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Monday, February 16, 2009

Frugal Grocery Shopping: Peppers Net $360.00 per hour!

STOP THE PRESSES! I had a couple of topics in mind for today's post, but when I got this email from Frugal Son, I just had to post it. Frugal Son has never read Your Money or Your Life or The Tightwad Gazette. Yet he somehow figured out the concept of the true hourly wage offered by frugal choices, perhaps by osmosis. In my return email, I further pointed out that the hourly wage he "earns" is even higher than what he states, since, as Andrew Tobias mentioned long ago, you don't pay taxes on money you save.

Here is his email:

One day when Daniel and I were food shopping at Wal-Mart, we came across a frugal conundrum. Was it cheaper to buy bell peppers (a red, yellow, and green) separately or as part of a three-pack? Daniel said it wasn’t worth his time to figure out whether it was a better deal to buy a 3-pack of multicolored bell peppers for $3.50 or to buy them individually for $0.82, $1.87, and $1.87 (which adds up to $4.56).

Being no math-whiz myself, I took 10 seconds to do the math in my head and figured out that the difference was nearly $1.10. I then asked him whether it “was worth his time” to do 10 seconds worth of simple math to earn $1. That is equivalent to earning $360 per hour, a wage that no one would turn down! After all, money you don’t spend on groceries is money that one can spend on something much more fun like a plane ticket.

I think that the reason so few people bargain shop is because they have an image of someone obsessively clipping coupons out of the newspaper to save a few cents while in reality bargain shopping can be as simple as stopping for a few seconds to compare the prices of similar items. Of course, not all bargains are as immediately apparent and the prices aren’t always as disparate as was the case in my bell pepper dilemma but the principle remains true.

Sometimes, of course, the bargains show themselves without any work at all. Moments after grabbing the bell peppers I grabbed a one pound bag of carrots for $0.99. Only a few steps later, another bag of carrots caught my eye and after a quick glance I saw that it was a one pound bag of organic carrots for $0.88. Ten seconds and 11 cents? At just $39.60 per hour it is quite a come down from my bell pepper “wage” but I’ll take it.

So Dear Readers, do you figure out your savings per hour? If so, what was your best hourly wage?


Anonymous said...

I am impressed that a young man does this almost as second nature. I have taught myself to do it over the years...and am slowly teaching the husband to do it.

I find that I actually have an entire inventory of basic prices in my head...and if an item is over the basic price, I won't buy it at all.

Midlife, menopause, mistakes and random stuff... said...

Can you and your kiddo go grocery shopping with me??? Please? Pretty please with a cherry on top?
I'm not neraly as good at you at being thrifty......sigh....I shall have to rise to the challenge :)

Steady On
Reggie Girl

Chance said...

That kid of yours (shaking head in wonder)-- you must be so proud. Ya raised him right, as they say up here in Vermont. I try not to figure out my hourly stuff, although I commend those who do, for two reasons: 1) I can't do math in my head and 2)I don't want to give myself an excuse not to be frugal, if the hourly came in too low for example. I still think being frugal is Worth It.

Duchesse said...

The bell pepper doesn't fall far from the bush, does it? My best skill is the ability to figure out how much 40% off, then 20% off sale price really is. But I think projecting a 'wage' from that computation is a logical error- but it sure is fun!

The Fabric Bolt said...

My "biggest hourly wage" was the 20 minutes I spent at the UPS store having my refinancing documents notarized. Saved me $60,000.00. The bad part was putting up with the ire from my husband - who had to take 20 minutes out of his precious day to save that money. He can't/refuses to see things in this light. He only sees what he is "losing" at the moment and doesn't look past that - very frustrating. I'm sooooo glad that I am the one in charge of the finances in our home.

Frugal Scholar said...

@Terri--When I describe myself as "pathologically" frugal, I'm not kidding. I always have a little calculator in my head. I think my son may have inherited this. It's not always a good thing, you know.

Great idea to have those basic prices in your head. I have something like that as well.

@Midlife--I would love to go grocery shopping with you. It's one of my favorite things to do.

@Chance--As you no doubt know, only the best parent-child moments find their way to this blog. But he is a wonderful kid, I must say. And he's one of your biggest fans too.

@Duchesse--Love the bell pepper and the bush! Of course, this is a jeu d'esprit!

@Fabric--Wow! That's amazing. Thanks for sharing your great moment.

SLF said...

@Terri: I think part of it is osmosis from my mom but also I like to look at it as sort of a game. It's fun because when I "win" I can do stuff that I like.

@Midlife: I love food shopping! Even if I don't buy anything I take great pleasure in thinking about all the things I could cook if only I had the money, time, skill etc.

@Chance: It really helps when they have the price per oz stickers and if you are REALLY mathematically disinclined you can always use the calculator on your cell phone. Even if the hourly "wage" is low I think it still pays to be frugal on principle alone.

@Duchesse: My friends are always amazed at how easily I can figure out tips at restaurants so I can appreciate your sale computing skill. Of course I don't take my bell pepper wage seriously but money saved is money saved.

@Fabric: Hmmmm your $180,000 per hour certainly blows my peppers out of the water.

--Frugal Son

Funny about Money said...

Nice post!

My trouble is, I can't remember prices long enough to compare. Senility is a bad thing.

But the other day I did remember enough to notice a $2.50 difference between a bag of sugar at Walmart and a same-size bag at Safeway. Yipe!

Sometimes, indeed, I do calculate these things on a per-hour rate. Videlicet:

The munificent $48/day of unemployment the state & federal gummints will supply for our furlough days so far has cost me approximately $90 of my $60/hour time. Since we have the privilege of taking 12 unpaid days off in an effort to "save" our jobs (right!), it's costing $90 to rake in $576 from the dole, for a net of $486. Could be worse.

wsystems said...


Here is a short note from holland.
I read you're blog, and I liked te question you wrote down.

I have a blog of my own, that's also about frugal living, and I've put you're question there also :-)

Thanks for the inspiration.

Love JO.

Shelley said...

The first time I ever had the chance to show this idea to Bill we were shopping for an extension lead (cord in US). The shop we were in wanted £16 which I thought was steep. We went to another shop across the car park and found the same one for £6. It took maybe 10 minutes to make the walk and the comparison. That's £60 an hour -- and as I was in the 40% tax bracket at the time, I saved an £84/hour 'wage'.