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Tag Archives: Savings

Think You Know the Cheapest Grocery Store- Think Again

There are certain things in life I just assume: the sky is blue, Grandma’s food is safe to eat, and Wal-Mart is the cheapest place to buy groceries. Last week my assumptions have been shaken to the core. No, my grandmother didn’t poison me, and the sky didn’t turn neon green; I found out that Wal-Mart might not have the lowest prices when it comes to groceries! All these year of thinking I’m saving money could be lies. A group in my supply chain management class did a study on pricing and grocery stores (only in Reno). As you would expect, most of the people in my class (including me) assumed Wal-Mart would be the cheapest. Once their presentation was over they did the big reveal, and their findings suggested that Safeway was the cheapest grocery store in our area. Some of the stores they compared were: Riley’s, Wal-Mart, Safeway, Costco, Whole Foods, and a local Co-Op. They got their results by making a large shopping list and going around to each of the stores to figure out how much money the groceries would cost when buying comparable items.

My first instinct was that they’re full of it. I’ve shopped at Safeway and Wal-Mart, and I truly believed Wal-Mart was cheaper (which is why most poor college kinds shop at Wal-Mart). I could see a lot of room for error in their calculations. I had no idea if the brands they bought were the same ones that I usually get. I brushed it off. They were wrong. The next class period I overheard everyone talking, and apparently an article came out in some big newspaper that reinforces their findings: Wal-Mart isn’t the cheapest grocery store. I’ve looked everywhere, but I can’t find the article (if you have seen this article please let me know where it is). I’m choosing to believe my classmates, because I doubt they plotted against me to change where I buy my groceries. I’m wondering to myself, how can this be? Have I been brain-washed by Wal-Mart? Please tell me I’m not putting up with their terrible crowds and lighting for nothing! Main goal has been to save money by finding the cheapest groceries, and I might have failed! 

I’ll probably continue to shop at Wal-Mart because I swear it’s cheaper, but there must be some truth to their findings. Maybe it’s time for me to do some research of my own (I do need to go grocery shopping today). I may have been making a huge personal finance mistake by assuming that Wal-Mart’s atmosphere is terrible so their prices must be the lowest. Have you done your research on where to buy your groceries? What did you find?

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Personal Finance Mistakes- Watch and Learn

When the markets crashed in 2008 it changed a lot of people’s lives. For most, money was tight. People that were once making $100,000 a year selling luxury items were now cleaning toilets at their local McDonalds. At that point a paradigm shift started to occur in our society, and families everywhere started to pull their purse strings closed. They needed to re-evaluate their personal finances and save money. Unfortunately for them, they didn’t know anything about personal finances or being frugal. The door was left wide open for them to make mistakes when they thought they were making sound financial decisions. Luckily for us, we can use their mistakes as examples so we don’t have to make them ourselves.

Mistake 1: Using coupons they didn’t need- When the recession started to occur it became apparent that most of us needed to save money. Companies also saw this so they flooded us with coupons. It became so big that we even have TV shows about (extreme) couponing. Using a coupon is wonderful if it’s used to purchase something you really need. One dollar off a loaf of bread, I’ll take it!  The problem occurs when we use coupons to purchase items that we don’t need. Spending $10 dollars on a 30 pound bag of pop rocks might sounds like a great deal, but what the heck are you going to do with a mountain of pop rocks? That example’s ridiculous, but it happens to me all the time. I’ll think about buying something because I have a coupon even though I don’t really need it. Just because I’m getting a good deal for that product doesn’t mean it’s helping my checkbook!

