Jun 11, 2009

Brick #9 - Mind your P's and...P's

Reading, Writing and 'Rithmetic...wasn't that part of an old song? They were also the building blocks of education when I was very small (so long ago!). In thinking about some of the building blocks of bargain shopping, I kept coming back to those three "R's" and whether there was a way to boil things down in a similar fashion. Here's what I came up with, brought to you by the letter "P":

It's hard to be a hunter if you don't know what your quarry looks like! Growing good perception is key to bargain hunting - because the more you pay attention to how the sales cycles flow, and when the coupons show up, the more natural it will become for you to be able to spot the best deals and know when to buy or stock up. And notice that I say "growing" perception...like any good skill it takes practice! Don't be discouraged if you jump on a good deal only to find that a week later there's a steal on the same item. The longer you work at it, the easier it will become - which brings me to my next "P"...

You likely don't need to pad your stockpile with every bargain that comes down the pike (unless you're stocking a food pantry!), and there may be times when your budget simply doesn't allow a lot of extra shopping. Consequently, there will be times when you allow great sales to pass you by. But don't let those lulls in shopping allow you to ease up on your price watching! Persistence in bargain hunting will keep your skills sharp so that when you ARE ready or able, you can make the most of great prices and coupons. It's tempting to just disregard the flyers and coupon inserts if you aren't in immediate need, but you will get rusty and might miss out on some great opportunities.

Believe it or not, we also build a big mental storehouse of information by keeping up with sale trends...it becomes almost subliminal knowledge, so that we feel like we just have a "sense" that sales are coming or if we hold that coupon one more week it will be REALLY valuable - it's not magic or telepathy, it's the product of persistent sale watching! I couldn't rattle off sales cycles from the top of my head, but I do have a pretty good feel for when the next big sale should be coming up because I've watched prices even when I'm not buying, and built that underlying knowledge base.

Ahhh, if ever there was a "4-letter" word in my vocabulary, patience would be the one. I have an itchy trigger finger when it comes to sales shopping! But patience pays off in many ways. When it comes to grocery sales, having patience can often lead to really big discounts when that perfect storm of sales and coupons finally comes together. It also prevents me from turning my basement into a Costco look-alike...do I REALLY need another bottle of salad dressing or can I pass this along to someone I know who really needs it? And patience when making other purchases has scored me some great deals as well, and kept me from buying stuff I really don't need. When I think of something I need for the house, I jot it down on a list. I scan Craigslist, local yard sales, and Freecycle regularly to see if the item pops up...when I can find it at one of those sources, I can buy it knowing I'm saving a ton of money - but I also scan the sales flyers to see if the item goes on big discount. Sometimes I find that by not running out and making a purchase, I come up with creative ways to solve my problem, or make better use of something I already had. So many of what seem like "needs" turn out to be "wants" after all!

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