Unit Pricing: The Real Indicator of Value for your Money

by Traci K. on September 1, 2010

I was at Wal-mart with my husband last week shopping, and ended up in the laundry detergent and softener aisle. I don’t typically buy my laundry supplies at Wal-mart, but we needed detergent and it would ultimately save gas and time to just get it there. Because I was very unfamiliar with Wal-Mart pricing on these items, I think I spent well over 20 minutes staring at the unit pricing for different brands and sizes. The actual value of any product you buy can be broken down to the unit price of a given object. In the case of my laundry detergents, I saw that the better pricing was actually a major brand at regular price instead of even the sale detergent or the off-brand labels. Not only that, but the smaller packages were a better deal in general also! It’s been awhile since I found that to be true. What seems to be the best deal, isn’t always the best deal. This is when knowing how to determine unit pricing will help you.

If you aren’t familiar with unit pricing, it’s like the price per pound or the price per ounce of any given object. A lot of stores have the unit pricing listed on the shelf label in addition to the total price. Just in case you can’t find it on the shelf tag, finding the price is easy as long as you have a calculator or if you’re really good at doing math in your head.

I was shopping for dryer sheets this weekend, so let’s use that as an example. At drugstore.com, a 80ct. box of Bounce dryer sheets is $5.99. $5.99 divided by 80 (the number of total sheets) is $0.074 or about 7 cents per dryer sheet. 120 ct. box of Bounce dryer sheets is $7.49 or about $0.062 or 6 cents per dryer sheet. The difference is fairly minuscule, but the larger box is slightly cheaper when you look at the cost per dryer sheet. In our case, a box of 80 dryer sheets lasts us 3-5 months so buying more than that seems wasteful and doesn’t validate the $2.40 I would save per year.

Although to be fair, if I did this with everything I buy on a regular basis (just off the top of my head I’m estimating 30-40 things per month we buy regularly from milk, eggs, to meat) the potential savings add up to $100 and more per year. That’s just at a one cent per unit discount on things you’re going to be buying anyway although “savings” could be less or more. While this is an impractical attitude to take towards every purchase, it can have some benefit. If you enjoy math or this type of picky shopping, or you find yourself trying to decide if the smaller package or larger package is a better deal then determining the unit price may be for you.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

1 Sue Kohler December 11, 2010 at 6:08 pm

This post made me think of the Walmart Effect. It’s very interesting read and I would highly recommend. It’s pretty amazing the kind of deals that place gets and it explains a bit better how they can price things like that. I didn’t think they would make smaller cases cheaper though, like you found, that’s strange!

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