Mistake 2: Making decisions based on emotions- We can all get emotional when it comes to our finances, and that’s why it’s important to keep an open mind. When the economy was collapsing everyone was trying to protect themselves in any way they could. People were selling all their investments and personal belongings. Others were taking money out of their retirement funds to try and save belongings they really couldn’t afford. Whichever way they were going, a lot of those decisions were rushed. Since 2008 I’ve talked to quite a few people that made rushed decisions and almost all of them regret their actions. Take the investments for example; a lot of them would have rebounded to where they were in 2007, but when people sold them on a whim they sealed their fate of a net loss. I know hindsight is 20/20, but I remember wishing I had money to invest when the markets were crashing. I would have bought B of A. If only…

Mistake 3: Not discussing financial goals- As I mentioned above, after the financial collapse families started to cut back on their spending. From what I’ve seen, most families have one person that deals with most of their finances. That can be a very effective method for money management. If someone is more knowledgeable in personal finance it’s good to let them take the reins. The problem occurs when this person leads their family in a direction that everyone hasn’t agreed on. Having common financial goals is the key to household success, and if you never take the time to set-up these goals you’ll run into trouble. Say, hypothetically, I thought it was important to save money for a family vacation. I mean this whole recession talk has really got me down, and I just want to lie on a beach sipping margaritas. My girlfriend, on the other hand, thinks it’s really important to save money so she can be a stay at home mom. To her, nothing’s more important than spending time with our future children. If I’m the one in charge of our checkbook, but I don’t have a clear understanding of what we both want, I am more likely to take our family in the wrong direction. Once she figures out what’s going on (they always do) we will have major issues. This was a silly example, but when you plug vacation in with keeping your house and trade staying home with the children with paying off student loans it becomes very serious.

 I think most of us read blogs so we can learn a thing or two. The mistakes above were just a few things I’ve noticed since the financial turmoil in 2008. Please share any mistakes you’ve noticed people making since then. If we can all share our observations we might actually be able to help someone!

        

   

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Make Budgeting Easier- Use Financial Software

I’m a late starter when it comes to using personal finance software. I’ve always viewed it as a boring spreadsheet that I could make myself in Excel if I really wanted to. Boy was I wrong! I was lucky enough to receive Quicken as gift yesterday. I had heard great things about it from family members so I was eager to get it installed. After starting the registration process, I realized that it was able to link directly to my bank account. I was very happy with this because I really didn’t want to enter everything manually. Once everything was in sync (not the boy band), I received a ton of information. It was definitely an eye opener! I don’t understand why there are so many blogs written about how to keep track of your personal finances when software like Quicken exists. Those blogs should all be titled “Buy Personal Finance Budgeting Software if You Want to Make Your Life Easier”. I suppose there is a lot to be said for someone that can do it by hand, but who has time for that nowadays?

I’ve only had the program for a day, but here are some good/bad things I’ve noticed so far:

Good:

            It syncs to your bank account which saves time: I was blown away by this. It gives you an automatic starting point. If you did this by hand you would either have to wait a month to get the new information, or you would have to dig through all your old bank records.

            It automatically sorts your expenses: My expenses showed up in a nice, color coded pie chart.

            If you set spending goals for yourself they are easy to follow: They just show up on the front page. Apparently I’m already ¾ the way to my monthly goal on food.

            It seems to be user friendly: So far I haven’t had any issues with it. It only took me 15 minutes to set up.

Bad:

          Some of the expense sorting is inaccurate: When I bought food at Wal-Mart it went into the shopping category instead of the food category. I guess you can’t expect it to know everything right off the bat.

          You can’t pay bills from it (that I know of): Quicken has you list all your expenses, but it didn’t offer me an option to pay them. It seems like that would be a huge time saver.

          I don’t know how to sync other billing information to it: For example, when I entered my Charter monthly billing expense I had to mark that it changed monthly. I think it would be helpful if Quicken could sync to my Charter account to know what my bill will be. This might be possible, but it wasn’t apparent to me.

What software like Quicken shows is that budgeting doesn’t have to be difficult. The information it has given me is so valuable. I’m pretty sure my copy was purchased from Ebay for $30, which is a great deal. I’m sure there are other useful things Quicken 2011 can do. If you know of any, please share!

