Monday, August 3, 2009

Starting a Price Book

I have been toying with the idea of starting a price book over the last few days. Although it wasn't till a friend commented on my last entry about how hard it was to know what the prices of items where at 2 different stores that I really started thinking about how to put one together. A price book for those who don't haunt the frugal websites like I do is a book in which the normal prices of an item as well as the units are listed for all suppliers.

Take that can of green beans for example say it is normally $0.50 a can and I have this listed in my little book, then one day I see it has gone down to $0.40 but I don't buy because I know from my little book that the prices always go down even further at Thanksgiving and sure enough I am able to buy that can for $0.20! Now that is quite a savings that I wouldn't have gotten if I didn't have a price comparison book,

The same philosophy holds true for comparing competing stores prices, although it gets trickier when dealing with very different sizes of containers. Say I know that a can of diced tomatoes is $0.99 for 14.5oz at one store but $2.78 for 102oz at another store. Now just doing the rough math on this one it is clear where the better deal lays but what about those items that are right on the line? Say a 5lb bag of flour for $1.99 or the 25lb bag for $8.73. That one is a little harder to do in your head. Although if I had the normal prices of each type of flour recorded in my little book there could also be a cutoff column. A column that shows when the price of the 25lb bag is too high versus the 5lb bag. Say that 25lb bag of flour went up to $9.99 and the 5lb bag stayed the same? Well then I would know that it is not a good deal and time to walk away from that particular bulk purchase.

All of this gets very confusing and I am in no way saying it is fool proof, there are times when you know you are going to goof and spend a little more because you though you had a good deal. Luckily though I am talking goofs in the $0.72 range like the lemonade from the last post and not $5.00 goofs like I would have if I tried to buy my produce or dairy at a bulk store. Those things I have done some comparison shopping on in the past and know that the commissary is always cheaper on those items. The commissary in my opinion is almost always cheaper except in the situation of the HUGE containers of items that would normally have to be pared down into the smaller containers. In this case you are saving money only because the company selling them has to spend a lot less to package and handle the large containers over the smaller ones. It is only these products that I will even consider buying at a large box store such as Sam's.

Another example on the commissary versus Sam's.....The other day while at Sam's I took a look at their laundry soap. Amazingly it was the exact same size and brand that I buy on base except it was marked $20. while I am able to buy it on base for $11. Now that is why you have to know the base prices at each store!

Another great resource if shopping on base is once you register for the site you can see ALL the sales current sales at your local commissary without ever leaving your house! So if you know the base price of an item at the bulk store and the base price at the commissary but see that the commissary price is cheaper that week (again before you leave for your shopping trip) you can compare and see if the bulk purchase is still cheaper! Very cool! There is also a option for the commissary specials that are only on sale for a certain time frame, such as the buy 5 for $5 and such, again another great resource.

All of this takes a great deal of patience to work through and even more to keep it going. After all wouldn't it just be so much easier just to go to one store and get everything you need and say that was the best price you were able to get? Well yeah that is easier and I have been doing that for years, the problem is that my grocery bill was getting out of control. I am talking $1,000 a month! That is outrageous! Now with checking the prices and doing one bulk shopping trip a month I am down to $500 a month. That is a huge savings but I still think I could be doing better after all I hear many a tail of a family of 14 living off of $400 a month! Now I may not be THAT frugal or be that inventive when it comes to the shopping trips but I certainly think that if they can do it for 14 I should be able to spend the same amount with 4 people! Especially important since we have twins on the way and money is getting ready to become even tighter, better to tighten my belt now and put the extra money into savings than have to figure all this out with 2 newborns and no money!

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