Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Frugal Momma - Tools!

I don't mean your hammer & nails...although learning some do it yourself stuff ALWAYS comes in handy. I mean the stuff you can use to keep better track of what you're spending!
  • Calculator! Seems basic, right? But it really can be a big help. Most stores will have their price per ounce/pound/unit/etc. listed right on the shelf price for most items. BUT...when the items is on "sale" that price per unit no longer applies. AND if you have a coupon...it helps you figure out if you're really saving anything. Different sizes also throw a kink into the works when trying to compare. Soooo....

"What do I USE the calculator FOR, Momma??" Well, I'll tell you. To figure out the price per unit...type in the price of the item. Divide button, then the unit of measure. Let's use dishwasher liquid. A large bottle is 30 loads for $5.99. $.19966 per load. A smaller bottle is 22 loads for $3.99. $.18136 per load. That's $.0183 cents less PER LOAD for the smaller bottle. A penny less a load sounds like nothing...but I run my dishwasher at least once a day...some days twice.

What if you have two similar items but their sizes aren't compatible at all? Paper towels. 4 pack with 60 sheets each & a 5 pack, each roll has 56 sheets. First figure out how many sheets you're getting. 4 rolls x 60 sheets = 240 sheets total. Now, 5 rolls x 56 sheets = 280 sheets total. Even though the larger pack has less sheets per roll, you still get MORE sheets. Now, figure out the cost per sheet using the above equation! (That is [price of roll] divided by [number of sheets].)

AND if you are shopping with coupons...remember to consider the price AFTER the coupon discount when you are doing an equation.

  • Internet. Shop around online. Look for your weekly sales ads from local stores (I always just toss all that junk mail that comes to the house). Try http://groceryguide.com/, to see what items you regularly use that might be on sale at different local locations.
  • Excel. Now, this may only be for those who are very meticulous. Get out your excel spread sheets! Pull out your grocery list & type in all the items that you've purchased. Then you'll want to enter the prices for those items. (Be sure to tally at the end of the column what your total cost for that trip was!) Then as you use different grocery stores you will have your own comparisons. Be sure to note when an item was on sale (take advantage of those different fonts & colors!), and if you purchased a national brand or store generic.

I have the capability to use excel on my cell phone...so if I have a spread sheet, I can quickly look up what I paid for a pound of frozen peas at any number of stores I have visited recently. This also might help you decide which everyday items you might want to buy at one store, while choosing another store for larger purchases (like bulk warehouses).

Which brings me to the last tool for this blog entry...

  • You cell! There are new apps you can download that help you calculate the price per unit & coupon details. These are not going to be available for everyone...but if you have the opportunity you may want to check it out! In addition, most cell phones now feature a built in basic calculator.

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