I used to do that a lot. And it would drive me crazy because I was not about to go to Walmart and then run back to the other store for the sale item if I found the sale price to be cheaper than the WalMart price. Especially not with kids in tow!
For years, I heard women talk about price comparison notebooks that they kept to compare prices on items at the different stores they frequented. I could see how it would be a great idea, but I didn't want to invest the time in actually researching and setting one up.
But I thought I'd give it a try at the beginning of this year when I knew I was really serious about this whole money saving thing.
Here are a few pages straight from my price book. As you can see, I compare prices at three stores that I frequent most often. As you can also see, not all of my columns are completely filled in because I'm in the early stages of getting my book set up.
The easiest way to start is to make categories in your price book. You could even do the same categories as you did on your shopping list that we discussed on Tuesday. My categories are as follows: baking, beans, beverages, bottled/condiments, bread, breakfast, canned goods, dairy, frozen, meat, nuts, pasta/noodles/rice, produce, snacks, spices, and then cleaning, paper products, and toiletries for the non-food items. I have these categories alphabetized because I'm a sucker for organization, plus, it makes it a lot easier when you're thumbing through trying to find the price of an item while at the store.
Once you have your categories, write down the items that you buy on a regular basis. You can look at some of my photos to see items that I have included in my price book.
Now, you need to start marking down prices. One important note when doing this: do this part in pencil!!!!! I cannot stress the importance of that! Prices are always changing so you want to be able to erase and record the new price all the while keeping your book neat and organized.
When I first set my book up, I grabbed all the receipts from the past months that I had saved (because I always keep my credit card receipts for a couple of months), and I got prices from those. Now when I go to the store, I'll jot down a few more prices/items as I see them depending on how much time I have. Some people recommend taking a field trip to the stores just for the purpose of filling in your price book. That would be ideal, but it wasn't realistic for me. So I just fill it in as I go, and I'm hoping by the summertime to have a pretty complete book.
One other thing I do is make notes regarding size next to the price in pencil. For instance, you might be able to get laundry detergent for a couple of bucks at one store, but that size may only do 64 loads, where you might be able to get a different brand at another store for a few dollars more that does double the loads. This is when a price per ounce value comes in handy. You can calculate that by taking the price of the item and dividing it by the total number of ounces. A lot of the bigger stores already do this for you and have this value marked on the shelf under the product.
I know that you're probably thinking that this sounds like a bigger pain than what it's worth. That's what I thought for years! But now that I have a price-comparison book, I use it constantly and I have found it to be such a helpful money-saving tool!