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Smart shopping in tough economic times

As a Waco Bankruptcy Attorney, I have noticed more and more of my clients are shopping at discount and dollar stores. They are trying to cut their food budgets and the budget for household items such as laundry supplies. The truth is they may not be getting the bargain they are looking for. I also shop at discount and dollar stores, here are some of the things I have learned.

Discount and dollar stores tend to round up to the nearest dollar or half dollar. For example, I was shopping at a local dollar store and notice a box of 5 microwave popcorn bags for $1.00. That may not seem expensive, but I had seen the exact same box of 5 microwave popcorn bags for $0.78 at Walmart. That is a 12 cent difference. When you purchase several items, the difference adds up. When shopping you should look at the cost per individual item or cost per ounce.

Another thing to watch for is store brands. I was shopping at a local HEB. I was looking a tuna fish in pouch. The store brand was a few cents less than StarKist. I looked a little closer and noticed that the store brand had an ounce less tuna. Doing the math, that made the store brand actually cost more per ounce than the name brand. This is a favorite trick of manufacturers to make more profit. Just look at the coffee isle. Very few packages of coffee are a pound anymore. They are instead 12 oz. or 14 oz., but they are selling for the same price. I have heard it referred to as being “hit by the grocery shrink ray”. Again you need to look at the cost per ounce when comparing brands so you are comparing apples to apples.

Another trick stores use is selling smaller count packages and discontinuing the larger count packages. You have to buy more of the smaller count packages which have a higher cost per item. You are getting less of the item and the store is making more profit. I have seen this first hand, I had been purchasing a 100 count bottle of an allergy tablet at a local store. The store stopped carrying the 100 count bottle. The largest they carried now was a 30 count box. Two of the 30 count boxes (60 tablets) was selling for what the 100 count bottle sold for. It is very important to keep an eye on the cost per item. If the price goes up look somewhere else. I now get the 100 count bottle at Sam's club for half of the price I was initially paying.

Sam's club is a great way to save money, but you have to pay $40.00 a year to be a member. You have to ask yourself will you save more than $40.00 a year to pay for the membership? Purchases from Sam's club tend to be in larger quantities than in the grocery store. The cost per ounce or per item is usually a lot lower, but you still need to keep your eye on them. I have found some things cheaper at Walmart. Another thing to consider is you will need to be able to store what ever you buy. If it is perishable you need to be able to use it or freeze it before it goes bad. It helps to have an extra freezer. To effectively save money at Sam's club you must stick to your shopping list. They have so many neat things for sell it is easy to spend any money you would have saved.

Finally as a closing bit of advise, I have seen it recommended that you don't grocery shop at just one store. Every store seems to have items that they sell for less than the competition and items that are more expensive. It is best to buy the items where they are the cheapest. This may take shopping at 2 or 3 stores. I have even noticed that the Walmarts in town don't sell the same items at the same price.

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