data they gathered from the past. Kind of like a weatherman predicting the weather except you used real data to help you predict the future sales forecast. You need to become one so that you can take full advantage of maximizing savings for you and your family.
I spend only one month out of the entire year actively couponing and replenishing my stockpile. When I began my coupon stockpile, it only took me four months to build it up and then I quit actively couponing for the other eight months and started to really track my own sales cycles.
I “coupon” all year long so when I refer to “actively couponing” what I mean is that I purchase multiples of the newspapers, between 10 to 20 of them, and use them to get deals that replenish my depleted stockpile. The rest of the year is spent buying only what I need in coupons and items to use and tracking the sales and trends.
I am only purchasing items that are at rock bottom prices with coupons, discounts, store promotions, etc. when “actively couponing” to replenish my stockpile. I happen to know when they are at rock bottom prices because I’ve just spend the entire last year tracking all of this in my spreadsheets every week. You see, I am already a Deal Prediction Analyst and I am telling you my secrets!
When I purchase these items, I am purchasing enough to last at least 6-12 months so that I don’t have to chase deals every week and every month. I save both time and money using my Practical Couponing for Busy People Methods and this is an example of one of those method hacks.
If you have just started out couponing or stockpiling then you won’t be at this level until AFTER you tracked the sales cycles of your local stores for at least one year. Don’t get discouraged though, remember that you are creating a new lifestyle with new habits. It takes making small changes, repeatedly and over time, and those small changes add up to impact your wallet in a big way.
You are definitely going to save money by using coupons. If you spend $2000 a year on groceries and household items and managed to average just 10% in total savings with coupons then you’ve saved your family $200 for the entire year. This method hack helps you see how to take it to the next level and to think ahead for next year.
Each year that use you this method will reap bigger savings and more financial freedom. Imagine if you jumped your savings up to 50% the next year!! What could you do with an extra $1000???
I used all of my savings from this last year to purchase a new fridge and the old one went into my garage and is now known as the “kimchi” fridge. Kimchi is a Korean fermented spicy cabbage condiment, think of spicy sauerkraut, that is so healthy and good for you but oh-so-stinky at times! My extra fridge will also hold my surplus milk, lunchmeats, eggs, coffee creamer, yogurt and anything else I need to feed my family of five. My goal next year is to purchase an upright freezer that can sit next to my fridge!
Start with one store – add only one at a time
When learning your local sales cycles it is best to pick just one store to start out with, master that one store and then add more stores as you go along. I started out with CVS which is still my favorite drug store.
It didn’t seem too complicated for me when I read the coupon policy. I also liked the idea of being able to use extra care bucks to help cut my final out of pocket costs. I can also use my extra care bucks to pay for my transaction and still earn additional extra care bucks for future purchases without the worry or hassle of losing those future rewards.
***I do not ever recommend starting out with Walgreens. It is the trickiest of ALL stores to learn because there are so many different stipulations when it comes to coupons, store policy and ads.
Did you know that if you use up your balance rewards in a transaction where the products you buy earn balance rewards, then you lose the rewards you would have earned? I didn’t know this until I starting paying attention to how many balance rewards points I was suppose to earn in each transaction.
Example – Earn 2000 balance rewards when you buy two Windex Touch-ups. You have 5000 rewards on your account before your purchase and the employee is prompted to ask you at checkout if you want to use your points towards this purchase.
Let’s just say you get distracted at checkout when your one year old starts a screaming fit and breaks your concentration on your deal and you hurriedly answer yes. After all, a line is forming behind you, your child is screaming at the top of his lungs while the sweet little old lady behind you keeps asking you personal questions about the baby and your family. All the while the cashier is giving you the one raised eyebrow look to hurry up and decide while you are silently praying to the coupon gods that your deodorant doesn’t fail you because you are now sweating bullets. This ever happen to you?
Saying yes causes you to lose the 2000 points you should have gained in the transaction AND you no longer have your 5000 points because it took $5.00 off your total. Spending your 5000 points cost you the additional 2000 points. It’s a loss for you and a gain for Walgreens because they didn’t issue out another 2000 points in that transaction.
