If you’ve been paying attention when you shop over the last few months, you might have noticed that when it comes to some items on your list, the product size is shrinking but prices aren’t. It’s called shrinkflation, and it’s related to inflation.
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Shrinkflation is one of the ways companies adapt when costs rise and they have to pay more to manufacture their products and get them on store shelves. How do they do it? They pass the cost on to the consumer.
Paper towels and toilet paper are two products that commonly get downsized, according to consumer advocate Edgar Dworsky on his site mouseprint.org. Other products Dworsky noted that have shrunk in size recently are cereal, dry dog food and tissues. But that’s not all. There are plenty more products on store shelves that are shrinking in value.
Money’s tight and times are hard, but you don’t have to take it lying down, so to speak. Here are seven ways to fight back against shrinkflation.
“Often generics are a better deal anyway, and these days many are just as good as their name-brand counterparts, if not better,” said consumer analyst Julie Ramhold with DealNews. “By opting to purchase store brands rather than name brands, you’ll likely get a better deal overall and can battle shrinkflation by making swaps for items you aren’t too picky about.”
Check the Unit Price
“One of the easiest ways to avoid shrinkflation is to pay attention to the unit price,” said Ramhold. “Unfortunately, you need to have an idea, in many cases, of what the product was like before shrinkflation — that’s the easiest way to tell if the package you’re looking at really is smaller while being the same price or if the packaging has just changed.”
If you don’t know if the product actually is smaller, Rebecca Gramuglia, consumer expert at TopCashback.com, said to compare the cost per unit with the cost per unit of a similar item (same size or quantity) to make sure you’re getting the most for your money.
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Buy in Bulk (Sometimes)
“Some items will be better purchases if you buy them in bulk,” Ramhold said. “The thing to remember is that it’ll only be worth it if you have the room to store excess product, or if you can split the supply (and cost) with a friend or family member. Before purchasing, make sure it’s as good of a deal as it seems and check the unit price. As long as that checks out, this is a good way to avoid shrinkflation.”
Consider Other Sizes
“If you have particular brands that you’re set on, it may be worth looking for other sizes of the same product,” Ramhold said. “For instance, companies don’t necessarily adjust all of their packaging for a product at once, so you may be able to buy a bigger or even smaller package and get a better value rather than reaching for the same size you normally do.”
“While manufacturers may dictate package size and suggested retail pricing, by shopping around at other stores you may find a better deal elsewhere,” said Ramhold. “Be sure to check other grocery stores as well as big-box stores like Target to see if someone other than your regular grocery store has a better price.”
Wait for Sales
“Make sure you’re shopping what’s on sale,” said savings expert Lisa Thompson of Coupons.com. “Let’s say your favorite brand of toothpaste just shrank the size of the tube you usually buy. You don’t have to switch just yet. Watch for it to go on sale, either in-store or online and also find a cashback offer that you can pair with that sale. If you can pair sales with getting cash back on your purchase, you’re getting a deal — and be sure to stock up! Once a brand shrinks a size or quantity, that will typically become the norm. They rarely reverse it.”
Use Cashback Apps When You Shop
“Always, always use a cashback app when you shop,” Thompson said. “It’s like free money. For example, the Coupons.com app has cashback offers for everything from cereal to personal care and beauty products to pet food. You just tap the offers, buy your items, show a picture of your receipt and boom — the cash back shows up in your PayPal, and you can transfer it right to your bank account.”
She added, “Use an app like this one regularly, and you could have a nice little balance of $40-50 at the end of the month, which you can then apply to next month’s grocery budget and fight against both shrinkflation and inflation.”
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