Monday, June 23, 2008

Money Monday!

Today I'm talking about sizing up. Your most-used products and their competitors.

It sounds simple, but can really help you out. It really helps me out. I'm loyal. I'm so loyal. To people, places, products. I get the sierra turkey and an apple every time I go to Panera. I just love it so much, I can't bear to try anything else. Once I love you, I just can't leave. Well, it's hard for me to leave. Sometimes the loyalty of a golden retriever is good, like in friendship. When it comes to buying things, I can feel just silly sometimes in my brand-love. I've learned in these last few years to get a little more heartless.

Check out the things you buy every time you shop. When you love something, it's hard to leave it behind, but there's also a lot of things you throw in that cart of yours without much thought. And it wouldn't really hurt you to say goodbye to it and hello to something that will save you some change.

Next time you shop, before you reach for the tried and true, check out the other options right there next to it, havin' a party on the same shelf. Bring a calculator along, or use the one in your phone (annoying as those are, with all the goofy buttons- I always mess it up). Is this the cheapest option? If not, is there another kind you could try? If you really, really love something and you're not willing to risk it, fine, but if this is over a can of green beans, go for it. The prices of items can change many times in a year, so sometimes what was cheapest in the past isn't anymore, and sometimes the amounts in a package change (as in, they decrease the amount) and the price stays the same.

The people who make this stuff didn't come out of the woods somewhere- they're tough and educated in the school of how to get you to spend more money on their stuff. That's business- just make sure you come to the store ready to play the game.

A few things to consider, straight from the experience of this calculator-toting shopper:
  • BULK IS NOT ALWAYS CHEAPER!!! The packaging gurus know people automatically think the huge bag or jar or thing of shampoo is cheaper-per-ounce. It often times is the same price (but more inconvenient to manhandle) or even more expensive. ALWAYS do the math. (This includes warehouses like SAMS or COSTCO. There are great deals to be had, but, sometimes it's no deal at all (except for the great deal of money leaving your checking account).

  • Generic isn't always cheaper, so again, do the math! Also, most of the time, there is no difference. Just like Dave Ramsey says, there's no individual ketchup factory for each brand. Many brands get their stuff from the same places as the generic store brands do. So, while it DOES matter sometimes, try to avoid brand-snobbery.

  • Get on your knees. The most expensive items are at eye-level. Let your eyes roam to the top and (usually) bottom shelves too.

  • Beware of coupons!!!! If you wouldn't normally buy the item, or one similar to it, you probably don't need to get this one, just because it's .50 off. The purpose of a coupon is to get you to buy a product, not to save you money. Sorry, it's true. Sometimes it's a good chance to try something new, but, you know, use discretion.

  • Beware of sales touting "10 for 10 Dollars" etc. Almost always, you don't need to buy ten or five or whatever, and it's really just $1 a piece no matter what. Unless the sign specifically says you need to buy all ten or whatever, go ahead and get as many or few as you want. Those sign-making-punks. OK, OK, I know they have families to feed too.

  • You might think saving .20 or .40 cents isn't a big deal, but this will add up to several dollars of savings if you're willing to put in a little time, and if you're shopping with a specific budget in mind, you'll appreciate saving even a little anywhere you can.
Here are some sticker-price-shockers I've encountered on my own shopping cart covert ops:
  • The detergent I love (and always bought in liquid form) is actually much cheaper in the powder version. Who knew? Now I do.

  • Things are always more expensive in the pre-made version. Like, juice is much cheaper if you buy it frozen instead of in a jug. (The Kochies and I almost never drink it, but Jim is a sugar-maniac- he needs it to keep from wasting away*. So, he has juice with his breakfast. Poor guy, he has to eat all the time to keep from languishing....*to be read with a sarcastic tone.
  • For the longest time, I bought Luvs diapers, only to find one day that the Target brand diapers were cheapest, and I happen to love them. Now, they aren't cheapest anymore, but, for a long time they were.
So, make a quick dinner for Hubs and the kids tonight, put on your cute shoes and throw your calculator and notebook in your purse (you can bring the little purse because you aren't bringing anyone with you) tonight and check out the things you buy most often. It's Monday night, peeps, the stores will be clearing out by around 7, and you can have a night to yourself. Just you and the elevator music and the gentle hum of the freezer section. Don't forget to pick up a Starbucks on the way, as long as you think you can handle juggling that calulator, notebook, pen and latte all in your cute little hands. If not, get a cart. Whatever. This is your night. Have fun, and get educated about the things you bring home to your family.


anne said...

