Managing Money

The Price Book – Part I

April 5, 2006

My recent efforts at saving money have focused on our grocery bill. For me, grocery includes health and beauty items and household items like cleaning supplies. In this regard I have found that keeping a Price Book one of the most helpful things I do.

In its most basic form, a Price Book is simply a listing of the prices of the items you purchase. It can include regular prices, sale prices, and prices at various stores. The benefit to keeping a Price Book is that you’re able to tell in an instant whether a sale price or warehouse bulk buy price is a good buy or not.

Here are my thoughts on what makes a particularly useful Price Book.

  • Make it portable. A Price Book can be kept in any kind of notebook…even on a computer spreadsheet. It’s best, however, if its something small and portable than can be taken to the store with you. I prefer not to have a big spiral notebook or three ring binder so I keep mine in a purse-size book six ring binder.
  • Know your ABCs. You’ll want to access items quickly and easily so some kind of alphabetizing system is important. It doesn’t have to be exact but you don’t want to have to page through your whole notebook to find an item. I use tabs that were meant for an address book and that does the trick.
  • Group like items together. I list taco seasoning, salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, etc. under “Spices.” Ground beef, stew meat, rump roast, etc. are listed under “Beef.” This saves space and time when looking up individual items.
  • Note the details.Pay attention to sizes and quantities. I break things down by the pound or ounce for comparison so a calculator is handy. Some stores, however, will list this information for you on the shelf.
  • Date It. Prices will change over time so its important to know when you took note of the price. I use a simple notation like 04/06 next to the item price. Then I check my prices occasionally to see if they need to be updated.
  • Pencil it in. In addition to prices other things will change. Products will be discontinued. Quantities will change. I’ve even had entire grocery chain move out of my area since I started keeping my price book. Keeping it in pencil allows me to make neater changes.
  • Don’t stress! In the end, a Price Book only needs to make sense for you and the way you shop. It doesn’t have to be pretty and only needs include the information you use to make buying decisions. Whether you put green beans under “Vegetables” or “Canned Goods” is simply a personal preference. And if you never buy generic don’t feel compelled to include generic prices. You can always add them later if you change your mind.
    1. I KNOW my pricebook has saved me a ton of money. The biggest problem for me is remembering to bring it with me :)

    2. One thing that a pricebook would be good for is to use it with on-line circulars from the stores where you shop. You can open up this week’s circular for CVS, for instance, and if you see something on sale…you can compare it to the regular price at various stores–without having to leave home to do it.

    3. Jenn – I hear you. That’s how I am with coupons.

      mom2fur – I used the same strategy. I talk about it in my Price Book – Part II post. The more planning I can do at home, the better.

      Thanks for the comments, guys.

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