If you choose to learn no other tip offered throughout this website, this one tip, by itself, will help you to save money. Learn how to know the actual prices per unit so you can tell real sales from implied sales.
There is no way around this. The only way you can know if an item is really a good price is if you know what the price is on a regular basis.
Managers spend a large part of their budget learning what makes their customers tick. Then they incorporate that information into their sales promotions using psychographics, which is a subliminal way to get the attention of people and encouraging them to spend more money in their stores. They use subterfuge such as use of colors, placement of packages, wording, and a host of other advertising gimmicks to make you THINK an item is cheaper. Most people do not even realize that they’re being reeled into a sales gimmick!
The tool is a Price Book. I use an Excel spreadsheet. Even someone who is a novice at using Excel can do this. I enter items that I normally buy along the left side and then the supermarkets that I frequently use along the top. I built calculations into the UNIT price column. From weekly circulars, I enter the prices for the items that I will need for the next menu for next week and the size of the item. The calculations show what the price is per ounce or per pound or per can.
A Price Book is the single most important tool to help you beat managers at their own game. Their game is not to pad your pocket! With this knowledge, you will instantly recognize when:
- A sale is really a sale versus prices that are either increased so the “sale” price appears cheaper, or
- Signs posted that make an item appear to be a great deal
The only way to compare apples to apples (so to speak) is to know what the unit price is. I am sure you have noticed that some cans of red kidney beans (as an example) are 9.5 ounces while others are 11 ounces and still others 15 ounces. That is why you need to know the price by ounce.
It still amazes me when an item is advertised on sale; however, the regular price of an item when combined with an eCoupon is cheaper than the advertised sale item or at a farmers’ market. You just need to know when the sales run. A Price Book will show that.
I was a professional photographer for 16 years. We incorporated psychographics into our sales pitches. For example, if we included the letter “S” somewhere in the setup of a photo, more often than not, women would buy the photo. If we included a sharp angular somewhere in the setup of the photo, more often than not, men would buy the photo. The same concept works at supermarkets. Not necessarily the letter S or an angle built into the display. One trick is to put a bright (usually YELLOW) “sales tag” over the regular price. Lift up that tag and look under it. Many times the “sale price” is exactly the same as their regular price!
Red: People have been trained to know that RED means STOP
- Many manufacturers use red package design because studies show it causes a sense of urgency and in this case, it makes you want to purchase the “sale” items RIGHT NOW.
- Also take note that red is used as an accent rather than the primary color in a display. The reason is too much red annoys people.
- It also makes an item appear larger than it actually is, thereby making a consumer think he/she is getting a lot of a product for the price.
Remember to bring the sales circular to the store for the times that the clerk at checkout will not honor the price. If the store’s computers have not been updated, there is no way the cashier could possibly know all sales prices throughout the store. With the circular in hand, you can enforce that they honor their sales price.
- First step: I highlight the food items in column A in blue that I will need for the menu for this week. As I flip through the weekly circulars of the stores that I use most, I enter those prices and ounce sizes into my Price Book.
- I have calculations in the “Per Ounce” column (=B6/C6) or (=E6/F6), etc. I enter prices in column B (Acme) and total ounces (column C), the unit price appears in column D.
- After I finish going through the circulars, entering prices and ounce sizes, I then highlight (yellow) the best unit price of items I will need for my menu. When I am done, it is a snap to see what stores I will need to visit to get the best prices.
You can increase your savings when you learn when the sales rotations run at the various stores that you use. Supermarkets run their sales on a rotating basis (usually every 12-15 weeks). With a Price Book, you will be able to discover the rotation for each of your favorite supermarkets so you can prepare to stock up when you know that items you normally use will be on a great sale.
TAKE ACTION #1: Create your own Price Book. Include all the food items that you normally use. Open a weekly sales circular from the supermarkets you use the most and enter the prices for those items that are listed in the circular. Calculate the price per ounce.
# 2: After you have worked with your Price Book for two months, take a trip to a supermarket and look at the items that you normally get and prove to yourself that you will automatically know the regular prices.
# 3: Make a point of lifting up those YELLOW sales tags and see for yourself how many items have the exact same price underneath as that which shows up on the yellow sales tag. Submit a comment detailing how many sales tags you looked under and how many prices underneath were more than the sale tag (meaning was the sales tag a real sales).
