Sunday, July 8, 2012

Pricing Strategies

I've developed a system to save money on things that I buy consistently. There are plenty of tricks to really beat the retail shopping game, but I haven't devoted time to learning all the ins and outs. I'm not coupon-crazy, nor to I buy clothes only to return them the following week to get a further discount. I do stash away Bed Bath & Beyond coupons for my once-a-quarter excursion because they are forever appearing in my mailbox and in magazines. They never expire and you can use the whole stack on one shopping trip, for some decent savings.

I wouldn't call myself frugal, or a recessionista, but I enjoy saving money on items I think should not be priced as high as they are in some stores. I don't drive all over town looking for bargains, but I plan my errands in a thoughtful way, to hit the stores in order.

I flip through the circulars and inserts that weigh down the Sunday paper, and I get an idea of who's selling what and for how much. This week at Walgreen's, Purex laundry detergent (33 loads) is "Buy one get 1 free" at $5.99. CVS has Tide or Gain (48-64 loads) for $11.99. I'll go with the Purex...though I'm never going to COUNT to make sure I got 66 loads, I'm still saving a few bucks.

It bugs me that high volume stores that have huge buying power don't often pass the savings along to customers. Harris Teeter is guilty, and WalMart can be overpriced on some items as well.

My favorite stores for good prices are:

Aldi: (89 cent avocados, where they are 2 for $4 at Harris Teeter and $1.39 ea at Trader Joe's.) Aldi also has lower prices on mozzarella cheese ($2.50 versus $6 at Harris T), goat cheese (when I don't want to use super premium Bosky Acres in some recipes!), pork tenderloin (less than 1/2 the price of Harris T), bagged citrus, bananas, bagged baby spinach, dish detergent, toilet paper, tissues and paper towels. Seasonally, they carry interesting German chocolates and treats you can stockpile for hostess gifts. Prices are about 20% less overall than WalMart and Target, and waaaay less than Harris Teeter.

Aldi is the parent company of Trader Joe's and I notice that in both stores, "special buy" items come and go...usually once I'm getting hooked. It's a minor quibble, but I guess they are testing the market for interest and how fast items move.

Trader Joe's: Interesting items (private label, but still less than the national brands, even with the fun TJ's packaging), low priced wines and cheeses, shelled fresh edamame, Ezekiel bread for $2 less per loaf than Harris Teeter, good frozen veggies like "Soyccotash" for when I'm feeling lazy. Great for party fixin's.

Family Dollar, Dollar Tree, Dollar General: I say, "Holla for the Dolla!"

Look at the ingredients on popular brands. We've known forever that the generic versions are exactly the same, for as much as 50-75% lower cost. Why do people choose the brand over the ingredients? Jingles, branding, a false sense of value? Lots of drugstores and superstores place the national brand right next to their store brand so you can choose, but you can do even better at the Dolla.

Natural White "Sensitive" toothpaste (UK based Lornamead manufactures and distributes this out of Tonawanda, NY) $1.00 for 4.5 oz, compared to Glaxo Smith Kline's "Sensodyne" which is $4.72 for 4 oz!)  Is "sensitive" toothpaste better for sensitivity than my old standby, "Pepsodent?" I don't really know, but I save money either way and  I just brush with warmer water.

I go to whichever dollar store is in my path, as needed, for no-name post-it notes, wrapping paper, mailing envelopes, and Odor Eaters ($1.00 for a 2 pair pack.) Nope, these "Comfort Cushions" insoles don't have charcoal embedded...but I toss some baby powder in my shoes for subsequent wearings and I'm good to go. Everybody's feet and/or breath stink at some point...but why pay more to keep it under control?

 On that note, you can get a pack of 6 toothbrushes at CVS or the dollar stores for $1.00! It's marketed as a way to combat the flu--change your toothbrush and reduce germs. Compare that to the price of ONE name brand toothbrush. It's crazy cheap to get 6, for $1.00. Another way I save is on shampoo and conditioner. I will never spend $60 on Bumble & Bumble, nor will I buy products at the salon when I get my hair "did." I use Suave. No one has ever hinted that I could use a hot oil treatment. My hair looks shiny and I smell like a vacation...coconut, aloe, summer breeze...for just a couple of dollars.

Costco...Costco rakes in a ton from membership fees. What do we really get for that fee? The privilege of walking into a massive warehouse to buy way-oversized products that often come in multi-packs, and then we have to pack it ourselves because they have no bags. I won't use their broken down cardboard boxes because roaches can hitch a ride into your car and home. If a roach appeared while I was driving, it would be the last you'd ever hear of me. Off the road, screaming, into a ditch. Gone. I don't think I'll renew Costco this year. I only go there 1-2 times a year. I love their wild salmon for $13, though! I can get 6 servings out of it, and I Foodsave and freeze the portions. Everything else is too big, so it's not worth the membership fee. Their gasoline is lower priced than the surrounding stations, but I cross the state line into SC and get my gas for 20-25 cents less per gallon. Under $3 yesterday. Whoot!

WalMart: A new experience for this transplanted New Yorker. In NC and SC (so far) I've never seen the kinds of characters who've been photographed and who'll be viewed for eternity on the internet. WalMart has good prices on computer printer paper, Christmas lights, and generic "Great Value" brand health and beauty products. 64 oz bags of frozen strawberries are $7.00 versus $11.99 at Harris Teeter. Harris Teeter--what is WRONG with you?

Target: I use the "Red Card" for additional 5% savings on home office storage stuff, Rx and sales on Atkins products as I continue on my low carb plan.

If you feel like paying a little attention, and want to save some money on things you buy frequently, jot down a sampling of per unit or per pound prices over a few trips and see for yourself. You don't have to be a frugalista to be happy with having a little more money left in your wallet.

Life is good. Level & Plumb.

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