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Use a Price Book

by Sandy Shields

Price Books: You have probably heard about them, or read about them in budgeting articles. But what exactly is a Price Book?

A Price Book is a powerful tool used by smart shoppers to help them save money. It is a practical technique used to record prices of frequently purchased items.
Consumers armed with a current Price Book will know if an advertised "special" is truly a bargain or not. Costly mistakes can be avoided, and much money can be saved by knowing how much to pay for items used most often.
A Price Book is a personal item created by each individual shopper. There are various formats and suggestions one can follow, but the effectiveness of a Price Book is determined by the way it is prepared, and if it represents the typical purchases of the individual who created it.

A Price Book can be simple or complex; there is no set way to manage one. A person should try a few different ways to determine which method is best for their personal use. Here are a few methods to choose from when starting a Price Book:

Large notebook
Small, pocket size notebook
Index cards
Address book

My personal preference is a small notebook that I can carry along with my coupons. I use a simple format. I list the products that I buy most often in alphabetical order, with the lowest price I have found next to each item. I have realized that with whatever method used, it is best to list or file alphabetically.

I started my Price Book by carrying an 8x11 notebook with me to the store. Each item that I purchased was written at the top of a page in the notebook. I listed the price for that particular store, the date, and a few other brand comparisons. Then each time I shopped at another store, I would add the prices for that store.

After visiting each store in my area, I was able to see which ones consistently had the lowest prices on the products I purchased. However, I also found that no one store had the lowest prices on everything. In order to buy at the lowest prices, I have to shop at several stores, and be willing to use many brand names. Unfortunately, I cannot save money by being brand loyal.

Once I had been keeping my Price Book for several months, I knew the lowest price that I could pay for my regular purchases, and how to avoid paying over that amount. I see advertisements everyday claiming to offer the lowest prices on products for sale. Since I began investing my time and efforts into my own price book, I am no longer deceived by false advertising claims.

Keeping a Price Book is one easy way consumers can be smart shoppers. Start your own Price Book today, and you too will see the patterns that the stores and manufacturers follow. But don't just start one; be sure to use it regularly once you have the prices listed. It is a practical tool to help you save. Happy Shopping!

Sandy is a freelance writer and webmaster of She enjoys living the frugal life, saving money, and helping others to do the same. Reprint permission granted with this footer included. Copyright 1999-2005.

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