If you want to get the best sale prices for the week at each of your local grocery stores, but you don't want to make multiple shopping trips, there's good news. Price matching can allow you to consolidate all of those trips into one without missing any deals. Here's how to do it.

TUTORIAL: Budgeting Basics

Learn the Policies
First, contact all of the stores in your area to find out if they do price matching. Many stores do not advertise their price-match policies (Target and Walmart are exceptions), so the only way to learn about the policy is to ask. Get the policy in writing so you will understand how the program works and avoid disputes at checkout. (For related reading, see Top 3 Budgeting Tips For Lazy People.)

Here are some key policy points to look for in a store's price-matching policy:

  • Is there a limit on the number of items you can purchase at the matched price?
  • Can you price match on store brands or only name brands?
  • Does the store price match non-branded items such as meat and produce?
  • Does the store accept competitors' coupons?
  • Will the store accept manufacturers' coupons on price-matched items?
  • Do certain types of sales not qualify for price matching, such as Black Friday deals?

Also, look to see whether loyalty cards affect the store's price-matching policy. For example, Target will not match competitors' prices when the low price requires a loyalty card. Since the major grocery store chains all require loyalty cards to get the stores' lowest prices, it is difficult to price match grocery store prices at Target. Walmart does match loyalty card prices, making the store a popular choice for many price matchers. (For related reading, see The Beauty Of Budgeting.)

Pick a Store
Decide which store you will shop at. How do you decide? If only one store in your area price matches, the choice is obvious. Otherwise, you might choose based on one of the following factors:

  • Which store has the most consumer-friendly price-match policy?
  • Which store's checkers and managers make it easy for you to price match?
  • Which store is most convenient for you to shop at?
  • Which store has the lowest prices on the other items you need that you won't be price matching?

Find the Deals
In order to price match, you have to know what's on sale at each store. Go through all the store circulars you get in the mail/newspaper and circle the deals you want to take advantage of. Then compile a list of the deals that is organized by store. Note the details of each sale, including brand, size and quantity. Stores require you to buy an identical item to get a price match. Also, make sure you're price matching with a local store and using current ads or stores won't honor the lower prices you present.

Shop and Save
Now you're ready to execute your price-matching shopping trip. Use these tips to make sure you are successful and that the trip isn't more trouble than it's worth.

  • Tell the cashier up front that you are price matching and separate your price-match items from the rest of your order.
  • Don't expect a store to match a competitor's unadvertised sale prices (though it never hurts to ask).
  • Don't try to price match based on typos.
  • Bring weekly ads as proof of the competitors' prices.
  • Make sure you are price matching with identical items. If a competitor's sale is on a 15.6 ounce can of tomatoes, don't try to price match with a 14.3 ounce can.
  • Bring the store's price-matching policy with you in case the cashier is not familiar with it. Don't be afraid to ask for a manger if the cashier is not willing to ring up your purchase in accordance with the policy.

Take Price-Match Savings to the Next Level With Coupons
To save even more, customers can use coupons with price matching. Walmart allows customers to use coupons with price matching; the store's regular coupon policy applies. Target applies manufacturer coupons after the price match and Target coupons before the price match. What this means is that if your Target coupon brings the item's price down to the competitor's price, the item won't qualify for a price match. Customers can use one manufacturer's coupon and one Target coupon per item.

The Bottom Line
Price matching can be a trial and error process. You might misunderstand a store's policy and not get the match you were hoping for. Also, regardless of what some stores' policies state, you may have a difficult time getting a particular store to actually match prices. Sometimes it will be easier to visit multiple stores than to price match. If you can make sense of the policies and find a store that makes price matching relatively painless, this shopping strategy can save you time and hundreds of dollars. (For related reading, see Top 8 Ways To Stick To Your Budget.)

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