When Every Dollar Counts:
Quick Shopping Tips and SCOP
We live in a world where every dollar matters and time is money. This is why I want to talk about shopping habits and how I get the most for my money and time.
Like many of you, I shop for items at the best price, and that often means shopping at big box stores, like Walmart or Target (when they were in Canada, or when I am in the States). Throughout this debt-free journey, I have made a very serious attempt at going into the stores, purchasing what I need and came for, and leaving.
It doesn’t always work in my favour, as I am as prone to impulse buys as the next person. However, there are times that I can take advantage of my wandering eye when shopping at big box stores and grocery stores alike:
Did you know that end of aisle products are often the products on sale, and are considered “loss leaders”? If you watch the end of aisles for the sales items, the store will place the most “on sale” items at the ends to lure customers into making an impulse buy. This isn’t always a bad thing, as these are usually highly discounted items.
If they are items I buy on a regular basis, I try to stock up and buy two or three or more, depending on the expiration date. While it may not be an item on my list, it’s something that I use regularly, and by buying in a bulk amount, it saves me from paying full price the next time I need it and it’s not on sale.
Great examples of this are toilet paper, cereal, paper towels, and canned goods.
So, there I am, with a small list of items to purchase, and suddenly my cart gets just a little bit fuller. I enjoy walking most of the store (it’s a bad habit of mine as I suffer from OCD, and therefore I walk the store in the same way each time – it’s a point of contention at a grocery store with the husband, as he wants to go in, get what he wants, and leave.). It’s true that it leaves me susceptible to more purchases, but that’s where willpower comes in. At the same time, I have scored some great deals on clearance or on sale that otherwise would have been missed! Plus, I am getting my exercise (so I tell myself).
Look above and below eye-level
Stores often place their convenience items in the aisles, so that you have to see aisles of products while searching for an item on your list. Eye-level products are usually the most popular and most expensive, so be sure to scan the bottom and top shelves for other items that may be cheaper. Some people are supporters of no name products – for me, it depends on what it is. If you can find a no name, or store brand of what you are purchasing, it’s often 25-50% cheaper than the brand name.
Don’t sacrifice value for $0.50, though. It’s not worth it if it’s something you really like. For me, that’s ketchup… or toilet paper… or feminine products. No name and store brands do not always equal the same value. But some items, like facial cleanser, pharmacy products like pain killers, or certain canned goods are made at the same factory, have the same or less ingredients as the brand name, and are exactly the same quality. It pays to be a smart shopper and look at labels to compare.
Since I live in Ontario, it’s difficult to find coupons on items other than cleaning supplies and…well, cleaning supplies. Sometimes the stores will have small dispensers or pads of coupons on new products, or products that the manufacturer is looking to promote. Keep your eye out for coupons only on the items you regularly use, and remember to take two or three.
It’s frowned upon to take a whole pad of coupons, as most people cannot use thirty by the due date. Read the fine print – usually it’s one coupon per purchase, and sometimes per day. The store may not let you have 30 separate transactions. If they do, and you can use or donate the items before the expiration date, have at it. Just don’t be greedy and let items go to waste – that’s money going down the drain.
We may not have double coupon days here, but fliers are a great way to price match. Some stores will allow price matching from fliers of retail stores (not online stores, however). I recommend browsing the Flipp app to compare prices before heading out. This also saves you from going to three different stores across the city to hit each sale. (Trust me, I have tried to do that, and I seem to expend more gas than what I save.)
It’s hard to remember what the prices are for every item, especially at their sale price, so some people recommend creating a price book. You can find these on Amazon, if you want a template, or you can create your own using a small notebook.
You will want to record the items you regularly purchase, and what you paid for them. Remember to write the per pound or per litre price if applicable. For example, you may purchase stewing beef for $7.99, but what’s the per pound price? That’s the price you need to know.
Beware of the Dollar Store
By having a price guide, you will be able to tell if a sale is really a sale. Many people will recommend going to the dollar store to purchase garbage bags, laundry soap, or other essential items sold in smaller quantities. However, that’s where the price changes! When sold in smaller quantities, the price will be lower… but compared to a larger item, your per unit price is higher at dollar stores.
