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Looking to save money at the supermarket? It's hard to do in this age of shifting prices and computer-generated "sales".
How do you know whether an advertised special is a bargain--or a bust? Is the warehouse mega-pack a better buy? How about those "buy one, get one free" offers--are they worth the extra price?
Supermarket pricing can be confusing. Fight back with a powerful weapon from the frugal arsenal: the price book.
A price book is a power tool for tracking prices, products and sales, so you'll always know when a bargain is truly a bargain.
A price book records price variations over time--and between different merchants. For each grocery item you buy, a price book shows you a target price and sets out sales cycles for products you buy regularly.
By knowing that your target price for salad dressing is $1.19, and that the sales cycle is 8 weeks long, you'll be prepared to stock up when prices are low--and rely on the pantry until the next sale, two months later.
How do you make a price book? First, understand that form is unimportant. Low-tech tightwads use a three-ring binder or spiral notebook to track price book information. Planner aficionados devote a tabbed section to price book pages, while smartphone power users grab dedicated price book apps to track their purchases.
Whatever the form, the heart of the price book is the product page. Each page tracks price information for a single staple product. Down the page, you'll list the date, store, brand, size and price, and unit price for that product. Over time, you'll be able to identify the best regular price, recognize special sales, and track sale cycles for that product.
Here's a sample product page:
Our shopper can buy 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce for a regular supermarket price of 32 cents. Her warehouse store sells bulk cans of tomato sauce for a sharply lower unit price. However, the best buy occurs when the supermarket puts 8-ounce cans on sale at 10 for $1.
Armed with the price book analysis, our shopper has learned to stock up on 8-ounce cans of tomato sauce during supermarket sales.
By continuing to track the price of tomato sauce, she can learn the sale cycle: how often to expect those 10/$1 deals to occur. In her area, that's about every 6 weeks--so she'll purchase enough on sale to cover her family's needs until the next sale.
You're sold on the concept of a price book. You know it will save money, trim time and lighten shopping stress.
Now for the fun! Follow these tips to set up and use your new price book.
You've found a small notebook or printed our price book template and tucked several copies in a three-ring binder. Next step: gather and record your data.
Itemized grocery store receipts are a price book's best friend. On them, you'll find identified and itemized lists of products you buy and use.