TAKE ACTION #2: Create your own taste testing night. Buy one brand name item and one store brand item. Be sure to completely cover the labels on both brand name and store brand items – – or remove the products completely from the containers they came in and put into small containers labeled “A” and “B”. A = store brand; B = brand name item. Which does your family like? Keep in mind that you will need to mix up “A” and “B” so that A will not always be the store brand.
I had my granddaughter with me one time while I was shopping. With her generation (Millennials), I have learned that the best way to get her interest is to pose a “problem” and make it seem very difficult for me to figure out how to get an answer.
She INSTANTLY figured out how to tell whether a “sale” was a good deal. She even discovered that by using a manufacturer coupon that I had made the brand name item even cheaper than the “sale” item (which was a store brand).
When I made a big deal of how she saved money AND purchased the brand item using the coupon, she could not be contained! She asked if she could help with other items on my grocery list. She does this regularly now without even thinking about it!
The next “lesson” that I taught her in a completely non-imposing way, was to simply ask if she knew if the price UNDERNEATH the YELLOW sale tag was the same or more?
She asked what I meant. I asked if she checked the price under the yellow tag. She asked why she should do that and I responded that many times, the tags are subterfuge.
- She immediately ran back to the “sale” tag, looked underneath, and returned to tell me that the price was EXACTLY THE SAME as the ‘sale tag”!!! And then continued by saying: “Nana – that is cheating”!
- I explained that was a “sales gimmick” and unfortunately, that is considered cheating; however, supermarket managers discovered that people are trained to think that when they see “SALE” that it really is a sale. Many people are trusting and will buy the item because they think they got a good deal.
- Geez – talk about subliminal techniques. I am guilty of it myself!
By the way, with technology today, you can find out if an eCoupon is available and upload it as you are standing in front of the item in the supermarket. More info on that topic in the section: “Determine Free Items”
Below is another example to illustrate that you MUST know the regular prices:
For years, a local supermarket has run a MAJOR SALE in January. They named the sale the “Can-Can Sale” and they blitz the public with Moulin Rouge French Can-Can dancers (the music is catchy) starting several weeks PRIOR to the sale. They spend a significant amount of money on this gimmick, and always with the music because they are “conditioning” the general public. The entire charade is to get the people to focus on the excitement of the upcoming fantastic sale rather than on the prices.
- Of interest to me, about two years ago, the “Can-Can Sale” also began running in July.
- Next change, this past January, the sale ran for two weeks back-to-back.
- Weekly circulars that suddenly appear EVERYWHERE. (Those circulars are not cheap). It seemed no matter what channel you watched on television, you heard the Moulin Rouge jingle!
People showed up for the sale in droves and yanked products off the shelves at the speed of light – and by the case (rather than each item). It was actually comical. Because I now know what the regular prices are, I also saw instantly that MOST of those “sale” items were priced at their regular prices. They had a BRIGHT YELLOW CAN-CAN sale tag right above or below the items to call attention to those items that were “included” in the Can-Can sale.
There are always a few items that really are a great price, so that is when I stock up for the entire year because most of the items are canned goods or pastas. Most of the items are store brand items rather than brand name items. With a few exceptions, I discovered that many of their store brand items are as good as brand items, and in some cases their store brand items are better than brand named items.
NOTE: another major supermarket in my area suddenly tried running a “Cantastic Sale” 2-3 years ago. What that told me was they had done their research and found out how profitable the Can-Can Sale was for their competitor so they got on the bandwagon themselves!
Other sales that run throughout the year are not advertised nearly as much as the Can-Can Sale. I have used my Price Book so long that I know roughly when those sales will happen for the products that I need. I will be on the lookout for manufacturers’ coupons so I can match them with the sales. You can get weekly circulars for many different stores with the Sunday Saver.
By the way, just in case you do not know this already, the best time to use manufacturers’ coupons is when sales really are deeply cut. If an item normally costs $4 and you have a $1 manufacturer’s coupon, you get the item for $4. However, if that item is for $2 (50% off sale) and you use your $1 manufacturer’s coupon, you will get the same item for $1. In other words, try to use manufacturers’ coupons when you can get the biggest bang for the buck and get the product for almost free.
NOTE: bigger is not always better. Normally, smaller sizes cost less. Consider using manufacturers’ coupons on small size items. That is another way to add to your stock.