A great place to start saving money is on groceries. The main idea here is getting the best price for a given food item. This can be tricky as you have to rely on sales and coupons which may not be available at the time you need a particular item, so the first step is knowing when you are getting a good price. If the price is good, stock up with the hopes that you’ll never have to buy that item at full price again. The best way to do this is to create a price book where you record the prices of the items you buy frequently so you know when the right time is to stock up. It will take time to build up your price book but the time will be well worth the investment.
Maintaining a Price Book
Your price book should include sale and regular prices from various stores. Don’t assume that your grocery store necessarily has the best prices, also check out discount stores in your area. Walmart and Target have many grocery items and I have found that their regular prices are usually better than the non-sale prices at the grocery store. Many people like warehouse clubs but I personally don’t think there is much of a savings there. When I did shop at a warehouse store I found I could often get a better price on an item when it was on sale somewhere else and if I had a coupon, even better (most warehouse clubs don’t take coupons).
Buy Generic When Possible
The second component of getting the best price is to look at different brands, especially generic. Buying generic foods is one of the easier ways to save money on groceries, however it depends on your particular tastes as to whether you can go generic. I have found that generic brands are good for most things, but there are some items where I insist on a branded name as the generic just doesn’t taste the same. If you are used to brand name foods, I would suggest you try buying some generic items to see if you can make the switch.
However, the key things to remember is that generic isn’t always cheaper. If a brand is on sale and you have a coupon, you need to calculate the price per ounce/lb/count to compare across labels. This idea also applies to different sizes as the largest size isn’t always the best price per unit. Be sure to have a small calculator with your price book so you can make these calculations easily. Most stores have the price per unit listed on the shelf tag below the item, but if there is a sale or you have a coupon you will need to recalculate. You should record the price per unit in your price book to allow easy comparison across brands, stores, and product sizes.
Coupons are a good way to save on groceries especially for those items you insist on buying name brand. Be sure to know your local stores policy on coupons: do they double or triple coupons and do they double/triple only on particular days of the week. Again the price per unit idea applies. If you only purchase a particular brand and you have a coupon, determine which size gives the best price/unit value. If you are willing to consider multiple brands for the coupon item, check that by using the coupon you are getting the lowest price.
A generic brand on sale is often a better price than a regular priced item with a coupon. However, where you can really benefit from coupons is by combining the coupon with a sale. Every week, check your circulars for sales items (you usually need a special card from your store to get the sales price) and look for items where you also have a coupon. Once in awhile you can get an item for free by using a coupon on a sale item, so continually monitor sales and your coupons. Also check your grocery store’s website to see if they have any special programs. My store offers special deals to families if you sign up and I have gotten a few free items through that program.
The methods I’ve listed should be applied to all household items, not just food. Watch your sale circulars and coupons for the best value on other items like shampoo, toilet paper, etc. Again, for non-food items, generic is often the best way to save. I buy most of my personal items at Target or Walmart as they usually have the best prices (especially when on sale) and they also offer good generic substitutes (check out cleaners, medicines, feminine hygiene products, contact lens cleaners and more). Familiarize yourself with the various stores in your area as no store has the best prices on everything. Also be aware that the same store may have different prices at different locations (I’ve found that with our local Targets). Over time you’ll find which store has the best price for whatever item you need.
©2004 by Carrie Balrok, owner of The Christian Woman