Sunday, July 29, 2007

Price Books

Up until about 3 years ago when I started on my journey toward a more frugal life, I had never heard of the concept of a price book. I thought I was doing a reasonable job of our grocery spending by shopping the specials, buying some items in generic brands and being careful not to buy the more expensive cuts of meat (at least some of the time). If you've been reading my blog for a while you may well remember my shock when I discovered that I'm saving around $3000 a year by changing a few of my habits since that time. While I wasn't spending an outrageous amount on groceries even then, what I have learnt since is that in most areas there is always ways to improve and things that can be learnt when it comes to frugality.

Using a price book was one of the significant changes I made. A price book can take any form you like really. What it basically is, is a tool to help you determine how good a special price may be. That way you can decide if you want to do a big stock up or not. I was quite surprised at how much difference there can be between a regular special and a good special. I find I do remember some general pricings on some items, but to remember on everything I buy is almost impossible. I've also found writing things down has helped me remember. I think because I shop in a number of different supermarkets depending on where I am at the time - the price book concept is particularly useful for me.

I use a small spiral bound notebook for my price book. I just divided it up into sections such as pantry, freezer, fruit & veg, meat, non food. Then some pages I devote solely to a single item and others I might group things together (for instance I have a page titled "spreads" for items like Vegemite, Peanut Butter etc). I include the date, name of the shop, item, size and price. For some things (like Milo where there are several sizes) I'll work out a unit price (such as how much per kg).

Some people go as far as to work out how often things come on special so they know how many of a particular item to buy to get them through to next time the special comes around. I haven't bothered with this as there are a lot of specials that I can't take advantage of due to my location. As with everything I think you have to use ideas in a way that works for you and weigh up the whole time vs savings vs hassle factor etc etc in what you choose to do.

If I can make one suggestion though - keep it simple. I have seen people spend hours on something like this and never really getting around to putting it to good use. A few notes scribbled on a piece of scrap paper that you actually make use of is going to be a much better investment than having the fanciest price book that never gets used. Keep it small too so that it's always in your handbag - I would never remember to take mine with me to the shops each time.

I have to admit that my original price book is now old, tattered and many of the prices are out of date. A few months ago I decided to begin a new one but it does take a while to get the entries built up.

Recently I decided to check out Gaganis Bros in Adelaide as I'd heard they were a good source of cheaper grocery items - particularly things like dried beans and lentils (which I have been struggling to find at times in supermarkets). I had some prices with me and those showed that indeed the prices were lower than my regular supermarket prices. I then made the assumption that all their prices would be lower than supermarket prices. As I have since discovered, that isn't quite so. For instance, I picked up some tomato puree for 90c a bottle. I *knew* that I usually paid over $1 so was confident it was a good price. Turned out to be an excellent price as I paid $10.80 for 12 bottles whereas my cheapest price elsewhere would have been $19.08. Almost half price. Given the tomato puree seemed a great price, I assumed perhaps tomato paste was. I didn't have the price with me that I usually pay for tomato paste so grabbed one large tin. That cost me $2.25 and when I went back through past receipts - I usually pay $2.06 for the equivalent amount from Coles. Not a huge difference but enough to highlight to me the fact that *knowing* your prices can lead to additional savings. And that you can't just assume that 1 place is going to be cheaper across the board.


Anonymous said...

Great to have a tip that really works! It's always a real thrill often need to remind myself when deciding to buy something on special or not, that its only a bargain if you are going to use it! If it going to go off or sit in your pantry or house till you move house, then its not actually a bargain! This has helped me look past some "specials"! Keep on giving us tips Jodi, you are inspiring!My mouth fell open when you said you saved nearly $3000 in one year just on food and groceries (I think) . That's 60 pw! Good on ya! Reward yourself big time! LS

Anonymous said...

oops I think I accidentally deleted a line from the above comment! That's because I was meant to be doing something else so bye till next time. LOL.

Ali said...

I have a price book and it's great. I try not to pay full price for things at all when food shopping (or any shopping come to think of it!)

Kez said...

Mine is out of date now - prices seem to have gone up so much lately, and I've changed some of the things I buy. I've kept my last month's receipts, and I'm going grocery shopping today as well, so will pencil in updating the price book for later in the week. Mine's just a simple spreadsheet with a list of prices for the main things I buy at Bilo & Aldi. I don't have time to shop for specials so it just helps me know when to stock up if I do see one, or if I'm in a foreign shop.

lightening said...

LS - you should have seen my reaction when I worked out about the $3000 savings. LOL. Yes, basically $60 per week I'm currently NOT spending on groceries. Bit of a hyperthetical figure though as I've never actually SPENT $160 a week on groceries. I just used my old system to work out what my budget would be today if I wasn't working on cutting spending. Totally agree on being careful with specials - I used to be terrible at picking stuff up simply because it was on special (most of it junk food usually lol).

Ali - sounds like you're doing well. I find it frustrating when I do have to pay full price - which does happen given our proximity to shops (so can't always buy things like clothing on special). I do try to always buy on special though.

Kez - yeah, prices are definitely higher now. *sigh* I guess it's what happens. That's the worst thing I've found with my price book - keeping it up to date. I know the time does pay dividends but sometimes I get lazy. :-)