Return to Couponing 101 (Start Here)

7.) Shopping vertically instead of horizontally

So what does it mean to “Shop Vertically“?

Before the notion of couponing came to pass, we all went grocery shopping with our weekly grocery list, picking up those things that we needed that week only, and only those things that we were looking to use / eat for the upcoming week.  When you start couponing you have to think in a completely different way…you have to think along the lines of grocery store cycles (I’ll explain that in the next writing) and how many weeks you wish to purchase for so that you maximize your gains.

For purposes of our illustration, we are going to generate a generic “shopping list” and for simplicity sake, we’re going to go with the notion that we use all of each product weekly and that each item costs 1.00 (we could before realistic, but the principle applies regardless and I’d like to keep this REALLY easy).  That said, let’s look at week 1:

Shopping List – Week 1:

So for our first week “pre-coupon” we only concerned ourselves with the current week (i.e. thinking horizontally) and as such, we spent $15.00 (15 Items @ $1.00 each).
At the end of week one, all the items have been expended, and it will be time to buy them again, again, thinking horizontally, even if an item is on sale for 10% off, say…”the toothpaste”, then you would re-purchase each of the items on the list, and the total (including the 10% discount on 1 item) would be $14.90.

Shopping List – Week 2:

As we have only concerned our self with the present state of need, our list remains the same, and as the weeks progress, similar stories hold true week after week, where even with the use of a coupon (as we again are only considering shopping against the horizontal plane) would only net a certain gain. If there are no further sales or promotions for 10 total weeks, then our net out of pocket would be 149.90 (10 weeks * $15.00/week -$0 .10 for the week 2 discount on toothpaste).

Now – let’s look at shopping in a different way. Let’s look at shopping for items against the depth of time, meaning that as we are expecting to use the items over and over, we’ll buy when we have the best sales and the best coupons.

So if we go back to “Week 1”, that end result would be the same. For purposes of our exercise, we still haven’t learned about coupons and there were no sales this week. Everything is still $1.00 and we have 15 items…therefore: $15.00. But in week 2 we see that there was a $.10 discount on toothpaste. We know we are going to use this in the future and that it has a shelf life that will last through the duration of our remaining 9 weeks so we decide to pick up 9 tubes of toothpaste, each at a $0.10 discount.
So if we now play out that scenario for the full 10 weeks, our weekly grocery list would change, as one of the items would be off the list:

We see that the total cost of purchasing the identical items would be $149.10 (10 weeks * $15.00/week – $0.10 for weeks 2-10 on toothpaste). So without using a single coupon but just exploiting a single 10% discount on one item and thinking vertically (against multiple weeks) instead of horizontal (against a single week) you’ve already saved an additional $0.80.

If this concept makes sense…then the rest will be easy.

Let’s look at week one again:

And let’s say it’s a typical week at either CVS or Walgreen and you find a special where you are able to get Toothpaste for free (as this does happen every couple weeks). Thinking on the horizontal plane you’d get excited and buy a single tube for the week, saving a total of $1.00 over the 10-week cycle. BUT thinking on the vertical plane, you’d get even MORE excited and pick up 10 boxes of toothpaste so that you would remove it from your grocery list for the next 10 weeks, thereby saving $10.

So even if you don’t save ANYTHING else on week 1, you still have been able to take toothpaste off the list for the next 9 weeks:

So now week 2 comes around and you find a special on cereal at another store, like the one that went on at Publix during the week of 6/23-6/29 where I picked up 12 boxes of cereal and MADE $3.37 to do it…now you’ve passed your second week, and not only removed Cereal from the list for the remainder of the cycle, but also added $3.37 back in your pocket:

So now we approach week 3 and we look for something else to find something else we can shave off the list of items that we would normally purchase. If you do this week by week, you will see your weekly grocery list dwindle further and further until such time that you are only purchasing fresh meats and vegetables, as well as quickly expiring items (like milk).
So the point is, while you used to shop horizontally, looking for only things that you need at the moment, by thinking vertically and taking things off your long-term grocery list, you will find that week by week your “weekly grocery list” will get smaller and smaller. Too, as you will have a substantial stockpile at your disposal, you will also be able to dictate your own price point for those items, meaning that when you NEED something you are relegated to buying the item at the store price. If you have a stockpile at your disposal, you can determine the absolute best time to add to your stockpile, meaning that it will continue to grow at the least possible cost.

The other factor to consider when setting up your stockpile is when stores cycle foods and promotions, as they generally work to the calendar month and the events therein…

Next…8.) Shopping Cycles

Permanent link to this article:


Skip to comment form

    • Rollin on July 3, 2011 at 9:46 pm
    • Reply

    I’m so glad you commented on my post at KCL’s FB. You have a lot of very useful information. Like this vertical shopping explanation for example. I shared it on my FB page so that my friends and family could read it. Hopefully they will each get something from it that will help their monthly budgets. Thanks Hubby

    1. That’s AWESOME Rollin – am so glad to be able to help…the more people I’m able to share the principles with, the greater the reward will be for all of us. Hopefully we’ll see your friends and family on the FB page as well…

      Take care and if there’s anything I can do to help, please don’t hesitate to ask. This site and the FB page were built as a “pay it forward” to everyone to try and spread the knowledge and the ability to save.

      We can all go so much further by helping each other every step of the way!!!

    • Heather on July 4, 2011 at 6:06 pm
    • Reply

    Thanks for sharing so much useful information! I will be sharing your site along with the krazy coupon lady’s from now on! You guys rock!

    1. I appreciate the kind words…having just started out I’m honored to be grouped with the KCL already.

      I look forward to be able to help you and your friends/family save as much as possible…

      If you have any questions/problems let me know, and if you shop at specific stores that I’m not matching up currently, let me know and I’ll see what I can do to include them as I grow.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.