A frequently mentioned item in budgeting articles is the "price book," created by a shopper to note the prices of frequently purchased items. With one glance at a price book a shopper will be able to determine where to buy cereal and whether the mozzarella cheese on sale at store #2 is really a bargain. This is the clear advantage of a price book: you are doing your comparison shopping in advance so you will always know what the lowest price is. When you leaf through the grocery store ads you will not succumb to the lines reading "super sale" and "2 for 1," but will coldly calculate the unit price and compare it to your price book listings. You will be super shopper, never paying too much for canned corn.
When the benefits are so clear, why upon a quick survey of frugal friends did I find that not one had a price book? "Store A is always cheaper on everything," said one smugly. False, I know--I shop almost everywhere with my price book. "I know every price in my head," said another. Not so, I think of this friend who forgets every appointment she makes. "It is too much of a hassle," says friend number three. Aha, we have struck truth. Many people never make a price book because they think it is too complicated. They imagine running around town with a notepad copying down the prices of everything they have ever or will ever buy while getting the evil eye from assistant managers the entire time. Compiling a price book does not have to be painful. If you are thinking of making one, start now. The first step is easy.
Start saving your receipts from every grocery purchase you make. Tuck them away in a kitchen drawer and wait for the organization bug to bite you. When you are inspired, by Christmas credit card bills perhaps, pull out your receipts and start making your price book. The easiest method is to use a report cover with loose leaf sheets. You can then easily add sheets, and unlike a three-ring binder it is not too bulky to take to the store. Start a sheet for each major category, canned food, boxed food, fresh fruits and veggies, meat, etc. Make columns with the stores that are within reasonable driving distance. Look at your receipts and copy down the price you paid for an item in the appropriate store column. Write lightly and use pencil so that you can erase this and replace it when you pay a cheaper price at that store. Your goal will then be to stock up so that you can wait for an item to meet or beat that cheap price before you buy it again.
The second step is to go through all the store ads and copy down prices of items you regularly buy (or would like to) in the appropriate store's column.
The third step is to start using your book. Take it with you shopping so that you know whether an item is a good deal. Continue to save your shopping receipts and use them to update your price book for several weeks.
That's all folks! Price booking the easy way.
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