Saturday, November 20, 2010

Saving percentages: don't compare!

While doing my blog linkups this morning for Wednesday Weekly Shopping, I came across a comment to a blog.  The author of the comment lamented her low percentage of savings on her grocery bill, compared with that of some frugal bloggers.

I can relate to that.  When I see how some bloggers are purchasing groceries for next to nothing, sometimes I do get a little jealous, and wonder why I'm not saving as much.  Is it something I'm doing, or not doing?

But, I've come to realize that you can't compare savings percentages; you can only do the best that you can. 

Percentages are deceiving.
It can look great to say you've saved 90% or 95% on an item, but have you really saved that much?  The percent saved is compared to the full shelf price of an item, but to tell the truth, would you really have bought that item at full price?  Or would have you found a less expensive alternative?

For example: Last week at Target, I bought Wheat Thins, which retail there for $2.99 per box.  Through a combination of sales, store coupons, and manufacturer's coupons, I paid 50¢ for each box.  That's a savings percentage of (2.99-0.50)/2.99 * 100, or 83%.

Or is it?  If I absolutely felt I had to buy a box of crackers, and there were no sales or coupons available, I wouldn't go to Target and spend $2.99.  Instead, I would go to the new ALDI that opened in my area last week, where (according to my ALDI price list) a box of thin wheat crackers are $1.29.  So really, my savings is (1.29-0.50)/1.29 * 100, or 61%.  Still a good deal, but not as impressive as before.

Or, maybe I didn't need the crackers at all.  In that case, I didn't save anything at all; I just spent 50¢ per box for something I didn't really need.

Not everyone has the same resources.
Some of the amazing grocery and drug store deals I see are from stores that are not in my area.  And the fact is, some store chains offer better deals than others.  Some grocery store chains offer double coupons; none in my area do.  Some offer store coupons, or accept store coupons from other stores; other chains do neither of this.

Within the same store chain, prices can vary in different areas.  Often my favorite bloggers' grocery matchups list prices lower than that in my local area.  (Moral: check your local grocery ad when planning your deals!)  Some areas have excellent newspaper coupon inserts; other areas have fewer coupons and smaller amounts.  I am lucky enough to live in an area with free coupon inserts; others pay for several newspapers a week, and some just have their local paper.  (Though you can purchase coupons, if you feel it is ethical to do so.)

Some folks have lots of time to read through blog posts, print Internet coupons, and plan out intricate deals; the time of others is limited.

We can only work with what we have, and do the best with it.

So don't feel bad if you're not saving the percentages you see in blog posts.  Don't compare, and just do the best you can for your situation and your family.  And remember, percentages can be deceiving.

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The Saved Quarter November 20, 2010 at 9:18 PM  

So true! My mom always calls me to tell me about the great deal she got on clothes, 50% off! But the starting price was inflated and she didn't actually save over what she could have paid somewhere cheaper. Drives me nuts but she doesn't see the difference!

Anonymous,  November 24, 2010 at 12:55 PM  

I like to know what I'm saving so I compare the $.50 box of Cheerios to where Albertsons brand is $1.99 a box. I never go by what the store says I saved, because I would have never paid that much.

Anonymous,  November 28, 2010 at 2:50 PM  

Thank you so much for this post. I've been beating myself up for months wondering how in the world people have the time/energy to blog about all of their savings. All of the information out there is mind-boggling. This post is to the point and made me realize that my time/energy is best spent saving enough for ME and MY family and not concerning myself with the overload of blogs out there dedicated to bragging about their percentages off.

Thank you for posting this and at least making one person feel better about her savings.

Moola Saving Mom December 18, 2010 at 8:24 AM  

I agree! It always makes me laugh b/c I have a family member who works in the grocery world. The stores will slowly up the price of something right before they put it on sale. Like soft drinks- you can usually get a 12 pack for less than $3 at a gas station. But $6+ @ the grocery store? So even if they have a B1G1 you really aren't saving that much. I have the "good" prices of items burned into my brain now. So even if it is on sale w/ a coupon it might not be a good deal. Thanks for the % reminder!

Bargain Buffy January 22, 2011 at 8:49 AM  

I enjoy reading blogs and that is how i came across yours today. I really needed to read this and appreciate you putting this out there for us.
I am so bad about buying something that is 3.00 just to get a five dollar ecb when i will never use the product to start off with.
I have to learn no matter what the percent off is, the question is is it really a sale for my family?
Thanks this was awesome

Michelle January 26, 2011 at 3:45 PM  

You are the first one that I have seen that has commented on this. Who cares if you saved 90% if it is something that you will never use. I could say that I already save 10-20% just by shopping at Walmart over Publix or Winn Dixie.

Trish March 3, 2011 at 2:22 PM  

You said everything I feel on the subject! When I first started couponing I almost immediately wanted to quit because I was only saving around 30% and didn't understand why I wasn't walking away from the store paying next to nothing like others were.

Then I realized everything that's involved in working out the scenarios for those kinds of deals, and as a chick with a full time job and a busy life in general, I suddenly became ok with just 30% savings! The time I'd have to spend to save more wasn't worth it to me.

I have noticed though, that as I've been couponing more and more, the savings have gone up. I think the more we do it, the more we learn to work it smarter with less time.

Thanks for reassuring everyone that it's ok to just do your best and save what you can with the time and resources you do have. No deal is worth making yourself crazy or losing time with your family and friends.

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