The Crazy Suburban Mom: Saving beaucoup money with my Filofax

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Saving beaucoup money with my Filofax

I don't post about my pocket Rio often because it's just been chugging along as my wallet with no changes for quite some time.  But recently I've been using it as a price book and it makes a great one. Because it's my wallet, it's always with me, and because it's a Filofax I can keep all the information I need in a neat, orderly and small package... (Although a personal size Filofax wallet might even be better for this because the pages are bigger.)

A price book is a very simple concept with one purpose; allowing you buy whatever you buy consistently at the lowest price by tracking sales. From everything I've read store sale cycles run about every six weeks but you need to track it to be sure.   When you know which store has the lowest price on an item and how often it goes on sale you can save a lot of money by buying enough of that item to hold you over to the next sale period.

BeFunky Orton on iPhone

Each page in my Rio tracks one category or product.  I write down the week number, store, brand, sale price, ounces in the package and price per ounce.  These two pages are pasta and frozen meals but they are just an example.  I also have produce, dairy, coffee, chicken, beef, butter and oils, sweets...etc.  Whatever I buy on a regular basis gets it's own page.

It takes a little time (and effort) to get to the rock bottom price, and you'll need to go through two cycles, at least, to be sure, but once you know the schedule you can buy what you're going to buy anyway at the best possible price.  

A good example happened this week; I use flavored coffee creamer every day.  One store was selling a 16 ounce container for $3.09, another was selling the same thing for $1.39.    The $1.70 difference won't break most people's banks but it's more then just $1.70 when you consider I use a few every week.  When you add in all the things I've not got the best price for - That's where the difference comes in.  Over the course of a year these price differences add up significantly.  

No doubt, it's easier to make a list and just go shopping.  But getting everything at one store means I'm at the mercy of the prices that week and if I'm out of an item I'm really stuck.  I've done the best I can with that and it's just not working so I'm using my Filofax to shop smarter.   

I've been flirting with the idea of a price book since the '90's after coming across several books by Amy Dacyczyn.  Her three books have since been made into a compilation called The Complete Tightwad Gazette.   I highly suggest getting a copy ( many libraries have it) and I've had mine for probably a decade.  I'm always pulling it out to remind myself what's possible...

Many of her ideas are pretty radical but her success at living within her means, and living well, can't be denied. I'm not about to do calculations on how much it costs to dry a load of laundry (when you can just hang it on a line) because I live in an area where line drying would get me fined by the housing association...   But it's her attention to all the little (recycling aluminum foil, for example) details that netted her, her amazing successes.   

While I may not do some of the things she's done - dumpster diving, for one - reading about these things stretches my reality a bit. You couldn't pay me to eat something with a past good expiration date but I now shop at thrift shops for clothes, kitchenware, and furniture - and have saved a lot of money doing it.      The book expanded my world a bit and showed me buying new doesn't always make sense...  I doubt I'd have bought a vintage bedroom set on etsy without reading that book and it's fabulous furniture! 


 I bought it from ModernMidCenturyFurn, an etsy seller, at a cost of less then $500 for the whole thing.   I shopped new, one piece would have cost me more then that...

A price book makes sense in this economy and a Filofax is the perfect vehicle for it...  Truth is, I spend a lot of money on my Filofaxes so it's nice that it can repay the favor and save me a little!

*Note:  There are price book smartphone apps that are great.  I had one that figured out the calculations painlessly but I found I didn't use it, I guess I'm a paper girl through and through.   I find using blank pages easier but if you google 'pricebook printables' there are options.


mppaul2 1/12/14, 9:47 PM  

Thanks Tracey! I followed the Tightwad Gazette in the early 90's also. Your setup is great. Since I was just out of college at the time of her fame, l did not have the patience for a price book. Let's see if time has put me in better place to try it :-)

Tracy Reinhardt 1/12/14, 9:54 PM  

mppaul2 - I know what you mean. I tried and failed to do one several times since the 90s but I think I was better off economically - it just wasnt worth the hassle! but lately everything costs so much - and now they dont always increase the price - they don't put as much in the boxes! its all very confusing and the price book is helping me sort it all out

Josh LaPorte 1/13/14, 9:20 AM  

Interesting! I spend massive amounts on food; over the years I've given up any attempt at saving money on food as I have developed this "no compromises" cookery philosophy. But I need to get this under control! Things like butter are expensive normally but during a sale can be quite cheap, and they hold well in the freezer. I generally stock up if something I buy anyway is on sale; provided I can preserve it! Maybe I should try a price book. I have looked at the tightwad gazette before. Like you say, it's a bit too hardcore for me but I see how it can be inspiring. My general philosophy over the past few years is to only buy things I really need or love. And then try to buy the best quality I can find. And finally, once the first two items are met, try to find it for a good price. I also am becoming increasinly interested in focusing my spending at local businesses, so sometimes I will pay more to buy it locally. Although when you figure the savings in transportation (car or shipping) the price may be closer than one thinks!

On the line-drying; you may want to find a drying rack, we often will put a load of whites onto a rack inside at night, and the next morning they are dry. A plus is that they add some humidity to the air in winter time. And it costs absolutely nothing.

Tracy Reinhardt 1/13/14, 9:52 AM  

Josh, Even in her book she acknowledges not everything is for everyone. And some things came from readers of her newsletter - their own hints and tips not hers. Its really about broadening horizons in general and if someone is especially hard for cash some of her hints might mean the difference between eating and not... My budget is very tight, but I've never had to worry about my next meal - and I'm grateful! I agree about spending locally, that is worth spending more on as are quality items... but as you say, butter keeps well. No harm in paying the least you can for high quality items... I'm beginning to feel a bit manipulated by the grocery stores though - when they realized people bought big sizes to save money, they made the bigger boxes more expensive - that is so smarmy. And this last year when my favorite apples were out (honeycrisp) instead of charging less for an in season item they charged more because they know people will pay -- I mean, $3.99 a pound for a fruit in season is gouging. period. That was kind of my last straw with grocery stores because they all did it with the apples.... made me want to be more aware and I started figuring out unit prices myself - oh i forgot - pasta is now 12 oz at the 16 oz price - and recipes don't call for 12 oz... I don't think you should buy inferior stuff - quality butter is pretty blissful :) but I hate what stores do ... and want to mitigate that as much as I can

Morag 1/13/14, 11:10 AM  

Fined for line drying!! I am so shocked. We don't have this issue in the UK and I can't understand why it would be a problem in the US? Is it because no one wants to see someone else's underwear? I really need to know.

Tracy Reinhardt 1/13/14, 11:19 AM  

Morag, I live in a town home community with a 'housing association'... they take care of a lot of the routine things, rules, doing lawns, etc... they have actually relaxed the rules - when I first moved in they would leave a note on your door if you left your shoes outside! I guess they feel that a clothes line is an eye sore... I would really like to do it in the summer actually - sleep on sheets that have been out in the sun all day... sounds like heaven to me :)

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