Apr 22, 2014

A Price Book: The Single Best Way to Save Money on Things You Buy

Price Book - chieffamilyofficer.com

In the last five to ten years, as couponing has taken off, the Price Book seems to have fallen out of favor. But it's the single best way I know of to cut back on expenses.

A price book is simply a way to keep track of prices so that you know a good price when you see one. The benefit of a price book is that you can pay the lowest price on everything you buy on a regular basis, so you can substantially reduce your expenses on groceries and household items.

There are lots of different ways to keep a price book, but I think it's easiest to do it in a spreadsheet. Here's an example:

Price Book Example - chieffamilyofficer.com
Click on the image to see a bigger version.

I've used last week's Charmin deal at Target in this example, with a final price of 36 cents per double roll. As you can see, there are columns for Item, Size, Price, Coupon?, Other promo?, Final Price Per Unit, Date and Store. I have question marks after coupon and promo because those columns don't always apply, but they do in this case. The "Other Promo" category can include store rewards like ECBs and +UP rewards too.

The most critical data in a price book is the "price per unit." That lets you compare apples to apples. For example, if next week, CVS has a 12-pack of Charmin on sale for $4.99 and there's a $0.25/1 coupon in the P&G insert, you can calculate a final price of 39.5 cents per double roll. So you know that last week's deal was better and you can skip the new deal because a better one will probably come along soon. Conversely, if the price next week is $3.99, which works out to 31 cents per double roll after coupon, you'd know that next week is a great time to buy toilet paper and you'd update your price book to reflect the better deal.

If you're starting a price book from scratch, here are some easy ways to get some data so you have something to compare new prices to:
  • Use recent receipts - Pull out receipts from recent shopping trips and use them to enter as much data a possible. You might not have the exact size information, or recall whether you used a coupon, but at least you'll have a starting point.

  • Add data while you're shopping - If you see something you regularly buy, even if you're not buying it that day, take a photo of the shelf tag with your phone. Shelf tags generally list the item, size and price, so you should be able to calculate the cost per unit after you enter the data when you get home.

  • Use store circulars - Flip through the weekly ads for the stores you shop at and enter the info for the items you buy regularly. For example, all of the info in last week's Charmin deal at Target, except for the coupon, could be found in the weekly ad.
For organizational purposes, you could have different spreadsheets for different categories of products in your Excel file, sort the file alphabetically, or simply use the find function when you are looking for something specific. Within a couple of months, you should have a very useful tool that can help you save money on just about everything you regularly buy.

You can download the CFO Price Book template here {Excel format}.

This post will be linked to Thrifty Thursday at Living Well, Spending Less.

Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by posterize.

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