Saving at the check-out: Maximizing your shopping dollar

Photo by Oleg Magni on

We all know from our growing cases of cabin fever that there is not much to do in quarantine. One of the few outings that we make is to go shopping for this weeks ration of food and household supplies from your favourite retailer.

Many people may see this as just a regular responsibility with the added benefit of going beyond the four walls that seem to close in on us after a while. I want to point out a few essential points that can allow you to turn the COVID-19 situation into a benefit for your budget.

Brand Name vs Off Brand

Brand loyalty is a marketing strategy that creates comfort and consistency with consumers. Consumer’s become attracted to a brand through a combination of advertising and distribution strategies. Then because the product satisfies a need, we get in the habit of just buying the product to which we have become loyal.

Many retailers offer store brand or bargain brand items that are comparable to many of the more widely recognized brand name items. An article done by Consumer Reports noted that many products tie in taste comparisons, and consumers can save on average 25% when selecting off-brand versus name brand.

This can mean significant savings for you in a time of limited cash flow. One thing to watch for with off-brand is the packaging size. Sometimes a lower price also means a smaller volume of product and no real savings.

Value and Volume consideration

Another element that we address in more detail in our book is getting the most value out of your shopping experience. We all have staple products that we must have for life to seem normal. For me, one of those items if coffee. One way to save money over time is to watch for those items you use regularly and buy more when it costs less.

For example, just the other day, we had run out of diet coke/cola at home. Typically, I buy off-brand diet cola for about $1.00 for a 2-litre bottle compared to name brand Coke products that range from $2.00-$3.00 depending on the retailer. That is a 50% savings on a staple item.

I admit that there is a small taste difference, but not substantial enough for me to spend the higher price. So when we were out of this staple item, I went to my local store to pick up a few other staple items as well and found that brand name Coke products were on sale for $.99 per 2 litre bottle, down from $2.89 regular and a savings of $1.80 each.

So I bought 4 of the name brand because over time we will drink it, enjoy the treat of name brand flavour and not spend more than what we usually do.

You may wonder:

  1. Why was it marked down so cheaply – the answer is quality control and inventory turnover. If a product slows in sales, retailers lower the price to boost sales on a product to rotate the product out the door before it reaches a ‘sell-by’ date and must be discarded at a complete loss. This leads to number 2…
  2. Why did I only get four bottles at such a great deal – I only bought four bottles instead of clearing the shelves for two considerations. Those four bottles will last two weeks or so and not come near reduced quality. I also have limited pantry space at home, and despite the value, I won’t sacrifice living space for a good deal. Other sales will come along in due course.

Other products offer larger volume or quantity count amounts for a little more money.

For example, a box of 12 K-Cup Pods can run say $3.90 and a box of 96 K-Cup Pods can run san $24.95. Depending on your consumption rate and budget for the week or month, the 12-pod container is obviously cheaper. If, however, your household averages 3 cups of coffee a day, 18 cups per week, or 90 cups in a 30 day month, you are better to spend the $24.95 at the beginning of the month to fill your supply.

The unit price per pod in the small box is about 33 cents each compared to roughly 27 cents each pod for the large box, saving you a nickel for every cup of coffee. Over the course of the year, that is a savings of $18.25 on just your morning coffee.

Do you see how maximizing your shopping dollar just makes ‘cents.’

-Please let us know if you find this article helpful, have any other insights to add, or if you have any questions, we might be able to help with. Also, Thank you for the feedback on the image associated with our last post, this has been changed to avoid confusion. Thank you for reading and stay safe!

Dr. D

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