Occasionally, when I’m done feeling inadequate as a mother and when I’m tired to worry about the state of the world, I decide to freak out about money. Not as in “gee, I need to open another offshore bank account”, unfortunately. I’m worried I’m spending too much and making too little. Yes, most of us are, I’m sure.
Freelancing is a game of ebbs and flows. When I’m busy, I invoice like there is no tomorrow and I feel confident. “We are in a good place,” I think. “We will be fine.” However, when my mailbox remains desperately empty, I wander between aisle 4 and 5 at the supermarket assessing if we really need this $1.27 can of flavoured tuna and I briefly consider offering dog walking services on the side—even though I don’t like dogs.
I shouldn’t worry so much. I think we are doing fine. We are not drowning in debt and our expenses are reasonable. In Canada, we live cheaply and we never caught the “keeping up with the Joneses” bug (besides, our neighbours look like “Wang” rather than “Jones”…).
Yet, I’m always looking for ways to save money.
And because I’m a lazy French, I want it to be easy and straightforward. And just for the record, this article is not sponsored (unless you feel like sending me money?)
Step one: Get a good app
Couponing is a popular North American addiction and I did try it for a while, but it didn’t work for me. I found the terms and conditions associated with such coupons were more restrictive in Canada than in the USA (extreme couponing in Canada is more like “politely-showing-a-coupon-to-see-if-it’s-valid-sorry-eh”) and I’m not interested in most of the offers anyway. Besides, the process was tedious—finding coupons, gathering them in a binder, reading the fine print…
So I decided to adopt another approach. This is where I found Flipp, an app that focuses on weekly flyers.
The exact same weekly flyers I had never bothered to check out.
Wait a second. Was that a mistake?
Step Two: Embrace the sale flyers
Every week, most stores (supermarkets, drugstores, electronic stores, etc.) issue a flyer, also called a “circular”. These cheap leaflets, usually posted at the door of the store and sometime delivered to neighbouring residents, highlight all the products on sale for that specific week. The deals can be local (i.e. valid in a specific store) or available across the chain.
With three major supermarket chains almost side by side (Walmart, Loblaws and Food Basics), we are spoiled. I’ve been comparing prices for as long as I can remember but I usually do so when shopping, checking the red tags for deals. However, this isn’t the best way to get the most out of the weekly specials: some stores are cleverly deceptive and “hide” products on sale, don’t update the price tags or are quickly out of stock.
Did Flipp help me get good deals?
Paper flyers were clumsy to browse, not to mention that I had to be at the store to get one (they aren’t delivered at the door in my neighbourhood). After I entered my postal code in Flipp, I was able to access dozens of local flyers, organized by category. For easy reference, I just had to tap on an item on sale to “clip” and have it automatically added to the aptly named “clipping category”.
I’m building my shopping list based on best prices and I can easily compare deals between stores, all that while sitting at Starbucks (conveniently located in between the three supermarkets!).
I did save a lot of money and time thanks to the flyers. We all have several non-perishable pantry staples, like oatmeal, cereals, canned vegetables, cookies, pasta, soup or ramen noodles. It’s silly to buy them at full price. The key is to restock the pantry whenever these items are on sale. And with Flipp and weekly flyers, you can do just that easily. The store seems to rotate deals but there are patterns and chances are your favourite mainstream brand of cereals will be “on special” every four weeks or so.
Step three: Use a bit of price-matching magic
Price matching is an awesome concept I didn’t even know existed until last year.
It’s Canada, it’s winter and it’s cold. I don’t enjoy going to different supermarkets to get the best deals and take advantage of the weekly specials, plus sometimes the shelves are empty because everybody is after the same deals. One day, as I was waiting at the register, a small ad caught my eye:
If you find a lower advertised price on an identical product, tell us and we’ll match it. Right at the register.
So I pulled my phone out of my bag and showed a few items I had clipped on Flipp because they were on sale in other stores. The supermarket employee simply entered the competitor’s low price and that was it.
Since then, I’ve been taking advantage of price-matching policies whenever I could. I try my best to be a decent customer: I never clear the shelves (at most, I buy two units, I don’t need a huge stockpile!) and I get my clippings ready so the cashier simply looks at my phone and enters the deal price.
I don’t use many apps and I find most money-saving tricks are not practical, but this is so easy that I thought it was worth sharing.
Now go splurge on chocolate. It’s on sale this week, for some reason.