Paycheck Chronicles

It's Hard To Know Your Prices

I've just come home from my first US grocery store trip in almost two years, and it reminded me how hard it is to keep track of grocery store prices when there are so many shopping options. In my overseas life, I only have to remember the commissary and the one civilian supermarket.  Here in America, you might have multiple supermarkets, discount grocery stores, warehouse stores, specialty stores and the commissary. It can be overwhelming.  And I admit, it was a lot easier when I was young and my brain wasn't filled up with sports team schedules and currency conversion rates.  How do you keep track?

There are lots of smart phone apps to help you track prices, or you can make an old fashioned price book.  Even that can be overwhelming, though.  So what do you do?

Some people find it easier to only focus on non-perishables.  Their logic is that if you need milk, you're going to buy milk regardless of the price.  On the other hand, some things you will probably only buy when the price is right:  I'm sure as heck not going to buy cherries when they are $12 a pound.  You'll need to do a little bit of thinking to figure out which perishables are essential for you, and which ones are discretionary.  There isn't much sense in worrying about the price of perishables if you're going to buy them anyway.

I recommend you start small, with the top 10 or twenty items that you purchase frequently.  That might sound like a lot, but it really isn't.   My list includes chicken breasts, ground beef, applesauce, diced tomatoes, the pasta I like, breakfast cereal, butter, shredded cheese, cat litter, paper towels, toilet paper, laundry soap, shampoo and conditioner, and trash bags.  Even with my forgetfulness, I can keep that many prices in my head.

Once you've mastered your basics, whether it is in your head, on an app, or on paper, then you can gradually increase the number of products you are tracking.  Eventually, you'll have the prices of most of the things that buy.

Tracking your prices can result in great savings, and it isn't too difficult.  Give it a try!


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