Colorful “sale” tags don’t always mean you’re saving money

Originally published 12/3/13 on Clarionledger.com.

PDF: Sale tags savings

I don’t know about your family, but mine can go through some groceries. Among my boys’ favorites are the little macaroni and cheese tubs that you just add water and pop in the microwave. They are in such high demand that No. 1 son busted No. 2 son last night because No. 2 son had hid a container of the pasta gold in a cabinet. “They’re always gone when I want to get one,” he whined. True enough; so the other night it was back to Kroger.

On the shelf, I noticed a “yellow tag” special on the little Kraft mac and cheese tubs: 10 for $10.00. At a dollar each, that sounded like a good deal. I started to get eight of them and put them in the basket (I just couldn’t bring myself to spend $10.00 on mac and cheese), but then I noticed something. On the next lower shelf, there was a pack of four, identical to the singles, for $3.89. “Hmmm,” I thought. “That’s peculiar.” It turns out that I could get four at a little more than 97 cents each. If I bought two packages of four, rather than eight individual packages, I would spend $7.78 plus tax, 22 cents less.

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Is it really worth all that to save less than a quarter? It is if you think about the fact that all those quarters add up. Retailers try hard to make you want to buy things they need to sell. Flashing a colorful tag on an item is sometimes — but not always — a sign of a good deal. One of the best habits I’ve learned is to pay attention to the unit pricing. For example, many items have the price per pound, sheet, ounce or whatever, featured on the tag. Comparing them can let you compare “apples to apples” (pun oh, so intended). This is why, if you really want to shop wisely, you should give yourself plenty of time, so you don’t feel rushed.

It’s just one little strategy, but can save you lots of money in the long run. I’d like to hear from you on what strategies you use to save money? Let me know in the comments section or by email, and I will publish some good ones. After all, we’re all in this together.

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