I always get the same thing at Panera too... You pick two: Mediterranean Veggie minus the tomatoes and grilled with a cup of soup...usually the black bean. YUM.

Anyway, now that you know some of my eating habits, on to the post at hand. This week I'm going to be a completely concious shopper as I head out to the store to buy what I need, and I'll let you know how it all turns out. :)

oh and ps- in real life, we SO would :)

Andrea@Sgt and Mrs Hub said...

I am nothing if not loyal. But when it comes to groceries my wallet is cold as ice, baby. My loyalty extends not that far... :)

This was such a great post! I think I love Money Mondays the best of any regular week day post I see on the blogs!


amanda said...

i tried once to go out of my box at panera...big mistake. i learned my lesson :)

and thanks as always for my money monday make me think fix! i was going to head to target this afternoon w beans, but now i think i will sneak away with only a calculator & starbucks in hand once she is fast asleep!

Lisa said...

I have few things that I have brand loyalty to....toilet paper & paper towels - yes! Cereal & pasta sauce - NO!

I need to bring the calculator to the store with me sometime though - good ideas once again, Megan!

PS - We're on week two of my menu planning & I've definitely made fewer trips to the store, so I'm sure we're saving!!!

Grandma B said...

Thanks for the lesson on are so correct about the companies that push THEIR products....THEIR THOUGHT BEING,YOU SIMPLY CANNOT LIVE WITHOUT THEM...they need a lesson in daily living, budgeting, and buying for a family, especially now. Food has become quite the expense. Your ideas today are wonderful.

Love the color of your room. It looks so comfortable and inviting.

Megan said...

i'm glad there are other panera lovers out there. i do the pick two with the sierra turkey, an apple and the french onion soup EVERY time, baby. i don't need new things, not when i'm so in love already...


Kimberly said...

Money Mondays are the only reason I now love a Monday. Before it always represented the first day after a good weekend:( or cleaning day. Now, it is Money Mondays and I greet it with a smile!

Thanks Megan, you are a rock star shopper and I love your tips!!

A Crafty Mom said...

Boo hoo. No Panera in Canada but great post nonetheless. I'm reading "Miserly Moms" right now so some of your points I am reading about - I used to totally believe everything was cheaper at Costco, now I'm more selective and careful about what I get where. I lost my calculator a few months ago and I've been in big trouble lately - I really need a new one b/c the addition in my head isn't working out, lol. And yes, I need to shop without my kids more but it's so hard to get motivated to go out after hubby comes home from work, KWIM? I'm getting better though. My new goal is to forego the Starbucks and put that money in the kids' education funds. Hard to do though, I love me a little latte :-) If I could just win the lottery!!

Unknown said...

So true. I love knowing I'm not the only one standing there figuring out which is cheaper by the ounce.

It can save a lot of $ too to stock up when there is a sale--for example the all-natural bread I buy is usually $3.50/loaf, and at my recent trip to the store, I was able to buy 6 loaves for the same price as my usual 2.

It's also good to go w/o kids. I find I rush too much and don't pay as close attention to the bottom line (because I'm needing to pay so much attention to their little bottoms.)

Love your tips and ideas! Thanks!

Kristen said...

So went to the grocery store today!! How did you know??

I love your Monday tips, and can I say I so agree.

My kids are allowed to get one bag of goldfish, and then they have to choose a box of the cheaper crackers (cheez-its for us). This way they can enjoy a treat, and live life on normal stuff too. :)

You truly are awesome with your Monday Money!! :)


Grammy Staffy said...

You are such a clever girl. Where were you when I was teaching??? I could have given a homework assignment for my kids to report on your Monday Money blog. Oh well, I'm sure that many are benefiting from your wise advice.

Thanks for your comment on my blog. I appreciate you and I always love hearing from you.

Shelley Kubitz Mahannah said...

Panera makes me feel adventurous. Last time I was there, I had their new tomato mozzarella salad and their turkey panini with spinach artichoke spread. It was only a sandwich and a salad (and I ate it at my desk while doing other work), but I think that I momentarily levitated to a greater plane of existence during that meal. :)