For many people, decorating the Christmas tree is a favorite part of the holiday. The National Safety Council (with a few I added for good measure) offers some safety tips to make sure a mishap doesn’t spoil your holiday season.Read More
What? How can there be after-holiday sales now? Quite simple, my Frugal Friends: Halloween has become one of America’s biggest spending holidays which means that retailers load up on all sorts of Halloween merchandise that goes well beyond costumes for the wee ones. The merchandise extends throughout the store and if you shop smartly this week, you are likely to snag great deals on all sorts of items that will help you be better prepared, more organized, stock your pantry and have money left in your pocket!Read More
The pumpkins are being carved and right next to the row of Halloween costumes are Christmas ornaments! Yes, it is that time of the year when budgets, bodies and emotions can all come crashing down from the weight of Holiday-mania! Preparing ahead (a recurring theme here), a bit of planning and a good dose of self-control can yield a holiday season with more happy memories than post-holiday mania. Try these time, energy, emotion and money saving tips this year!Read More
We’ve all heard it–have a 30-day supply of cash on hand in liquid assets, six months of expenses in the bank or investments and a retirement account. Then, save for the extras and emergencies of life–new appliances, emergency repairs, vacations, cars, a bigger home. Why a 30-day cushion of cash? Investments are great and can form the foundation of a life long financial plan. But, most investments are not ‘liquid’ and their value (as we have recently seen) can vary drastically. Investments are for future planning, while your 30-day cushion is for immediate needs should your income be drastically reduced or even disappear. The average period of unemployment is 30 to 90 days, though that window is growing. Unemployment payments will not completely make up your lost salary and may not start for several weeks. That interim period of no income does not mean that your daily expenses stop.Read More
No matter what your income level, stretching your hard earned dollars is a wise move. Why spend more than you need to? Smart spenders know that there are bargains everywhere. Small savings quickly add up to large numbers of dollars that YOU get to KEEP! Think of it as a game, a hunt for the best price on everything you buy. And the trophy? More money in YOUR bank account!
Many of these topics are covered in depth under their own heading in other articles, but here is a quick review of basic things we all spend money on:
Price comparison and Price Matching: Many retailers will match the advertised price on items. You can save yourself time, gas and money by pre-shopping the weekly sales flyers for items you wish to purchase. Consolidate your list and see if one store carries all of the items. Simply take the flyers from multiple retailers into one location, head for customer service with your chosen items and ask for a price adjustment.
Online shopping & comparisons. The internet provides all of us a portal to quick and painless price comparisons. Most grocery stores and major retailers post their weekly flyers on their website. Many will give you the option of being notified via email when a new flyer is available. If you find an online price cheaper than the brick and mortar store, ask that they match the price. If they can’t, many will order the item for you at the internet price and have it shipped to the store for free. Also, be certain to ‘google’ any item you are shopping for. Check all of the results for the best price. If you call the supplier directly, you may be able to get an even better price! There are price comparison search engines, but these do not always give the broadest possible results. Also remember that many of the results at the top of ‘google’ or the side bar results are sponsored links–the company has paid to have the top spot so these may not be the best deal.
Out of stock? When a store is out of stock on a sale item, ask if they could possibly substitute another item. Many will offer you the next higher priced product at the sale price. And do NOT forget to ask for a raincheck. You can then wait to purchase the item (up to the expiration of the raincheck) at the sale price.
Gas guzzling your wallet? Of course, you will consolidate your errands and keep your car maintained so that you get the best gas mileage. Before you go out to fill up your tank, use one of the many online gas comparison sites such as www.gaspricewatch.com. Some local radio stations are offering a similar service. Do remember though that driving too far out of your way to save a few pennies at the pump is most likely costing you money.
Insurance. Periodically review your insurance coverage and cost on your home, health and auto. Everyone needs insurance, but a quick call to your agent or competitors may save you BIG. If you find a quote cheaper than you are currently paying and are happy with your insurance company, ask them if they can meet the competitor’s price. Also, update your insurance if you add safety features to your home such as an alarm system or enhanced fire detection system. These can reduce your premiums. Be certain to read the fine print on any policy so that you know what you are covered for! Definitely avoid unknown or little known companies. There are LOTS of insurance frauds out there. Don’t forget to accept the offers from banks and credit unions for free small life or disability insurance. Don’t feel pressured to ‘add to’ these policies, but accept the freebies. Keep a copy of the ID card, policy info, etc in your ‘What If’ Notebook.
Cars. Whether buying or selling, check your emotions at the door. People that buy cars emotionally are prone to overpay and over-regret later. A little bit of research ahead of time can save you BIG! Do some online research into cost guides such as edmunds.com (though many of the prices listed do not account for economic downturns, markets glutted, etc) for the average cost of the car you are looking for. Research recalls, maintenance costs AND insurance costs as you decide which vehicle to buy. Compare warranties–what they cover and for how long. Once you have decided between one or more possible cars, search online for ‘internet pricing’ from dealers in your area. NEVER, NEVER, EVER fall victim to the common scam of ‘the car is in Portugal or another state, but in pristine condition….send me cash and I’ll send you the car’. Everyday, people fall victim to this one! Don’t buy a car you can’t drive where you want to (within reason) and have checked by a mechanic you trust. If looking for a new car (usually an unwise step), at least see if you can’t get a fleet or ‘direct’ price via the wholesale department. Be certain that any warranty information you given is in writing and matches what the salesman tells you. Research is your friend–use it wisely!
Watch That Cashier! We all make mistakes and so do automated cash registers!! Researchers believe that a good percentage of cash registers are not accurately portraying sales and clearance prices. The average consumer is over-charged thousands of dollars in a lifetime. When you pick up clearance items, double check the price. At the register, be certain you can see the price being rung up. If it is incorrect, notify the cashier. Also remember that most grocery stores will give you the item free if it rings up incorrectly. Before you leave the store, at least glance over your receipt. If you notice a discrepancy, head straight to customer service.
Eating Out/Calling In. If you eat out or enjoy carry out food, always watch for coupons. For those that dine out a great deal, consider investing in an ‘Entertainment Book’, which is full of buy one/get one free coupons. Before calling in an order for delivery or carry out, check online for internet specials or printable coupons. When you place an order on the phone for delivery or carry out, ask about specials. When you see a coupon, cut it out and stick it in your Entertainment Book or on the frig. Don’t forget, too, about early bird specials, happy hour specials and other ‘special’ times at your favorite restaurants.
Clearance Zones. Learn where your favorite retailers place their ‘clearance zones’. Nearly every major retailer has a set mark down timetable and area they place items marked down. As you go through the store, zip past these areas and keep your eyes peeled for bargains. For instance, Target uses end caps at the opposite end of aisles from the ‘main aisle’. Items with a price ending in a ’4′ are usually at the end of the mark down cycle and will not be marked down further. At Sam’s Club, an item with a price ending in a ’1′ is usually at the end of the cycle. Also look for end of season items drastically reduced–especially items that can be utilized for other purposes. For instance, I pick up Christmas gift sets at 90% off that contain flashlights, mini tool kits, pasta and other food items. At Sam’s, they cleared out ‘holiday’ pasta packaged in Rubbermaid canisters. The canisters normally retail for about $6 each and contained 8 pounds of pasta. Worth about $8. My cost? $3.01. My savings? $10.99. Post-holiday sales are also a great place to stock up on plastic totes. Check Target after Halloween and you may pick up orange totes for 90% off.
As you go about your daily life, incorporate the concept of wise spending and watch the savings add up!!Read More