S is for Shopping
I absolutely loathe shopping.
Parking, crowds, being blasted with advertising, standing in line. None of these experiences are enjoyable.
There are so many other ways I would prefer to spend my valuable time.
I've simplified shopping for me and My Person in several ways by balancing my desire for good prices with my absolute need for a less stressful shopping experience.
1. Grocery shopping occurs weekly.
We keep a shared grocery list in Evernote. The list is broken down into the three main grocery stores that we'll frequent. We usually don't shop at all three every week. Instead we rotate. Some weeks we visit two stores and other weeks only one.
I create each list so all items for each store are listed in the order we shop. Taking the time to learn the layout of your most frequented grocery stores will save you time. Generally, we breeze through Safeway aisles in about twenty minutes or less.
More often than not, we grocery shop first thing in the morning to avoid the crowds. My second choice for grocery shopping is after 8pm on a Friday or Saturday night.
2. Amazon Prime is my shopping lifeline.
I'd guess that 80-85% of our shopping for other household and personal care goods gets purchased through Amazon.
I use their wish list feature to create my own shopping lists. Over time, I've made custom lists for Household Supplies, Personal Care Products, Office & School Supplies, Pet Supplies, and Potential Future Purchases to name a few.
I like to purchase when the price is right, so about once a month, I'll go through my lists and quickly compare prices for items I know I will need soonish with Camel Camel Camel's price chart generated by the Camelizer.
For example, living in Tucson, we use a lot of sunscreen and I'm picky about brand and SPF. Normally, the best SPF I can find with Coppertone Sport is 50, but in March and early April, sunscreen prices drop. I even found dropping prices on Coppertone Sport SPF 70.
In addition to checking the Camelizer's price comparisons over time chart, I can also set up price watches, so I get an email when certain products dip by a price percentage I set.
3. Target is my Amazon backup plan...for now.
I will shop in person at Target at most twice a year. One of those shopping occasions occurs on Superbowl Sunday.
It's a glorious ghost town!
There are certain products we like that Target has better prices on consistently. One of them is Dr. Bronner's Tea Tree Castille Liquid Soap.
Currently, Target's price is just a dollar cheaper than Amazon's $16.99, but that range fluctuates. And I find that when we make our semi-annual journey to Target, we find other deals that include the $5 gift card for your next trip.
Usually, we'll stock up on coffee, deodorant, toothpaste, and several other products that are priced well and offer that $5 gift card.
Since I don't want to lose those $5 gift cards, My Person and I shop with two carts. I'll put all the products that qualify for receiving the $5 gift card into my cart and pay first.
I hand the $5 gift cards to My Person and he uses them toward the remaining products in his cart.
By chance, this past year My Person and I didn't need to make our Superbowl Sunday trek. By consistently using the Camelizer to stock up on products priced well, we acquired more products in the past year from Amazon than previous years.
I also made one online order with Target in the past year. It's not a completely horrible experience, but their interface isn't nearly as efficient as Amazon's.
I've stopped using the pick-up in store option because we've had too much trouble with the customer service people screwing up our orders. Instead, I'll buy at least $25 worth of product to trigger the free shipping option.
While I will continue to randomly price check items at Target online, I'm increasingly aware of Amazon's competitive prices. I anticipate that I will be purchasing from Amazon more and more.
4. Shopping for almost all school and office supplies happens once a year.
I love those lines in You've Got Mail when Tom Hanks' character goes on about how New York in the fall makes him want to buy school supplies, specifically a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils for Meg Ryan.
Yeah, I have a thing for office supply stores. They are as dangerous for me as the book store. I try to enter Staples or Office Max once a year and once a year only.
I'll also make the other trip to Target in the fall for school and office supply deals. And that's it. Once I've stocked up, I'm usually good for 90% of whatever I need for the next year.
Last year, I actually bought several school supplies on Amazon. Their prices on coloring pencils, construction paper, and even dry erase markers were cheaper than Target and Office Max.
5. I fill in shopping gaps at CVS.
We have a CVS in our neighborhood within walking distance. They allow leashed dogs in the store, so Bernie and I can run last minute errands together if need be. And everyone at this CVS location is shockingly friendly. I don't mind walking into this store at all.
Another point, CVS regularly has good pricing on Listerine. Usually, I can find it on sale. Combined with the "extra bucks" Listerine coupon loaded on my CVS frequent shopper card, I've purchased four bottles of Listerine for under $20.
Those "extra bucks" can come in handy. If you pay attention to the coupons that CVS offers, you can score some good deals on a few products.
6. We shop for unique gifts when we travel.
Mostly, we're looking for books or unusual t-shirts for my nieces and nephews. Sometimes we'll spot something that screams a friend's name, so we'll grab that item.
I try to consistently pick up gifts when we're on vacation because I will not set foot in any retail stores from late October to early February.
7. For other gift options, including handmade cards, I shop on Etsy.
I love the search feature on Etsy. I can type in the current favorite animal for one of my nieces or nephew, specify a category like clothing, and then refine my search further. I can even specify where I want the shop to be located.
I've found a few Canadian shops, so I've asked shop owners to ship directly to my sister and her family in Canada and the shipping is cheaper all-around.
Etsy also has some fantastic shops that specialize in greeting cards. My personal favorite is apaperaffaire. Holly makes the cutest cards that she updates throughout the year.
8. Finally, I got rid of those pesky loyalty cards a few years ago.
Rather than clog up my purse or wallet with even more plastic cards, I decided to try Key Ring, a free app that allows me to store my loyalty card information on my iPhone.
My Person and I share the same Key Ring account, so whenever one of us uses a loyalty card, we know that we're accruing points together.
Read more about Key Ring in my post "Key Ring: Tame Your Loyalty Card Jumble!"
In a twist of fate, the favorite walking destination of our pup Bernie is the high-end shopping mall in our neighborhood, which apparently also possesses the high end sniffs.
He loves trotting through and meeting as many people as possible. I indulge him, so we're frequently walking through the mall. Do I shop there? We'll stop at the Humane Society Store and buy his treats.