Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Commissary 101: Saving More

There are a lot of misconceptions about Commissaries, especially when it comes to the variety of products and the price of them. It's true, shoppers at Commissaries are able to save money, but I think a lot of people think that the savings are unbelievable (remember this fall's Ketchup Gate?).

By law, Commissaries must sell their products at cost. Commissaries are also tax-free. But... there is a 5% fee that is assessed instead to help with the upkeep of Commissaries. There are also no generic brands available at Commissaries like there are at civilian grocery stores. And, if you're driving a great distance to your Commissary, your savings might be negligible when all is said and done. Still, on average, it is possible to save about 30% depending on what you buy, what's on sale, and what coupons you have. If you want to push your pennies at the Commissary a little further, here are some other ways to do that:

Look for Extra Savings
There are a lot of ways to save at the Commissary. One of my favorite ways (because it makes it feel like Christmas) is to look for coupons. They might be printed on bright paper and taped to individual items, or they might be in tear-off packs or dispensers. These coupons are special and specific to the Commissary. When you see them, make use of them! 

Plan Ahead
Check out the Commissary's Savings Aisle. Once you choose your Commissary, you can see what's on sale and how much of a discount you're getting from the retail price. If you log in, you can also see the price that is specific to your locale. Use this in conjunction with couponing and creating your grocery list to make sure you're getting the lowest price possible.

Ask for Gift Cards
Even though the Commissary is only available for military members and their dependents, anyone can buy gift cards online If you're stuck trying to figure out what you want for Christmas or your birthday, you could always go practical and just ask for Commissary gift cards.

Use Third Party Sites
There are a bunch of military-specific savings sites that will alert you to specials, coupons, and price reductions. I use Commissary Shopper, My Military Mommy, Military Wives Saving, and My Military Savings. I've liked their Facebook pages too and have caught a few great sales because of Facebook alerts.  

Most of these sites, like My Military Savings, will announce Commissary-specific coupons and sales that are happening at the commissary. My Military Mommy does the work for you and will give you the link to coupons along with how to use them (what order to stack them in, if you need to use a rewards card, etc.) and the ultimate price of the item. It takes a lot of the pain out of couponing. 

Download Ibotta
Do you Ibotta? If you don't, you should download it and get started. Ibotta is a phone app that alerts you to extra rebates that you can redeem from grocery store, movie theater, restaurant, and pet store purchases. That's on top of any savings or coupons at the store.  Seriously. It's like extra free money. You just scan your bought items and take a photo of your receipt in order to redeem the extra cash. You cash out with your PayPal account, so you don't have to worry about a credit or debit card. And Ibotta works at Commissaries. No lie. It's pretty great. (If you haven't signed up for Ibotta, please use my referral link! Sign up and redeem any offer within 10 days of sign-up, and we'll both get instant cash!)

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photo credit: D.H. Parks via photopin cc