When I first began my frugal journey, it seemed like every frugal living book and website talked about keeping a price book.
A price book (for those of you who may not be familiar) is simply a little notebook in which you keep track of the prices of the products you buy the most. A good price book would organize the products by type and then by brand. It would include prices from several stores, and it would include the unit price. It could also include the best price available after coupons.
The goal of the price book is to help you figure out when an advertised deal is really a deal so that you can stock up on items when the sale prices are at their best. It can also show you what stores in your area consistently have the lowest prices and best sales.
I attempted to use a digitized form of a price book (a simple spreadsheet created on my computer) in those early frugal days, but I just got tired of keeping track. I was already tracking our spending, and I was tracking what I was eating for Weight Watchers. Then I had three kids in two years, and well… who had time to track anything? I shopped enough that I felt like I had a good idea of what was a good price and what was just a so-so deal.
But with grocery prices on the rise, I’m wondering if price books are worth revisiting. Kacie over at Sense to Save has recently revived her price book, and Jenn at Frugal Upstate keeps track of the prices of pantry staples. Maybe they’re on to something.
I love the idea of having money-saving data at my disposal. And I love the idea that the information is personalized. I would know the best prices for the things I use at my favorite stores. I don’t doubt that having that information would help me save money on my groceries and household goods.
It’s the gathering of information that really bogs me down. I’m wondering if perhaps there’s an easier way to manage the data entry part of the task now that smartphones are on the scene. Or perhaps there is some gigantic database in the cloud that holds all this information for me.
Whenever I consider any endeavor that is designed to save money, I have to determine if it is worth my time. I’m still undecided if creating a price book is worth the effort.
Do you have a price book? Have you found it to be a useful tool or an unnecessary hassle? What tips would you give to someone who wants to make a price book?