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Easiest Way to Save Money- Just Ask

Recently I’ve been seeing a lot of examples of the power of asking for something. My girlfriend’s father loves the quote, “The answer is always no unless you ask.” I can admit that I’m very introverted when it comes to this topic. For whatever reason, I don’t like to ask people I don’t know questions, and I frequently assume the answer will be no, and I know I’m not alone in this. I would even go as far to say that most people hold themselves back by assuming the answer will be no. This is such a huge mistake! There is a lot of power in asking people for something. I think this is true because the majority of people won’t ask. If 100 people want something, but only 10 ask for it, the 10 that asked will receive whatever they wanted before the other 90.

 I was recently reading a blog post (which I can no longer find) where the woman swears she gets discounts just by asking for them. What a neat thought. I would have never had the guts to just ask for a discount. I would just assume that if they wanted to give a discount they would have already attached a huge 10% off sticker to the item. I never ask about special discounts so I never receive them. There was another guy I saw on TV that tries to completely avoid spending money. Instead of using cash, he tries to barter with companies. Now I can’t see myself doing this very often, but he has great success with it! He’ll write you a poem for a doughnut, or pick up trash for a meal. Most of us won’t go out and do these things, but if companies are willing to trade a song and dance for their product I guarantee they’ll give a small discount.

 Why don’t most people (myself included) like to ask for things? I think it’s because it makes us uncomfortable. I personally feel dumb when I ask for something and the person tells me NO. We as a society don’t like to be told NO so we avoid it all together. Depending on the situation, there are different techniques you can try to change a NO into a YES:

1) The Power of Reciprocation- Do you get something for free? Give it away as a gift in the hopes that it will benefit you in the long run. When I worked in a restaurant, I would have definitely given a customer free drinks or an appetizer if they gave me a gift. The urge to reciprocate is very commanding.

 2) Talk Yourself Up- Companies are constantly giving influential people free things to help market their business. If you can persuade these people that you can help them they will most likely want to make you happy. I’m not saying go out and lie to people or scam them. All I’m saying is that if you’re at a book store, and you want a discount, you might be able to mention that it’s your turn to pick the book for your book club. You have 25 other people that would buy that book, but your book club rules state you can only spend $15 on a book and the one you want is $20. It’s worth a shot!

3) Don’t Ask for Too Much- Asking for a 10% discount might not be a big deal, but demanding 50% off is pushing it. If you asked your boss for a raise you would probably have more success asking for a $1/hr instead of $10/hr. Just keep it reasonable.

4) Give a Valid Explanation- Most people like to deal with reason. If something makes sense it’s hard to say no. If you want to purchase something that is a little damaged ask for a discount. I love the items that have exterior damage but work perfectly. They are always worth asking about.

 It’s time for me to get over my fear of the word NO. Please share any successes/failures you’ve had by asking a simple question. I think that hearing examples of how you saved money would help me with my fear.

 
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Posted by on April 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Help Your Financial Success- Prevent Unnecessary Purchases

We had a great guest speaker last night, Laura Zander (Owner of Jimmy Beans Wool), in my personal branding class. She gave us the low-down on how she started her company. Even though the class is based around social media, she spoke on many topics. I think she’s particularly amazing because she has grown Jimmy Beans Wool from nothing into a +6 million dollar company within 10 years with no business education. As I listened to her story, it became apparent to me that a lot of her success is due to frugality. She gave an example that the table they use in the back of their store is one her husband bought from a garage sale when they first opened. They use this table to write on, and while it might not look the best, it still serves its purpose. Why would they buy a new one while this one’s still standing? There is no doubt in my mind that this mentality (along with other personality traits) is why Jimmy Beans Wool is as successful as they are.

