The Billfold
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The Billfold

How Can We Keep Track of “Regular Prices?”

Because that’s the only way we’ll know how good the deals are, right?

Photo credit: rick, CC BY 2.0.

So this is going to be my last post on couponing and deals for a while, because I think I’ve exhausted the subject thoroughly, although I will let you know how my Amazon Subscribe & Save plan goes. (I’ll start implementing it in late July.)

When I wrote about tracking coupons and deals vs. just seeing what deals were available when I walked into the store, Billfolder randomthoughts responded:

Hmm, I feel like you need to know what the cheapest regular price is when calculating savings. Relying on the “savings” calculation doesn’t really work because different stores can have different regular prices. For all we know, Walgreens is cheaper than Safeway at the regular prices, so the bill might come out to less.

Once you know the sale prices of your regular purchases, you’ll be able to recognize ‘good sales’ on sight and just take a look in the store if you happen to be in the area. (ie. I know that as chicken gets closer to 99c/lb, it’s a great price).

You don’t have to go memorizing… just paying attention is good enough to eventually memorize frequent purchases.

Which is true. I can rattle off a list of regular prices without even trying:

  • Golden Delicious apples are the cheapest variety at $1.49/lb. (So are Red Delicious, but they’re gross.) Other apples cost $1.79 or $1.99/lb, but they occasionally drop to $1.49.
  • Bananas are $0.66/lb. I was about to ask why they weren’t $0.69, but… maybe there are enough banana entendres already.
  • Adams 100% Natural Peanut Butter is $3.99 for some number of ounces that I can’t recall, but yields 14 servings.
  • Sara Lee bread is low-calorie and packs a lot of slices to the loaf and is usually $3.99, although once or twice a month it goes on sale for $1.99. That’s when I need to grab two or three loaves and freeze them. (I’d grab more, but there are usually only two or three left on the shelf.) The Soft and Smooth Whole Wheat loaves are my favorite, but at $1.99 I’m not picky.
  • Safeway has three different kinds of hummus, and I like Tribe and Hope Foods but find Sabra kind of gross. (Those mix-ins are slimy.) If Tribe or Hope Foods are on sale for less than $4 each it’s a good deal. Earlier this month Hope Foods was on sale for $3, and I bought the remaining four hummuses on the shelf and felt a little guilty about it. Each thing of hummus yields 10 servings.
  • The Goya lentils on the “international foods” aisle are $1.18 for 16 ounces, but the Signature lentils on the beans aisle are $1.89 for 16 ounces. Once the Signature lentils were two for $1 and I bought four of them.

You get the idea. But what’s interesting is where this falls apart; I know that four rolls of toilet paper are usually $4.99 because I buy toilet paper fairly often—and yes, I am going to start buying in bulk, I promise you—but I have no idea what laundry detergent usually is because I buy it once every three months.

So when Safeway told me that I could get 75 loads worth of Arm & Hammer detergent for only $5.99, I thought that sounds great.

Also, because I am finicky about my hair care products and my local Safeway isn’t that good at keeping stuff in stock, I have definitely done the thing where I needed a bottle of Garnier Fructis Full and Plush whatever, tried Safeway first, and then walked across the street to Walgreens. Sometimes the bottles are way cheaper at Walgreens, other times they’re cheaper at Safeway. (This is where tracking deals will be helpful.)

I think a bottle of Garnier Fructis shampoo usually costs $4.99, but there is nearly always a sale so I rarely feel like I pay full price. Does that mean the “regular price” is actually “two bottles for $7?” Maybe.

This is where price gets tricky, and you don’t need me to tell you that. If the regular price is what we usually pay, then maybe I should always hold out for the $1.99 loaf of bread or the two-for-$7 shampoo. There are probably two kinds of people in the world: the kind that thinks $3.99 bread on sale for $1.99 is “a good deal,” and the kind that thinks the monthly $1.99 sale is “the maximum price I will pay for this product.”

I don’t know yet which one I am.

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Nicole Dieker

Nicole Dieker

Freelance writer at Vox, Bankrate, Haven Life, & more. Author of The Biographies of Ordinary People.