I am on an adventure to discover the benefits and joy of couponing. I do not plan or expect to become an extreme couponer. I want simple savings for my family in which I can translate that savings into family vacation time each year.

Create a game plan

I like to shop so staying on budget is always a challenge for me. To combat this I have worked out a little strategy that seems to do well for me. I have a game plan each and every trip.

I make a list of what I need based on how many meals I need for that particular shopping trip. How we typically eat is 1 meat, 1 veggie, 1 side dish for each dinner. Breakfast are usually simple meals so nothing complicated and I just work with how much cereal, eggs, or quick meals will work for that time frame. Same with lunch. I stick with quick meals, sandwich ingredients. The snacks. I look for snacks I break down to smaller ones such as chips that I can baggie to make portioned single serve. Even if I have enough meals I always shop with meals in mind so I always have enough no matter what.

Next I scope out the local ads for what is on sale with the best prices and create my meal plan. I clip coupons based on my list and create a reasonable budget. I tend to have the same budget each shopping trip so it almost never changes. I usually see $150 per week. This way I can shop weekly and get the best deals of the month.I break that budget down to how many stores I will be shopping at. Don't be store loyal. You may find great deals at other stores. Plan on a minimum of a 2 store run.

Before I hit the store I have a small snack (never go to the store hungry). Now this may sound crazy at times when you have just eaten 1 hour prior but having food in the belly keeps those cravings at bay. What I like to have is a half sandwich with some nutella and a juice. I tend to crave sweets and junk food. This is a better alternative to chips and soda. If I have not eaten at all I eat directly before going. Sometimes this is better because I have that satisfied and even a full feeling while shopping. Those cookies I pass by do not look as tempting on a full stomach. It also prevents me from buying a snack for the trip home. This can be a last minute addition to your trip and throw your budget off.

At the store I use that calculator. This keeps me very aware of what I am spending so I make good choices and not always tempted to grab those extras when I see my total getting dangerously close to my budget. I round up so if I put something in my cart that is $1.75 I calculate as $2 or $0.34 rounded up to $0.50.

I also do not deduct for coupons. This part sounds strange to many people but what if you forgot to check with the store coupon policy and found that coupons are no longer accepted? You are responsible for the full value or you must walk back to place things back on the shelf to reorganize your shopping. Also what happens if you enter a price on your calculator incorrectly and instead of putting on $10.00 you only put in $1. Not calculating this coupons can help with a variety of issues you may come across and allow a buffer for those opps moments.

If my total is under my budget before coupons I will look for those items I can get on great deals to add to my stockpile. I do not add more than my original budget before coupons. This week I did this with hamburger helper from Walgreens since I could get it for $0.75 a box after coupons. I went in expecting to pay $6 and came out spending $4.50.

When I hit the register and see my total as being $100 and my budget was $150 I put that money into savings to either help build my stockpile, save for those times my budget will be smaller, or save for something special like a vacation. Don't think wow I can go spend more. No No NO! This will only contribute to over spending. Just put it away and use it for the next great sale that will add to your stockpile.

For me this is a mind trick. I know there is savings coming off that bill but it forces me to truly evaluate how I shop. I make sure to make the best possible choices for that shopping trip.

Creating a shopping strategy that works for you is so important. Use what I do or create one all your own. No matter what you want to go in with a plan. No plan and you are not shopping smart.

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