What I mean is, if you only need cupcake liners for a class project, then the dollar store is perfect for providing a small container of cupcake liners for a dollar or two. But once you start purchasing cat food, laundry soap or garbage bags – things you are likely to use a decent quantity of over a period of time, you will find yourself purchasing those items more often (because they are in smaller quantities) and paying more. You might be able to get a box of ten garbage bags for $2, but a box of 40 might be $5 at the grocery store, and that’s a savings of $3 over time.
Now that I’ve managed to find the items I went shopping for, plus a few items on sale that I can stash away in my pantry, I head to the checkout.
Here’s one of the biggest secrets of shopping: The Scanning Code of Practice.
Have you heard of SCOP?
The Scanning Code of Practice is a voluntary policy that many stores do subscribe to. Canadian Tire and Walmart, for example, has it posted at the cash registers, but most people are trying to bag their items, or watch the register or keep track of the kids, and don’t take the time to read it.
If an item scanned for higher than the posted price on the shelf OR in the flier, you are entitled to invoke SCOP. If the store subscribes to SCOP, that means you get the first item discounted by $10, or free if under $10. Each separate and unique UPC (the scanned barcode) on an item that scans in at an incorrect price above the posted price is eligible for SCOP.
Let me give you an example so you know how to use it. I have purchased laundry soap at Walmart, and before choosing the item, I figured out the per unit price to ensure I was getting the best deal. The sticker on the shelf, which matched the UPC, said the item was $9.97.
When I was at the cash register, the item scanned in at $16.97. I told the cashier that the sticker price on the shelf said $9.97, not $16.97. She called for someone in the department to check it out, and yes, I was correct. Someone had “labelled them wrong” but this time, it was to my benefit. Because the item was $16.97, I was entitled to $10 off the product because the price was entered wrong. This means I paid $6.97 for my laundry soap.
It will take a few extra minutes, and some patience, and sometimes you will have to ask for a manager to get the SCOP applied (because staff are only trained for so much), but it is worth it when I have saved money!
Always, always check your receipt before you leave the store, because you are still entitled to the SCOP even after you’ve checked out. Customer service can assist you with that as well.
Paying for my Purchases
Because of my shopping habits, I pay the least per item when I can, I buy in multiple if it’s a good deal and stash it in my pantry, and I watch to make sure I am not overcharged (or double charged) for an item.
Finally, I pay with a credit card.
This may come with some difference of opinions as some people think paying with a credit card is an easy way to overspend. It’s all about using it as a tool, and getting the most out of your money.
New with credit or not so great credit? Here are a few of the easier cards to obtain and still earn rewards with no annual fees or membership fees:
Walmart Mastercard earn Walmart rewards – money you can redeem either while you earn, or save it up for when funds or short, or for Christmas shopping.
PC Financial Mastercard has a program to earn PC dollars, which gives me free groceries. With moderate use, and always paying it in full, I earned over $80 in groceries in less than a year. That’s $80 extra dollars towards debt or other expenses.
RBC Rewards Visa can be transferred into gift cards. Want an evening out or a gift for someone? Free.
Canadian Tire Mastercard or the Triangle Mastercard earns Canadian Tire money on the card, no matter where you shop. I used mine for a vacation, and when I had to purchase tires for my car, I was able to save 25% on sale, pay for one tire with rewards, and the cost to me was only half of what it could have been.
This is a small list of reward cards, but don’t get stuck with one that you don’t receive any benefit for. Make your purchases count.
My Quick Guide Tips
That’s my quick guide to getting the most out of shopping for your everyday essentials. I never pay with something that I am not earning rewards on, and I pay off that purchase in full. I try to avoid ever paying full price for an item, and I keep track of per item cost so that I am not caught in a “special” that isn’t a special. And sometimes, I will splurge on a few things, just so you know I am as human as the next person!
What are your shopping habits? Do you have any to add? Where do you get the best deals, or what do you want to know about?
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