Best Prices: Where You Shop Does Matter

by Miranda Marquit · 5 comments

When looking for the best prices on the items on your shopping list, it’s often a good idea to pay attention to where you are getting your items. In a number of cases, it’s convenient to get drugstore items while at the grocery store, or pick up a couple things for dinner when you stop to pick up your prescription at the drugstore. However, those choices could cost you big time in the long run, since you might not be getting the optimal value for your money.

Shopping at the Appropriate Store

Anyone who has bought batteries at the grocery store knows that they are very expensive when purchased that way. When you purchase batteries, or cosmetics, or office supplies at the grocery store, you are going to pay a premium. The assumption is that it’s more convenient for you to grab these items at the grocery store than it is to go to another store. And you’ll pay for that convenience.

The same is true of make food purchases at a store that doesn’t normally sell food. Food purchases at Kmart or Shopko are going to be more expensive than buying at the grocery store. Picking up a dozen eggs at the drugstore, while you are getting some of your hygiene products, will add a premium to your final bill.

Compare costs before you grab something. You might be surprised at how, over time, those small expenses can really add up. Make sure that to plan ahead so that you don’t feel like you have to grab something because you don’t have time to shop elsewhere, or because you didn’t plan ahead to stock up on what you needed the last time you were in the appropriate store.

What about Super Stores?

Of course, many people choose to shop in super stores or warehouse stores that allow them to find a variety of low cost items that fall into various categories. You can purchase low cost grocery items on one side of the store, and then head to other side of the store to pick up electronics, or household goods.

When shopping at super stores, though, you still have to be careful. Many people just assume that these stores are going to have the lowest prices — even if that’s not strictly true. For some items, the super store or warehouse store doesn’t actually have the best prices. You might be better off waiting for a sale at a different store to stock up.

Another issue that comes with shopping at such mega stores is that it becomes easy to overspend. You have access to so many items for purchase, and it’s easy to find something you want — but don’t actually need. It’s also easy to fall into the “but it’s a bargain” trap.

When you see a great deal, it might be hard for you to pass it up because it seems like such a good price, even if you had no intention of buying the item. Super stores use these bargains to get you to spend more money, and excuse yourself because you got such a great deal.

The bottom line is that, no matter where you shop, you need to be on your guard, and ready to compare prices. Stick to your list, and try to avoid impulse purchases. That’s the best way to save money while shopping.

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{ read the comments below or add one }

  • physcodog says:

    Oh my I bought two batteries for my smoke detectors at the grocery store just last night… 8 bucks! I sure did pay for the convenience didn’t I? Won’t do that again. Great article.

  • Irv says:

    I’ve found many items cheaper at my big-chain grocery store that the dollar or 99 cent stores. Pays to pay attention!

  • khatlady says:

    Just curious, was the price of gas considered in this article? I know a bottle of shampoo is higher at the grocery store, but I am there. It does not make sense to drive somewhere else to pick up one item. It I had a list of more items, it would be worthwhile.

    • Paul says:

      I put each of my favorite store addresses into google maps to find the quickest route and measure the distance. Then I cut and pasted the distances for each store into a spreadsheet and divided it by the mpg for each car I have. That gave me a chart of the minimum gallons used for each trip depending on which car I use. Then I had another column that computed the product of the gas price and the gallons used to come up with a cost per trip.

      It sounds like a lot, but it is really easy to set up on a spreadsheet. And you can always update the gas price to have a current estimate of the cost per trip. I learned to not go out until I had at least two stops to make per round trip, and I also learned that some trips just weren’t worth the gas and time.

  • The Frugallery says:

    One trap that I see people fall into is buying whatever is cheapest at the store they are at and thinking they got a good deal. Just because it’s the cheapest THERE, doesn’t mean it is a good deal. You need to keep a shopping diary so that you know what a good price is. Just because there is a sale sign on it does not mean that it is a good price.

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