I do bargain safari. If you think you like extreme coupons, you will love bargain safaris. There are usually no jungles, but there are a lot of parking lots, and the excitement of making a big purchase of something truly useful.
A bargain safari begins with homework, much like extreme coupons. It does not, however, start with coupons.
You must first have knowledge of what your family eats, wears, likes in toiletries, uses to clean the dishes. There are just some things some families will not use or eat.
You won't see liver in our refrigerator, except for the liver sausage the Mister enjoys. There are certain soaps that cause everybody in the family to break out. There are some laundry detergents that take a whole bottle in one washload to get clothes clean. There are some toilet papers where it would be better to help oneself to the nearest newspaper instead. We don't buy those here.
Only you know what your family will not tolerate. Make a list of what they do tolerate, like and love. You can keep it in a notebook, or a spreadsheet, or orally into your cell phone. But it's needed.
You need money to bargain safari. It doesn't have to be a ton, but you will need between $75 and $200, depending on how much you intend to buy, the normal cost for items on your master list, and how much storage space you really, truly have in your residence. A calculator is a good idea to bring along.
When you have money to go on a bargain safari, do not take the grandchildren unless they can keep their mouths shut and be of use. You are better off playing the helpless senior citizen card to load the car than putting up with the grandkids' suggestions and vocal expression of their desires. Sometimes bribery is necessary, but if they can't keep quiet, don't take them.
Think about shopping around 10 AM on a weekday. The other oldsters have already hit the stores, and the young ones are at work. The stores have been restocked. Another good safari opportunity is late Sunday morning, early Sunday afternoon, if your religious views do not prohibit such activity. Avoid Saturday morning, when everybody and his uncle has a shopping cart.
Now then, you are stalking items on your master list. You are looking for the rock-bottom, absolute lowest price on these, name brand if at all possible. This will involve walking through the various departments of the stores you will shop. You might want to make a second list, a priority list. You might need SNACKS really badly, you might need TOILETRIES worse. Get those toiletries first, and get lots of them!
That's right, get LOTS of them! Can your medicine cabinet hold 10 sticks of name brand deodorant that you know everybody can use, at $1.60 a stick? BUY THEM. Can your pantry handle 6 jars of mustard if the mustard is 50 cents each? BUY THEM.
If the store where you are shopping takes coupons, by all means use them if you have them. Some of these stores have such low prices, they do not take coupons. Calculate whether it is cheaper to shop someplace on sale with the coupon, or to buy the item in bulk at the present price in the bargain store. Most of the time, but not always, you are better off buying without the coupon in the bargain store.
The most important thing of the bargain safari: When you are out of ammo, money, GO HOME. Do not spend what you saved on a meal out, a new outfit, or anything else.
These are the stores where I bargain safari. You might find similar stores in your area:
- Big Lots. Big Lots buys from stores that have closed out or bought too much, and mark it way, way down. Imagine Pantene shampoo for $3, or Mitchum deodorant for $2. These are normally priced at $6 and $4, respectively, in retail stores. Big Lots combines these lot purchases with their own brands to give customers a BIG discount. Big Lots does not take coupons, but the savings is so extreme, it's worth it to bargain safari there.
- Aldi. Aldi has a lot of its own brands of food, household products and toiletries that are at a rock-bottom price. Some are very good, some are so-so, and some are not worth the money. The only way to tell is by personal experimentation. Aldi also makes big purchases of brand names and sells those at ridiculous prices.
- Dollar Tree. Dollar Tree has its own brands, and very seldom has name brands. Most items in the store cost $1. It does carry the occasional close-out of Comet, and is a listed as a reseller of Oxydol. Dollar Rree tends to carry a lot of Canadian lots, such Yardley, at deeply reduced prices. Like Aldi, items from Dollar Tree are a matter of personal experimentation in your family. Dollar Tree does not accept coupons.
- Woodman's (HyVee). Woodman's is big, employee-owned, and a big saver. I am not impressed with Woodman's produce, but Woodman's does have big weekly savings, also close-outs. Woodman's does accept coupons. If you don't live near a Woodman's, it can be worth the drive, but pack a lunch.
- Meijer. Like Woodman's, Meijer is huge, has its own gas station, and takes coupons. Unlike Woodman's, Meijer is not employee-owned. I have a love/hate relationship with Meijer. Their customer service is less than stellar. But Meijer does have great prices, and does meet the criteria for a bargain safari.