I've always had good intentions, but only now am I feeling quite serious about saving money! The question I have is about the "price book" mentioned in several articles. How are they set up? I started one on the computer that I thought was well organized. It seemed too long and complicated, and I didn't quite know what to do, so I stopped updating it. I know others that are just starting to be "frugal" could benefit from advice in this area as well. If you have any suggestions, I would appreciate it! Thanks!
I'm having trouble figuring out the best way to organize my Price Book too! I started with a small, spiral bound notebook that doesn't take up much room in my purse (I found that if I didn't have it with me, I couldn't use it, so I carry it at all times). The problem was the pages were not moveable. I'm looking for a 3 ring binder type that's really little now, I'll customize sheets for it by cutting up scrap paper. I may have to resort to a large binder clip with individual sheets if I can't find one soon!
I found that putting a title at the top, like "paper towels" works best. I had trouble deciding if I wanted to unit price it by the sheet, or by square footage. Either takes work to figure it out. I ended up with square footage, as individual sheets vary so much. There must be a conspiracy afoot to confuse consumers, because each and every type of paper towel (just as an example) has different sizes, weights, square footage, sheets, number of plys, etc. A chore to figure unit prices out initially, and to watch to make sure packaging doesn't change over time (and reduce your savings).
I then store all of my sheets alphabetically. That's faster for me to locate than trying to figure out if paper towels, paper tissues, or toilet paper are under a paper category, or under a household category, or whatever.
I find I add sheets to my book all the time. It's true that any one store (warehouse club, salvage store) doesn't always have the best deals. I've found great loss leader deals on household paper goods at stores like KMart, Target, and Wal Mart. Also, some of the most expensive items on laundry soap at the same places?! It pays to spend a few minutes with your price book, a calculator and the stores sale flyers once a week...and keep your eyes open!
Anne from Maryland
For those who want to be a smart/sharp shopper having a price book is a good way to know what you have actually paid for things in the past. Unless you have one of those photographic minds or are a student of the mega-memory course most of us will need to write things down. A price book can be as simple or complex as you like. Mine is very simple. I just keep a list of products that I buy frequently(in alphabetical order) with the best price that I've ever paid for each product. When I go through the sales flyers each week, even though the flyer may be very splashy and colorful and have big letter advertising some "great" sales, by having my price book to refer to I can know if this is indeed a great price or not. I've seen many things advertised in sales flyers that give the impression of being a great deal, with the price book I can know for certain whether it is or not. BTW my price book is not really a book but a single sheet of paper.
A price book should be something easily slipped inside your pocketbook, diaper bag, etc. I've found that a small address book works great. There are alphabetical tabs and, depending on which type you buy, plenty of room to jot notes down on items, stores, etc.
I got out an old recipe box & picked up some index cards & alphabetical index cards. I have one card for each type of thing (milk, bread, etc.) Now when I return from the store & have put away the groceries, I sit down with my receipt & put the date, the store, & the price on the appropriate card.
The start of a price book is time consuming and a overwhelming but WELL worth the hassle and time. One of Amy Daczyczn's Tightwad Gazette volumes has a good article about a price book. That helped a lot. . I believe she gives a few good illustrations of the layout of her price book. I started with my basic ingredients of favorite recipes (ex: ground beef, chicken, rice) and necessities like milk, toilet paper, coffee. It took me 2 months to complete a price book because I usually had to grocery shop with 3 kids. I went to 4 stores and a warehouse food club until I got all my basics down. I quit going to several grocery stores afterwhile because they were so expensive. Something I didn't know until I started my price book.
Your completed Price Book is a powerful tool. With my price book I found the cheapest diapers go on sale at the most expensive grocery store in town and warehouse shopping isn't as cheap as we're lead to believe. The best advice: STICK WITH IT!
I started out as you did, by collecting prices on everything I thought I might ever want to buy, and went to three different stores. But I found that the list was just too cumbersome, and I really bought about the same types of things every month. So I concentrated on a few products I buy over and over again (toilet paper, tomato sauce, ground turkey, chicken, laundry soap). I learned to read the unit prices most stores have on the shelves with their products, and to get a general feel for the base price I would pay. For instance, I will not pay more than .25 per roll for toilet paper (2 ply-280 sheets per roll), and if I find a sale where the price is .22 or less, I really stock up. As I go along, I expand to five more products that I buy often (butter, flour, sugar, rice, coffee). I also look at stores that are not part of a big chain and that might be located in a less affluent section of town. We also seem to have a lot of small produce stores that sell stock that may be a few days old and the price is much cheaper than the super markets, so if you can use it right away, it is a great deal.
Once you figure out your base prices, you don't really need the price book as much. Don't let it overwhelm you at first, you can break it down to smaller catagories and still save a lot of money in the meantime.
I struggled with how to make a price book too. This is what finally worked for me.
I took a pack of 3x5 cards and punched holes in them. I put those rings things (the ones that look like key chain circles) through the holes to keep the whole thing together. Thus, the book was small enough to carry easily, and I could add or delete pages if needed. At the top of each card, I wrote one item that I use on a regular basis, ie peanut butter. I then alphabetized the cards.
I watched the sale fliers that came in our paper and when peanut butter was on sale, I wrote on the peanut butter card, 1) the name of the store (use abbreviations) 2) the brand 3) the size and 4) the price. Then I computed price per ounce and put that on the card in red ink. Because that's ultimately the bottom line.
I was able to get most of the information from those fliers. If the price wasn't better than one I had listed already, I didn't bother writing it down. I did get a few prices from jotting them down while doing my regular shopping.
Now when I find an unbeatable price, I stock up without feeling guilty! This was easy to do, and it saves me a lot of money.
My price book is in a spreadsheet on my computer. Items are grouped by grocery section (i.e., dairy, frozen, etc.). Other info I track are: brand name, name of item, size and the price. There's a price column for each of the stores I typically shop. (I started with four).
I update the spreadsheet with prices for items I buy often. After a month or two, the differences among the stores proved I was better off not shopping at two of the stores. For items I bought frequently that didn't fluctuate in price by more than a penny or two (i.e. milk), I watched for sale ads or bought as in store specials whenever I could.
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