When you do get to couponing and tracking for Walgreens, remember to use those balance points on items that don’t earn points. I save up all of mine and use them on soda and cereal deals. I also use them on diapers and wipes when needed and only when those items aren’t on a balance rewards points earning promotion.
It can be a bit frustrating, overwhelming and confusing when starting out and learning to coupon, especially if you are still in the process of learning to put together deals, SO LEARN AND TRACK WALGREENS LAST…..TRUST ME!!***
I got off on sharing a really good hack, so let’s get back to tracking the sales cycles for one store at a time. You will find that sales usually go in cycles of either 4, 8 or 12 week increments. Some run longer and some run shorter, but the deals always come back around. I repeat….the deals ALWAYS come back around. Use the spreadsheets to help you track the trend so you will be completely prepared the next time it rolls around. To read more about the sales cycles because you just can’t get enough, click here!
You need to be tracking the sales cycles for at least eight weeks in a row. Write out a list of 10 to 20 items you regularly use. Start with items you use on a daily basis like shampoo, toothpaste, toilet paper, soap, coffee creamer, laundry detergent and anything else you purchase weekly.
Track these few items and see how often they go on sale. You will also want to keep track and pay attention to other brands that you might not have used in the past. You can do this by comparing prices in the ads with the coupons you have in your binder.
For example, if you only used Colgate toothpaste in the past and never considered using Crest then you might overlook that it regularly goes on sale every three weeks at your local drug store. You might also notice that the store puts out store coupons in their ads which makes it free after coupons. Whereas your Colgate might cost you out of pocket, even with store sales and coupons. So why spend money on your brand if you can get the same product from a different brand for FREE?
I do realize that there may be brands that you won’t want to give up and I don’t blame you one bit. I wrote about my mishap with Pantene haircare in a previous post. Click here if you’d like to review it again. The best advice I can give for the brands you don’t want to give up is to watch the sales cycles and then stock up on them when they are at their absolute rock bottom prices.
I only use Tone bodywash and it hardly ever goes on crazy good sales and it’s NEVER, EVER free, even with coupons. But a few rare times throughout the year it will go on sale and I will find a great coupon to pair with it. That’s when I jump on the opportunity to stock up for the whole year.
In January of this year, my local Walgreens had a deal for Tone bodywash. You could buy 2 for $6.00. I also had a coupon that was buy 2, get one free. So I actually got 3 bodywashes for $6.00, or $2.00 each. I bought 24 bottles which is enough to last one full year with a couple of extra bottles to spare.
These are normally priced at $5.99 each. I can sometimes catch a deal at Target for $3.50 each, but that’s a rare deal and I have to jump through hoops to get it, which isn’t worth my time or effort. At $2.00 each, for a total of 66% savings, it makes good couponing sense to get enough to last until it comes around again next year.
I also make sure to include that I can only use four of these coupons a day when tracking in my spreadsheet so that I know that I need to do this deal twice, on different days, to get enough to replenish my stockpile for the year.
Just in case you didn’t know, Walgreens, Wal-Mart and Target limit four like coupons per transaction but you also must read the fine print on your coupon and if it says limit to four like coupons per household, per day then you really can only use four per day.
My local Walgreens also had a special on the Dial bodywash during this same sales cycle. Dial is the male version of Tone bodywash and my husband happens to use it. The same company makes it and the coupons I used were for either Tone or Dial brands.
You better believe I took full advantage of this deal and stocked up on my hubby’s bodywash. I bought 24 bottles to last an entire year at the same price of $2.00 a bottle. Since I tracked it in my sales cycle spreadsheet, I will know come December of this year to make sure I am prepared for this sale when it comes around again next January!
Wash, rinse and repeat! And yes, I really did make four separate trips to my local Walgreens on four different days to get all 48 bottles of my bodywash and use my maximum of four coupons per household, per day.
I wasn’t able to take full advantage of the best deals until I first spent a year studying the sales cycles of ALL of my local stores. One thing is so very true about couponing, the more you do it and the longer you do it, the more you end up saving. But keep in mind that it is a lifestyle change so it takes time for the savings to add up and multiply.
Check the sales ad EVERY week for 8 weeks straight
Once you get your list of items you regularly use put together and you’ve picked your one store to track for sales cycles then you will need a spreadsheet or some other kind of list you create to help you keep track of when and how often your items go on sale.
