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Use a price book to pay less

By on April 26, 2015

Frugal folks are smart shoppers. Some keep price books to help them shop. It’s a notebook that contains item names, prices, unit sizes, unit prices, store names and dates. It helps shoppers compare prices on frequently bought items so they can identify what prices are a good deal.

It’s better to rely on your own records than to try to remember prices or accept an advertised price as being the best deal. A reader, Katie from Oklahoma, said: “One of the reasons I am in so much debt is because I would pay full asking price for anything that I wanted, even with the bank’s money. Right now, I am in the process of making a price book, so I know when things are actually a good deal. It’s my goal to attempt to buy things only when they are under the regular price. I’m also going to start following in my mother’s footsteps and only buy clothing from the sales racks. It will take some time and patience on my part, but I know that if I would have just waited three weeks on some clothing purchases, I would have paid 70 percent less than what I actually paid.”

Some people might think this takes too much time. But you can base your price book on information from a recent shopping receipt or sales flier. You can build your price book slowly over time. If you don’t have a sales ad or a recent receipt, you can simply write down some items that are on your regular shopping lists, and gradually fill in prices and additional information later. I’m not suggesting you spend hours jotting down prices of everything in a store. You can start with 15 to 25 items.

My price book items each have their own page. I place the name of the item at the top of the page and then have columns to fill in the additional information that I mentioned above. I organize the store products into categories, such as dairy, meat, cleaning, etc. I have an example of a price book page on my Web site ( in the printable section.

Your goal is to try to pay less than you’ve previously paid for items. Once you’ve recorded prices for a few weeks, you might recognize a pattern of when your regularly purchased items go on sale. You can also decide whether you want to pass on an item because the price is considerably higher than you’ve recently paid for it. A price book not only helps you to compare prices, it can be used as a tool to help discourage impulse buying. It helps encourage delayed gratification, too. It won’t take long before you know which store typically carries an item at the cheapest price. You might be surprised by which store has the best deals for the items that you buy regularly.

In time, you’ll discover that you’ll have your own minimum price that you’re willing to pay for an item. Many of my readers call this “refusing the price.” One reader, Stacey, said, “I refuse to pay over $1 for a two-liter bottle of soda, over 50 cents for a can of tuna, over 75 cents for a bar of soap and over $1.99 for butter. I wait for these to go on sale and then I stock up.” Many readers refuse to pay full price on anything. If an item isn’t discounted or on sale, they patiently wait until it is. They’re able to do this because they stocked up on items when the price was low and have enough “inventory” to hold them over, so they’re not forced into paying higher prices. It’s worth the minimal time and effort to do this so you can sock away that money you saved. The initial saved money can be applied to start stocking up during a sale. Add coupons and rebates for even greater savings.

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