Anyone reading this post is probably fairly good at practicing frugality, but I think we can all use some reminders every now and again. If Laura can own a successful yarn company and stay frugal, so can we. It amazes to me how many people have good paying jobs, but they have no savings. My friends are always telling me about the next cool thing they are going to buy, but (from an outsider looking in) I can tell it’s probably not the smartest thing for them to do. Here is my question to you: When is it appropriate to help (give advice to) your friends on their purchasing habits and to what extent? I’ve felt like slapping a few of them across the back of their heads when they tell me what they’ve bought. I know everyone’s different, but there is no way they can think buying a project car is a good idea when you can barely pay your bills. The easiest thing to do would be to do nothing at all, but it’s hard to sit back and watch people you care about make terrible financial mistakes. I’ve tried explaining personal finance management to them, but it rarely changes their minds. We all want our friends and family to make smart financial choices, but how do we force them to do so when I know we can’t.

When the topic of smart purchases is talked about, most people start thinking about big purchases like a new car or a house, but I think it’s harder to manage your micro purchases. If you’re going to buy a house (hopefully) you’ll spend a lot of time researching it so you can make a smart, informed decision. On the other hand, when you go to the grocery store how many times have you added items to your cart that you didn’t plan on buying? Dealing with micro purchases is definitely one of my weaknesses. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gone to the store for a few things and ended up with a whole cart full. None of the items were things I needed. I just wanted them at the time (which is why grocery shopping while being hungry is bad!). After doing the math, these small items add up. People always talk about the importance of a shopping list. While I think they have value, I think it’s more important to be able to use self-control while you shop. You can pick up extra items every time you leave the house (stopping by Starbucks, or buying a candy bar at the gas station) and you won’t always have a list. Being able to tell yourself no is a crucial part of having a successful financial future.

There are tons of examples of the importance of frugality, but what’s the best way to stop these unnecessary purchases? Here are a few things I do (this isn’t expert advice by any means, just a few things I’ve found that have helped me):

1)      Turn on your blinders: When I go shopping I try to already know exactly what I’m going to buy. This way I don’t need to look around (less temptation) the store. I’ll walk right up to the sales person and ask them where the item is. I especially use my blinders at the cash register. I try my hardest to focus on the cashier so I don’t see the delicious candy bars sitting right next to me!

2)      Limit the time you have to shop: I like to go shopping when I only have a limited amount of time. One way I like to do this is go shopping before I have an appointment. If I only have an hour to shop and return home to drop the stuff off, you bet I’ll stick to the list. Another creative idea (if you have a dog) is to not take them potty before you leave to go shopping. This way you’ll be in a hurry to return home, because no one likes to clean up accidents!

3)      Make Yourself Feel Guilty: Before I buy something, I like to think about all the bills I have to pay. I find that the guilt I feel for buying things I don’t need will usually prevent me from making the purchase.

4)      Take away the excuses: One of the reasons we used to eat out a lot was because I could justify it by not having food at home. We used to wait until we had eaten everything before going grocery shopping. I’ve found we eat out less if we go grocery shopping more often. We still buy the same amount of food over the month, but we just make sure we are stocked up. I no longer have my favorite excuse to eat out.

Do you have any advice on preventing unnecessary purchases?

 
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Posted by on April 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Research, Pets, and Personal Finance- How Are They All Relevant?

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Almost a year ago my girlfriend and I decided to buy a puppy. We were on the fence for a long time about whether or not it would be a good idea. There were just so many things to consider: Did we have enough time for a puppy? Did we have the money to support a puppy? Do we really want to give up sleep to take care of a puppy? In the end, we decided just to run out and get one.  I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Sure it can be rough at times, but once you get used to the lack of sleep, and spending all your free time at the dog park, it’s actually really fun. The thing that worried me the most about the whole situation was paying for its medical supplies. What happens if he gets sick and we can’t afford the vet bill? Luckily for us we’ve only had to take him to the vet a few times, but there has to be a way to save money when your pet gets sick. When we got his shots we went through a clinic (which was way cheaper). They only do it once a month, but if you can time it right it works out perfectly.

