Michael on February 15th, 2008
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When I told you Wednesday that buying food was my most enjoyable form of shopping, I emphasized that–despite the necessity of food–there were plenty of ways to both spend and save money based on the choices you made in addressing several key considerations.

We’ll chat about the first two today, which were:

  • Where do you shop for food? At a grocery store, a discount supercenter, a wholesale club, or a health foods store? All of them?
  • Do you make bulk purchases? What kind?

The location of where you shop can impact the amount you spend as much (or even more than) what you ultimately buy. One key, as pointed out in a press release yesterday by BJ’s Wholesale Clubs titled 8 Tips to Save Big Bucks During Hard Economic Times, is to compare apples to apples. For example, baby formula (an item I personally have discovered is remarkably less expensive at wholesale clubs) costs far more at the wholesale club than at the grocery store.

You: That doesn’t make sense.

Actually, it does. It costs far more at the wholesale club but buying it there is much less expensive.

You: What is this–a riddle?

While formula might cost 50% more at the wholesale club, you’d be getting twice as much formula. That more than compensates for the increased cash outlay.

You: So I have to do math to get a good deal? I hated algebra.

The math never gets any more complicated than division. And often, the store will do the math right there on the sign with the price for you. But this apples to apples thing is important even when shopping within anyone store. Last weekend, wheat English muffins were on the BJs list my wife prepared. Before leaving for the store, I asked her if the muffins really had to be wheat if I found that wheat was much more expensive than regular. She told me that she was pretty sure they were about the same price, but if there was a big difference to just get the regular ones.

Turns out you really do have to compare apples to apples, or, in this case, muffins to muffins. She was right: $3.99 for the regular English muffins and $4.19 for the wheat ones. The packages looked the same. But only after closer inspection did I discover that the wheat package contained two inner packings of six each, while the regular package container had two inner packings of nine each.

You: Big deal, Sherlock.

It actually is. It means that the wheat muffins were actually 50% more than the regular muffins.

You: Fifty percent?

Yes. It costs about $4.00 in both cases. But with the wheat, you get 12 muffins as opposed to the 18 you receive purchasing regular. That’s a 50% difference. So, for us, regular English muffins it is.

Look, this wasn’t about saving 20 cents, it was about chopping down my cost significantly. And, sure, it may take a little more time and be a slightly bigger nusiance to evaluate a $4 purchase. I don’t recommend doing so for everything you buy, particulalry if it’s something you really love or something you buy infrequently. But for my wife and I, English muffins are a regular purchase and one that we just don’t have a particularly strong opinion regarding.

In that case, why pay more? Just a brief pause will save us a decent amount of money over a couple of years – from just the one item.

What do you have in your grocery cart that, upon closer examination, may lead you to quicker realization of living Beyond Paycheck to Paycheck?

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