I’m reading the Tightwad Gazette, famed classic of thrift. Yes, I thriftily got my copy out of the public library. I had been resoundingly unimpressed for the first 30 pages, which were essentially all suggestions on how to “save” on things I don’t spend on: cigarettes, soda, new clothes, dryer sheets.

But then on page 30, things turned around. First, she offers a rule of thumb I like, that builds on my beloved 30-day list for non-essential spending:

Put something on your “to acquire” list, and then shop around for a freebie, a cheaper version, a bargain, etc…until it costs you not to have that thing.

A real life example: I need a wagon for my homeschool group to go to the park near my house. I have needed this wagon for months, but haven’t bought one yet because I’ve been unsuccessfully trying to acquire through Freecycle or another local barter. Now it is spring, and we are going to the park regularly, and it is a PITA. I will buy a wagon this week, probably from CraigsList.

The next great thing she offers is the concept of a Price Book. This is one of those money things so obvious and elegant I cannot believe I did not think of it. She keeps a book with the prices of all the things she normally buys written in it, for every store she shops at. So she knows, when she sees something on sale, if it’s a good deal or if she’d be better off going to Costco.

Now, that plan is brilliant, but a crazy lot of work. Who has time to run around comparison shopping for staple goods at a dozen different stores? Not me. But what I do have is an internet connection and friends. So, without further ado, I present: the Community Price Book. I’ve created a GoogleDoc spreadsheet for grocery and household items. If you live in my shopping area and want to play, just leave me a comment or e-mail me with the e-mail you want to use and I’ll share it with you. Then we can all add our items as we shop, and anyone with a portable internet or PDA can have the whole index with them at any store.

If you don’t live in my shopping area, please steal this idea and start your own community price book. This is the first thrift tip I’ve run across in awhile that I think can really save me some money, and I’m excited to share it.

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