When is a sale really a sale? The best way to know if the prices you’re paying are the very best is to track the sales cycles of the stores you shop for the items you regularly buy. This will enable you to determine when the prices are the very best. Stores run their sales and promotions in cycles that can be from 2, 4, 6 or even 8 weeks in length. Often, this week’s “sale price” is higher than it was last week. Tracking will make you confident that you’re getting the best deal!
A prime example of rotating sales prices is the branded soda aisle. The two leading cola products are rotated so often that your tracking will reveal that 2-liter pricing can vary week-to-week from $0.77 to 2 bottles for $5.00, for example. Obviously, tracking will make savings here dramatic.
Many categories are regularly promoted and therefore tracking is very important. For example:
- Produce, particularly lettuce, bananas and seasonal fruits
- Sodas and juices
- Bottle water (24-packs)
- Meat, chicken and fish (especially seasonal fish)
- Canned items like veggies and soups
You should even track your convenience store and pharmacy chains which now feature many of the same items your supermarket has and promotes. You’ll be surprised to see that they often are lower priced on their “cycles” in order to draw you into their stores. Remember too, that using your rewards/loyalty card, coupons and stacking techniques can insure even more savings.
Your tracking list can be a small notebook, a smart phone app (like ShopStat), or a list printed from your PC. Make a record of columns headed by dates, with a line for each item you regularly buy (including brand and size). Then each week, fill in the unit prices and store abbreviation, noting if it was a sale if you like. You can begin filling in this information from the weekly circular for those items featured (or even on their websites if their “shop from home” services guarantee the same prices as the store), and the rest can be done at the store where unit pricing is shown on the shelves for ease and convenience. If you are confronted when tracking in the store (some stores do not allow competitive professional shopping), simply tell the store that you track for your own personal records. Any difficulties should be resolved with this explanation.
After you have a good amount of data in your tracking list, you will be able to predict when the price cycle is coming and stock up at the opportune moment. In between, your pantry can be your source for bargains.
Your tracking list might look something like this:
|Item||May 24||May 31||Jun 7||Jun 13|
|XYZ granola bars 6.7 oz||$2.99||$2.49 sale||$2.49||$1.99 sale|
|Buzz cola 2-ltr||$0.99 sale||2 for $3.00||$1.39||2 for $2.50|
When your list is “matured”, i.e. filled with a reasonable tracking time (perhaps 8 weeks), you will be able to target when the prices will be lowest and you can gain the most savings. For example, in our list above, we can see that the May 31st sale on granola bars isn’t really the best bargain and waiting for the $1.99 price to stock up makes sense. Remember, track those items you will use and buy regularly for the best impact. While tracking prices takes a bit of work up front, in the long run, you’ll benefit by knowing whether this week’s sale is really a bargain, or if you should wait two weeks and then stock up.