When it comes to buying big-ticket items we take considerable time to familiarize ourselves with the price of the item. For example, we wouldn’t buy a car from the first dealership that we come across. No, we research and check out multiple dealerships. We take the time to learn the specifications of the car and the average price for each year's model and each model package. Then, only when we think we’ve found a good deal do we make a move. We do the same when buying T.V.’s, ovens, sofas, and even clothes. Basically, we do it with any item that is not a routine purchase. But for regular purchases, such as groceries, we tend to just buy the same products from the same outlets and just accept the price. Convenience trumps commonsense. Prices for even the most basic regular items (like bread, milk, washing up powder, etc.) can, and do, vary greatly between stores - so the potential for throwing away vast sums of money, cumulatively at least, is significant.
Most people purchase the same products by the same manufacturers from the same outlets week after week. Most likely the same 80% of products purchased will make up the core of their regular weekly/monthly shopping. So knowing the prices of those core products can be a real savings ‘game-changer’. Invest an hour of your time into this and it will pay dividends well into the future.
Next time you go shopping keep the receipt and when you get home write down the products you normally buy on a weekly or monthly basis. Write down also the price that you paid, the brand name, and the size/weight/amount – and then go about committing them to memory.
You don’t need to do it all in one go – just a little at a time is much more effective. Take one or two products a day from that list and commit the name of the product, the size, the brand and the price to memory. Forget smartphone apps, scanners or similar gimmicks. Commit the prices to memory so you’ll know instantly if something is a good bargain or not without having to consult your phone.
By having these products and prices in your head you also become ‘product and price aware’ and you’ll develop a form of selective perception. Suddenly you’ll start seeing those products advertised everywhere (whereas previously you would have been blind to the marketing) and you’ll be taking a much keener interest in the prices advertised. If, for example, you know how much your Brand X washing powder costs per unit weight (per kilo/pounds) you’ll suddenly become aware of the fact that Brand X washing powder is being advertised all over the place by a variety of businesses. You’ll suddenly see ads for Brand X washing powder in newspapers, shop windows, mailbox promotions and so on. The ads were always there, you just never noticed them before. But now you can see immediately where the bargains are to be had, and who might be ripping you off. This is not about looking for the cheapest brand of washing detergent that you can find. It’s about knowing where the cheapest place to buy your usual brand is.
Keep committing those prices to memory until you have pretty much all of your regular products stored in your head and, in a short time, watch how your shopping habits change. You’ll most certainly become more price-conscious and so this whole process will most likely result in you purchasing some of your weekly shop from store A, another portion from store B, and so on. It might sound like a hassle but you work hard for your money so you should work equally hard to keep as much of it as you can. In time you’ll become loathe to paying more than you have to for your everyday purchases (just as you do for your one-off purchases) so you’ll shop around to get the best deals. Memorizing the prices of your core grocery shop will equip you to know instantly what’s a good deal, what’s a rip-off, and when to buy in bulk. It will, ultimately, save you quite a bit of money over the long run - money that you can then put to work for you by paying down your debt or to putting it into savings or investments - which, of course, results in even more money in your pocket. Small streams can turn into torrential rivers.
Some people are happy to queue up all night to get a 50% saving on a T.V. (or similar) during New Year sales. Some people will queue for a couple of hours to get a free burger in a promotional giveaway. Their savings are a one-time deal and represent a very poor return on their time investment. Invest one hour into this and it will save you so much money in the long run that it will literally become the highest ‘earning’ hour of work you’re ever likely to do.