Calculating Your Cart

It happened again last night. My grocery order at Publix went negative. I had to pull back a $2 coupon from the cashier, and grab a pack of gum to get my order to $0.87. I still saved over $91, but I left $2 on the counter literally. I guess I didn't think quick enough because I could have grabbed 3 packs of gum, and used my $2 coupon and still paid less than a dollar.


The point is I miscalculated my cart. We all do this when couponing, in our hunt to get the lowest total possible, sometimes its just too close. Of course, I prefer to make up my spreadsheet and shop from a list, but we all know that doesn't always work. Most of the time lately, items have been out of stock if there is a moneymaker deal, so you have to go to plan B. I wish I had an iphone or an android phone so I could pull up my excel spreadsheet on Google docs and change the numbers based on what I get. That would make my life a lot easier, but alas that is not to be. I'm not giving up my $30 a month Sprint plan just so I can get out of doing a bunch of math in my head. At least I bring a pencil now to write down numbers.


When you calculate your cart to make sure your order doesn't go negative and/or require manager intervention for an override, there are four sets of numbers you need to calculate.


  1. Item Count – this is the number of items in your cart. Its easiest to keep like items together and I jot down the count about halfway through the shop and then keep track of the running count as I'm getting fillers at the end of the shop. Fillers are any items you put in your cart that don't have a coupon associated with them.
  2. Coupon Count – this is the number of coupons you'll be using. Its important that you have an equal or greater number of items in your order to avoid an override. To do this I keep a number of coupons in my kit that apply one coupon to more than one item, like a $1/3 or the koolaid coupon B10G5. I've found that if you need less than 8 filler items, it's cheapest to just get a chunk of garlic, a jalapeno pepper, or ramen. If you need more when you are stacking 2 coupons on a lot of items, the koolaid B10G5 coupon gives you 15 filler items, and adds only one coupon to your count.
  3. Coupon Values – this is the amount that all your coupons add up to. Add them all together and remember (or write down) the cost. Your item value must exceed this coupon value. Plus it helps you realize if you qualify to add another $/$$ competitor or PQ to your order, if it passes a price threshold.
  4. Item Cost – this is the amount the register will ring up for your products. Remember that BOGO sale items only add cost for one item per pair. If you have BOGO coupons, both items will add cost. You'll have to remember the cost of all the items in your cart and add them up to determine your final price. I don't worry about tax, that just pads your bill. If your item cost is less than your coupon value, then you need to buy something to bring up your total, or buy a gift card for whatever your deficit is, plus a buck or two.

This is a lot of math and it helps that DH adds up one and I add up the other so we each have less to calculate. If you don't have a nice hubby to bring along, bring a calculator.


  1. Wow you did great! I wish I could coupon like that!

    I am stopping by from the I ♥ Blogging hop, thank you for joining our hop!

  2. Great shopping trip! I'm impressed!

    I found your blog via a blog hop. I'm a new follower.
    Love your blog name, btw.