Entertainment, Health and Lifestyle

Don’t Rely on the Unit Price Alone to Get the Best Deal

As prices continue to climb while incomes continue to lag, if there’s one thing we know how to do it’s how to comparison shop, right? We don’t look so much at the price of an item but rather its per ounce, per pound or other per unit of measure so we can compare one brand against the next to identify which is the better deal.

But that method of price comparison doesn’t always work. Take the following four examples.


Some varieties are concentrated. That makes it difficult to compare Dawn Ultra Concentrated Liquid at 21 cents per ounce, with Gain Dishwashing Liquid at 7 cents per ounce. Dawn does not give any instructions that we can use to factor in this theoretical advantage. Does “ultra concentrated” mean I can use two-thirds less product to achieve a good result? If so, Dawn would be a toss-up to the Gain. But that’s only a guess.


If you’ve never been stumped with this, maybe you haven’t wondered how to get the best deal. For sure it cannot be weight, since a three-ply product is going to weigh more than a one-ply but could have the same number of squares. And you may have noticed these days that some brands have increased the size of the inner cardboard tube, making it appear that a roll of tissue may be of competitive size, while in truth it has much less product. So, we can’t go on the size of the roll.

Even counting the number of “squares” on a roll doesn’t solve the problem since some brands have reduced the size of a square, considerably. The only reasonable method is to compare ply for ply and compute the total area in square inches. Sounds daunting, I know, but it’s not really. Just take a deep breath, pretend that you’re back in fifth grade, and you’ll get the right answer.


This is similar to the toilet tissue quandary but stems from the fact that some towels are full-size, while other brands offer the select-a-size method. This precludes comparing by the number of towels on a roll. Instead, figure out the square feet in a roll.


Like liquid dishwashing soap, laundry detergents come in varying concentrations. This precludes comparing ounce for ounce. A better method is to compare the number of loads the detergent promises. But do not trust that big number on the front of the container. Check the fine print. The printed information refers to the smallest load! You need to adjust accordingly if you have a large capacity washer.

I am not suggesting that you should always go with the cheapest product you can find. But when you have a choice between two that are right for you, why not make sure you are getting the very best deal?

By the way, when I discovered that I could get only half the number of loads from a container of laundry detergent for my particular washer, I switched to making it myself. My homemade detergent is far superior to the commercial product I had been using. And the cost? I went from nearly 35 cents to less than 10 cents per load. Nothing on stores shelves that I know compares to that.

I have prepared my homemade laundry detergent recipes with photo tutorials for you — both liquid and powdered options — and you can find them at EverydayCheapskate.com/laundry-detergent. Enjoy the savings!

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Mary Hunt

Mary invites you to visit her at EverydayCheapskate.com, where this column is archived complete with links and resources for all recommended products and services. Mary invites questions and comments at https://www.everydaycheapskate.com/contact/, "Ask Mary." Tips can be submitted at tips.everydaycheapskate.com/ . This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of EverydayCheapskate.com, a frugal living blog, and the author of the book "Debt-Proof Living."

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