You are more than welcome to use my downloadable spreadsheets. I use them to contact companies for coupons, track my weekly and yearly sales cycles and I even use them to create shopping lists. Click here to read my post about Successful Couponing with Spreadsheets because you just can’t enough information!
Like I said before, try to keep this list simple in the beginning. You will inevitably learn these cycles and stock up prices if you continue to coupon but you want to be sure and pay extra close attention to the items on your list.
Don’t make the same mistake I made and think that you will easily remember these prices in a few weeks because you will have crammed so much more information, numbers and deal scenarios in your brain that you will inevitably forget and then regret not taking my advice. Save yourself the heartache and follow my advice from the beginning.
Keep in mind that most, but not all, stores sales last from Sunday to Saturday. So Sunday is the best day to get the ads for your stores. BUT – my local grocery store sales are from Wednesday to Tuesday so I have to make sure I get a copy of the new ad on Wednesdays.
This is why I recommend only starting out with tracking one store and only adding one store at a time. Keeping it simple will alleviate frustration and confusion when learning to coupon.
After eight weeks of tracking, you should start to see a pattern and cycle of the price and sales that go on at the store. Example – every eight weeks my drug stores put Bumblebee brand albacore canned tuna on sale for 88¢. This premium tuna is usually between $1.19 and $1.39 at regular price.
When I first started out couponing and stockpiling, I didn’t have much extra money to spend because I was still needing to buy the items I needed to use regularly while trying to buy extra to stockpile. I was only able to buy enough to last me until the next sales cycle until I had stocked up a little pile.
I made sure to take full advantage of items that were free with coupons, even if I didn’t particularly like the brand. Doing this freed up funds in my budget for items I needed to stock up on. If I didn’t have to pay for toothpaste, then I could buy more deodorant during that shopping trip.
Having enough deodorant and toothpaste to last a few months meant I could purchase more bodywash the next week. I would then use the money I would have spent on toothpaste and deodorant to buy the bodywash because I now have a small stockpile. Are you beginning to see how it works when starting out? The savings grows each week, month and year because the more you do it, the more you save.
Use my FREE downloadable spreadsheet to track the trends
You will notice that I have room in my spreadsheet pictured below for the weekly sales as well as the store coupons and special promotions. The store promotions are really important to track because you will get better deals when you combine store sales, coupons and promotions – like Catalinas, gift cards or cashback- to apply towards your out of pocket costs. This little secret of stacking/combining discounts is what takes you from a basic couponer to extreme couponer. I only consider it extreme if you save 80% or more!
I have a SPAM and eggs deal that only rolls around once a year at my local grocery store. I didn’t know it only rolled out once a year when I started out so I didn’t bother to stock up enough the first time I caught the sale. The next time it rolled around in January, I was prepared and armed with every SPAM coupon I could get my hands on. I made sure to stock up a year’s worth since it is a staple in our home and we eat loads of it!
This kind of preparation and planning for coupon deals doesn’t just have to apply to grocery or drug stores. I love to shop in retail stores like Kohl’s, Old Navy, Anna’s Linens and JCPenney so I always follow those sales cycles too.
For instance, they always have massive sales and major discounts around family holidays. I always wait until these stores send me umpteen dozen coupons and emails before I go shopping and I always score ridiculously good deals.
You can use my spreadsheets to track these discounts too. This is especially helpful if you like annual and semi-annual sales such as the ones at Victoria’s Secret or Bath & Body Works. No need to try and rack your brain to remember – simply watch your emails and track the store deals.
Practical Couponing for Busy People Method Hack: If a retail store has a sale that lasts two weeks instead of one, the better deals come out the second week of the sale with bigger discounts and more savings. Be sure and sign up for email notifications and watch them beg you to shop at their stores!
They usually send out one email to announce and preview the sale, then they send an email the day of the sale with a discount of 10-15% off or a dollar off coupon to use. The second week of the sale is the week when they add more coupons to combine or a bigger discount like 20-25% off.
They also tend to have short sales within these sales. For example – they might run an additional $10 off when you spend $30 on Sat and Sun only or I’ve seen a 12 hour sale where everything in the store was 50% off during that specified time.
