Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Bargain Bounty Hunter

Like many people, I have certain products that I consider to be my go-to, favorite, or "holy grail", if you will. For me, one of these products is Sally Hansen Insta-Dri No Chip Top Coat for my nails.  It's the only top coat I use, and I've never had a complaint about it. Normally when I'm running low, I pick a bottle up at CVS for about $7.50.  That price runs right about what Seche Vite top coat costs (another holy grail product in the nail polish world), so I never really thought much about it.


About a week ago, I was shopping at Drug Mart (it's an Ohio thing) and happened to notice this same top coat was priced at about $4.99. I was a little miffed at having overspent on so many bottles of this stuff over the last couple years, but I chalked it up to live-and-learn and made a mental note to purchase my next bottle at Drug Mart. That is, until I saw it selling at Target for about $3.50.  Then I was mad.  Not mad at CVS, Drug Mart, Target or Sally Hansen, but more mad at the situation that I had never even thought that I could find it for less and just kept on paying over double the price without question. This little incident sent me on a mission to find out what else I might be over-paying for.

I started by listing all the stores where I normally shop (Target, CVS and Drug Mart being my main stores, and Walgreens, Ulta and Rite Aid thrown in because sometimes I'll pop in there just to see if anything good is on sale), and then listing all the products I use on a regular basis.  Right now I have confined the list to cosmetics , hygiene and pet products, but groceries can be added later.

Next, I created a spreadsheet (with Tall Cute Guy's help) on Google Docs (Google Drive, whatever it's called now) with all this information.  The hard part was then going to all these stores and writing down the base prices for each and every single item on my list.  I'm pretty sure the store clerks thought I was either crazy, shoplifting, or both the way I kept bouncing around from aisle to aisle for about 30 minutes, then leaving without buying anything. It took a a few days to gather all my prices and enter them into the spreadsheet, but now that it's done (with the exception of Rite Aid), I can tell you it's worth it.

Click to enlarge
The two columns at the end are set up to show the lowest of all the prices I entered for a particular item and which store that price is associated with.  Then I know to buy THAT item at THAT store unless I have a coupon or another deal at a different store that can beat that price.

I added a column after the item names so that I could input a numerical code telling me what level of "need" I had for the products.  Level 1 is "in stock, don't need any", Level 2 is "starting to run low, begin to check circulars for deals", and Level 3 is "out of stock, get off your butt and go buy at the Best Store listed price NOW".  Normally I would have just highlighted the product names in green, yellow and red to tell me this, but Google spreadsheets does not currently have the ability to sort by color like I wanted.  Ergo, the extra column with the numerical code and conditional formatting to add the color automatically.  Below is what the spreadsheet looks like when I have sorted it according to "need":

Click to enlarge
A few things to mention/add:

1. I have both Target and Target Online listed as retailers. This is because some items are available in store, online, or both, and this helps me remember that.  For the most part, Target's in-store and online prices have matched up.

2. The prices shown for Target and Target Online are not what the price tags actually listed.  Because I have a Target Red (Debit) Card, I get 5% off my purchases, and always have free shipping from Target Online.  I entered my data to already show that discounted price to accurately generate my best price and best store data.

3. I ended up entering a store called Earth Fare (think Trader Joe's or Whole Foods) as a retailer mainly because I am currently in love with Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap products.  Until now I have been purchasing these goodies from Target. The other day, Tall Cute Guy and I stopped in Earth Fare just to scope it out, and imagine my surprise when I saw that they not only carried a much larger selection of Dr. Bronner products, but at MUCH lower prices than Target!  Overall, Target is winning as my "Best Store" according to my spreadsheet, and normally I associate organic/health food stores as having higher retail prices.  This was a double whammy on selection and price, so I added it to my list.

4. I did not include Walmart as a retailer.  I hate Walmart.

This spreadsheet has only been in existence for a few days and already it's helping me save money.  And, in a sick-nerdy way, it's fun sorting the sheet by brand, item, need level, etc.  I've caught myself staring at it for no reason.  It's sort of like pricing-data porn...


Cottage Sweet Cottage January 26, 2013 at 6:27 PM  

Love your blog title and pic! ;)

Momma F February 8, 2013 at 7:52 PM  

Please oh PLEASE - Share your template with me? (or tell me how to make it auto populate those last two columns) I'm trying to get my pricebook spreadsheet to a working place, but I'm not as excel savy as tall guy!

Chandra February 8, 2013 at 8:22 PM  

I'd be more than happy to share! I'm not at home right now (don't have my laptop), so I will do a post that includes a template version ASAP!

Momma F February 10, 2013 at 8:22 PM  

You ROCK! Hope the mouth is better. Do you know to freeze damp washcloths in sandwich bags trick? They mold the jaw much easier to help with swelling and pain. Feel better and post that template when you can.