A great irony of Black Friday is that average prices begin escalating during a period when sales hit new annual lows. A good way to counteract this trend is through cutting costs down on goods you purchase on a regular basis. The key is in tracking prices using monitoring software and buying in bulk.
I’ve written before about handling specific purchases and tracking rebates using spreadsheets. This article covers how you might use spreadsheets, IFTTT, and Yahoo Pipes to track consumable items that you use on a regular basis. This method provides instantaneous notifications whenever an item you’re looking for shows up online.
How I Save Money on Consumables
I recently made a list of some consumables that I use in a month. I then calculated the amount that I pay per unit and entered this into a Google Drive spreadsheet. Then for each item on my spreadsheet, I enter its name as a keyword into a Yahoo Pipes filter, outputting the information as an RSS feed. Yahoo Pipes will filter that particular stream of data so that only relevant terms are sent into your feed reader or inbox.
Using Yahoo Pipes isn’t required. There are a number of filtering software that can provide the same function, with less complexity. I’ve written an article on the various tools that can filter RSS feeds. However, Yahoo Pipes can do a great deal more and anyone serious about customizing RSS feeds should familiarize themselves with it. Furthermore, with Pipes, you can use IFTTT to receive either text messages or email alerts, whenever that particular key term shows up in your feed.
To get started, first create an itemized list of all your monthly consumables. For me, this included some of the following:
- Colgate Toothpaste
- Fluoride Rinse
- Protein Powder
- Omega 3 Fish Oil
- Curry Powder
Creating a spreadsheet allows us to track the per-unit price of each item on sale, as well as keep track of items that we’ve chosen to purchase through subscription, which Amazon discounts further. Again, whether or not you get a good deal on something hinges entirely on the per unit price. Also, we want to keep in mind where we’re purchasing items from.
Next, I gathered two of the best sources for finding deals online: Slickdeals and FatWallet. Their RSS feeds are as follows:
- Slickdeals: Slickdeal’s RSS feed selection includes Front Page and hotdeals.
- FatWallet: FatWallet’s RSS selection is far more diverse and useful than Slickdeals’. It includes local brick-and-mortar sales in addition to sales from the Internet.
After that, copy and paste these RSS feeds into Yahoo Pipes. I’ve already assembled a prefiltered Pipe that you only need to enter your key terms into. You’ll need to sign up for an account with Yahoo, if you don’t have one.
Then go into Yahoo Pipes and add the key terms that you are looking for. For example, if you want a specific brand of toothpaste, write the keyterms “Colgate” and “toothpaste”.
If you find that the results are overly broad, add a restricting term into the pipe. It will narrow the number of results coming into your inbox. For example, I eliminate Woot entirely, as such references refer to deals that disappear by the time I get around to them. To eliminate a term just change “Contains” to “Does not contain”.
Then output this as an RSS feed.
So now that you’ve got a Pipe’s RSS feed, you can do several different things with it. This feed can plug into any feed reader, such as the excellent Feedly, or IFTTT if you want to receive text or email notifications. Setting it up doesn’t take much effort. Just follow these instructions to create your own IFTTT recipe, choosing the RSS icon as your THIS trigger and email (or SMS) as your THAT output.
IFTTT will prompt you for an RSS feed. It will monitor this feed for updates, emailing or SMSing you whenever a new item appears in its feed. Now take the Yahoo Pipes RSS link, mentioned under “Yahoo Pipes” and insert this into IFTTT.
After getting the deals, I then make sure to mark the per unit price that I’ve received.
For those of you who haven’t heard of it, Feedly is among the best (if not the actual best) RSS reader available for general consumers. You can check out our unofficial Feedly manual or for the initiated, read about various Feedly hacks and extensions.
You can automate your monthly consumables and save both time and money. The process requires both Yahoo Pipes and IFTTT and about half an hour of your time to set up. But after that, you will gain access to a system that can save you time and money each month, with very little effort on your part.
Does anyone else use Yahoo Pipes or IFTTT to save money? Please share with us your secrets in the comments.
Image Credits: Money via Morguefile