I still haven’t been able to find a way to get cheap vet visits. Maybe someone out there has an answer for me. The first time we took him to the vet it was just a checkup. He ended up prescribing us some heart worm tablets to give our puppy. They were $60 for 6 months worth. I didn’t think that was too expensive, but all the costs of a puppy definitely add up. Once we ran out of the pills I wasn’t sure about how to get them again. Sure I could have gone back to the vet, but I was worried they would charge a $50 checkup fee. I didn’t want to pay a fee when my puppy was perfectly healthy so I decided to look them up online (and I’m glad I did). I went to 1800petmeds.com and found the same pills for half the price! I was skeptical at first. Wouldn’t it be hard to buy prescribed medications online? As it turns out it’s really easy.  I just needed to enter hits veterinary’s information, and they call them to get the new prescription.  The tablets were delivered to me a few days later (I did pay a $3 shipping fee).

I just find it interesting how much money we can save if we just put a little time and effort into researching something before we buy it. I’ve always liked to just run out and buy something as soon as I needed/wanted it. I’m starting to think that’s not the way purchases should be made. I had no idea I could save money on pet medication, but I did. It makes me wonder how many other things I’ve bought without knowing I could get a better deal. I think we can all save a lot of money with just a little bit of research. I know I don’t want to be the person that pays full price for everything, do you? 

 
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Posted by on March 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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3 Reasons You Should Celebrate Holidays Late

Ever since I was 15 I’ve worked in a restaurant. It is a great job for students trying to get through school. It allows you to work for a few hours, and then leave with a substantial amount of cash. The thing that has always really bugged me about working in a restaurant is having to work holidays. While everyone else is spending time with their families, I had to work. After a few years of this I became numb to the holiday spirit. This reminds me of my grandfather’s birthday. Every year when his birthday would come around he’d say, “when you get to my age it’s just another day.” At the time I didn’t understand it, but I think he was right. Every day is just another day, and we have the option of what we want to do (or celebrate) on that particular day. After working more and more holidays, I decided that just because most people celebrated that holiday on a particular day didn’t, mean I can’t enjoy it on a different one. After trying this a few times I decided it’s actually better to go this route.

1) Holiday Items are 50% Off: This year my girlfriend and I celebrated Valentine’s day on February 15th. I waited until the day after V-day to go shopping for her gifts. Normally I wouldn’t want to buy her the normal cheesy gifts because I would feel like I was getting ripped off,  but this year I was able to buy her a lot of presents because they were all on sale. If you wait to buy holiday themed gifts until after the holiday, you’ll normally get at least 50% off. Who doesn’t like a good sale?

2) Going Out = Better Service: I’ve always been amazed with how many people actually go out and eat on a holiday. When I was growing up, we always had big family events that involved a home cooked meal. I guess some people just don’t like to cook. If you’re going to celebrate a holiday by eating out, go the day before or after. Every holiday I’ve worked has been a cram fest (how many people can we cram into this room without them complaining). Even if you have a reservation you’ll end up having to wait for a table. Once you finally get sat, your chance of having a problem with your food is higher due to the amount of orders coming out of the kitchen. Also, it’s a lot harder to get the proper amount of attention from your  server because they are busy. You’ll have a better dining experience if you don’t dine out on holidays. Also, if you have a family tradition that involves going out in public (like going to the movies), it will always be crowded on holidays. Increase your odds of having a pleasant experience by celebrating your holidays a little earlier or later.

3) Coupons/Discounts Aren’t Valid– Because of the poor economy, many establishments are giving out a ton of coupons and discounts. Most of these bargains won’t be valid on holidays (or any other busy day). If you plan your entertainment around these days you’ll be able to save money.

I think it’s important to remember that the best part of the holidays is spending time with the people you love. Working in a restaurant has shown me that it really doesn’t matter if it’s celebrated on the actual holiday or the next week. So why not try to save a little money and make your activities, whatever they may be, a little better.      

 
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Posted by on March 18, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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