Is couponing easier in the city, the suburbs or rural areas? As a suburbanite who lives in Chicagoland, I have to argue that couponing usually is easiest in the suburbs, particularly if you live within a radius of a major city. Why? Shopping options tend to be plentiful, with several supermarket and drugstore chains competing for your business and your shopping dollars. It’s easy to hop in the car and make a quick trip, or, if you’re so inclined, visit multiple retailers in the same trip.
City shoppers can do well with couponing, too, as there are so many shopping options in the city. But what if you live in an extremely rural area?
I live in remote Seneca, Ore. The population is 197 — one hundred ninety-seven. The nearest store is expensive because they are the only one in the area.
I was recently asked to volunteer to instruct a children’s baking club. We need tons of baking supplies. Our club is new and the goal is to make it free for all children who wish to be in the club. I have received donations for some items for the class but cannot figure out how to provide the children with much needed baking supplies like butter and cake flour. (The store has already said they will not donate anything.)
The stores in my area are not very accepting of printable coupons. I have an inexpensive phone because we don’t have service up here. Even if I could afford one, the stores here are not equipped yet to use smartphone technology for couponing. I wrote to one sugar manufacturer, who was great and sent me four coupons, but those didn’t last long. If you were in my shoes, what would you do?
Amy is in one of the most challenging situations that a couponer can face. When you’re limited to shopping at just one store, you do find yourself at the mercy of their sales cycles. If something’s not on sale, but it’s an item you need now, what options do you have? Only one: You buy it at the higher price.
If I were in this situation, I would start mapping out the store’s price cycles by creating a price book to help predict when prices will be better. This is the “old way” of tracking sales cycles, and it’s a bit labor-intensive, but it works.
To make a price book, get a small blank notebook. Visit the store once a week, or however often they change sales cycles. Write the date at the top of the page, and then write the names and sizes of the products you wish to track the prices of. Walk around the store and write down the prices for each item you wish to track. Example: “5-pound bag of brand-name flour: $1.99.” Next week, turn the page, date it, and do the same list again. You’ll continue doing this for twelve weeks. After that, you’ll have a clear list of the high and low price points for each item, and you can predict when those items will cycle low in price again.
As far as finding deals on baking supplies, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but baking supplies often are tough to save on. There rarely seem to be coupons for flour, though occasionally I will get a few. I do find that we have sugar coupons fairly often, though some of them are printables that are available online. Maximize your savings by buying when prices are the lowest, and buying in large enough quantities that you can supply your club with what it needs until the items go on sale again.
Smart Living Tip: My “buy” points for common baking items: I won’t pay more than $1.89 for a 5-pound bag of flour; more than $1.79 for a 4-pound bag of sugar; more than $1.99 for 16-ounce butter quarters, and more than $1.29 for a 2-pound bag of powdered or brown sugar. Price points can differ depending on what part of the country you live in and your stores’ cycles.
© CTW Features
Jill Cataldo, a coupon workshop instructor, writer and mother of three, never passes up a good deal. Learn more about Super-Couponing at her website, www.jillcataldo.com. Email your own couponing victories and questions to email@example.com.