Tip Tuesday: The Pricebook

How do you possibly keep track of all the items and prices of things you need and use? And decide what sale prices are the best deals? The pricebook is the answer. A pricebook is simply a place you keep a record of prices, stores and brands so you know when a sale is truly “stock-up” worthy.

There are many ways to set up a pricebook:
  • Keep it in your head – many people just know when a price is great and how much they would normally pay at the stores they frequent (you may already do this)
  • Use a notebook – a simple wire-bound notebook can be used, just list 1 item at the top of each new page (for example: hamburger, flour, toilet paper, deodorant etc.) and list info on each line following.
  • Use a binder – this is a little easier to add to and organize how you want (alphabetical or by product family) you can also print forms from places like this and this or create your own in Word or Excel. This is my very first pricebook I didn’t use it as well as I could have and I abandoned it for a more high-tech option.
  • Use a spreadsheet – I’m currently keeping track of prices in a spreadsheet (you know me I love spreadsheets!) the downside to this method is that it is not very portable, unlike the other methods I can’t take it with me to the store to compare items.
Whatever you choose to keep track of prices you’ll want to be sure to record a couple of important items.
Date. Sale prices are often on cycles. By recording the date you’ll be able to get a good idea of how often the item goes on sale and you’ll be able to judge how much you’ll need to buy to get you to the next sale.
Store. I’m always asked which store has the cheapest prices and honestly it depends on the week and the product. You can keep track of all that here.

Brand. It’s nice to know which brand is at which price. Also nice to know if you find a brand you’d like to stay away from.
Size. Like I mentioned here different sizes are different prices and it is an important factor if figuring out what is the best deal.
Unit. How much are you getting for this price? Important for figuring out the unit price.
Price. The most important feature of a pricebook!
Unit Price. Figure this out by taking the price and dividing by the units. This is the most fair way of comparing two different brands/sizes.
So, you’ve figured out which method you want to use and you know what things you need to keep track of, now what? How do you find information for your book?
Here’s what I suggest. First make a list of 10 items you always need to buy (i.e. Toilet Paper, Hand Soap, Bread, Milk, you get the idea). Add them to your pricebook, one item per page. Then, the next time you are in a grocery store find those items and write down all the products available in that category. Keep doing this until you’ve covered all grocery stores in your area. You can make this fun by taking a spouse/older child/friend/family member and turning it into a race with prizes, or mommies night out with a stop at the ice cream parlor. Once those 10 items are done, you’ll move onto another ten.
You’ll also note in your book whenever your item goes on sale so you can track the sale cycle. Eventually you won’t have to write down sales as often because you’ll know the cycles.
Sound like a lot of work? It is to begin with, but with age your pricebook will be a great resource and will help you save a lot of money. To read more about pricebooks check out these great articles:

This post originally ran November 11, 2008.


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