Be sure and use a dedicated junk email account to sign up at your favorite stores and opt-in to receive offers and then sign up for every store and brand you love! Be sure and check your email account periodically throughout the day so you don’t miss any offers.
I check my email as much as I check on my social media, which is honestly about once an hour. Since I am blogger and I work from home, it makes sense to check it this often! I do realize that most people have day jobs outside of the home so just be sure and check as often as you can or set up to receive instant notifications so you don’t miss out on these deals.
Watch the store coupon/discounts/register rewards trends
Timing is everything when it comes to naming your price! When you really think about it, we are essentially naming our prices when we wait and use coupons for our deals. If you hold out and wait long enough, you can negotiate a lower price.
The stores cycle their sales to make the most profit for their chains. Have you ever noticed that the same week the coupon comes out in the paper is not the best week for the item to be on sale? If you have never noticed it before, pay close attention to it in the future.
Be sure to track the special sales at the stores too. Example – diapers and wipes regularly cycle at ALL of the stores. Sometimes you get a good deal with catalinas, sometimes it’s register rewards or points and sometimes it’s gift card deals – you get the idea. Just be sure to make yourself aware of the rebates, promotions, catalinas, cashback and gift card offers.
Each family of products puts out rebates from time to time and coupon apps like SavingStar have them too. Make sure you track these in your sales cycles spreadsheets if you use them. If it gets to be too daunting a task then don’t bother with these until you master the art of the coupon deal.
I will be writing future posts about rebates, coupon apps and store promotions for extreme savings.
Learn to be patient and hold on to your coupons
The stores know which coupons are coming out in the newspapers ahead of time and they might put an item on sale, but it might not be a super great sale that week. The next week that same item may go on sale for an even better discount but since you got in a hurry and used your coupon the minute you got it, you missed out on the better deal. Knowing the sales cycles will help you learn when to use your coupons for maximum savings.
But what about the hot freebie deals and big money makers? Yes, there are a few exceptions to this rule, but don’t worry, you will know when those happen because everyone will be talking about it!
If you follow ANY of the coupon blogs at all, mine included, they will announce it ahead of time, numerous times, and you can take full advantage of those. These types of deals typically only happen once or twice a year so be sure and track them, especially if they are moneymakers.
Keep in mind that I am referring to “normal” circumstances and sales cycles when holding on to your coupons for better deals. The moneymakers and hot deals pop up here and there and out of nowhere sometimes. Track them to see if there really is a trend, what’s it going to hurt, you’re tracking items anyway.
Besides, if you can take advantage of moneymakers then you can get your items for free AND get paid to shop! More about this in a future post so subscribe to my newsletter using the form below so you don’t miss out on what I have to share!
Did you know that you can preview the ads early for Walgreens and CVS? Click here to get my cheat sheet that every couponer needs to get the most savings. I tell you where to go to see the early previews along with other useful resources like coupon apps. This is just more data to help you with your deal predictions!
The secret that stores don’t want you to know is that the best sales come around between one, two or three weeks after the coupon comes out in the newspaper insert. They are hoping you rush out and use up your coupons so they can sell you more full priced items!
The hardest thing for a new couponer to learn is to be patient and not get anxious when putting together deals and stockpiling. But how can I blame them? Bloggers, social media and retail stores create quite a buzz about products, savings and coupons that it’s hard for them to not get excited! Heck, I STILL get excited and I am a veteran pro!!
Just to recap, learn the sales cycle so you will know when items you purchase go on sale and to get the best rock bottom prices for the items you use. You are essentially building your own personal system designed by you, especially for you and your family. This little bit of work will help you save both time and money in the long run.
This is Habit # 3 – Learn Your Local Sales Cycles of The 5 Highly Effective Habits of Practical Couponers Series. Next week is Habit # 4 – Only Buy What You Will Use Or Donate. Save yourself time and money by only buying what you need and use. I know it sounds pretty simple and straight-forward but we all need to reminded to stay on track from time to time.
Don’t want to miss the upcoming habits and hacks of my Practical Couponing for Busy People Methods Series? Want to see the latest Money Saving Coupon Recipes? Subscribe and have them delivered to your inbox! Don’t worry…it’s safe and I won’t spam you…I honestly don’t have the time or energy to flood your inbox with more useless stuff!
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