Tag Archives: discount

What Are The Best Things To Buy In September?

6 Sep

Image

Attention shoppers, it’s time once again for the best deals of the month. Don’t forget to follow me on Facebook, simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE to receive the best tips daily. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too. Just a quick review before I list this months best buys…

Most bargains follow a predictable pattern:

  • End of the model year (varies depending on product)
  • End of the retail season (ends sooner than calendar season)
  • Holiday sale (usually new, but sometimes older models)
  • Directly after a holiday
  • Off season
  • In season (fresh produce)

The downside includes:

  • Lack of inventory/choices
  • Open box/damage/refurbished
  • Older model/style
  • Unable to use/test until season changes, long past refund date

Remember that a retailer’s season ends much sooner than a calendar season; that’s why you’ll find great deals on winter apparel in January & February, but you will hard pressed to find a winter coat in March when there’s still a foot of snow on the ground. Don’t forget to check out my post 15 Super Tips For Shopping Success to learn how to save even more on online purchases.

So here’s where you can save the most in September:

  • Broadway theater tickets
  • Dishwasher
  • Dehumidifier
  • Electric fans
  • Furnace
  • Ipod/mp3
  • Patio furniture
  • Swimsuits
  • School supplies
  • School uniform
  • Shrubs, trees & bulbs
  • Stoves
  • Swing set/ jungle gym
  • Wine

Since retailers are keen to clear the shelves to make way for Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas merchandise, anything related to summer or back to school will be greatly reduced & disappear quickly, so don’t wait or you will lose out.

When it comes to food, the best deals are to buy in season since there is a greater supply. Obviously holiday themed food bargains are best directly following the holiday, but do not overlook the perishables; starting January 2nd stores practically give away huge pork roasts that never made it to the New Year’s Day dinner table. One disclaimer on the produce; because there is some controversy regarding what is truly “in season” as the USA has very diverse growing patterns and hothouses are often used, I have placed and asterisk next to the items that are generally agreed upon. Here are the best food deals in September:

  • Apples
  • Cherries
  • Curly Kale
  • Eggplant*
  • Grapes*
  • Green beans
  • Kiwi
  • Leeks
  • Lettuce
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Pomegranates
  • Pumpkins*
  • Raspberries
  • Red Onions
  • Spinach
  • Summer squash
  • Sweet corn
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Tomatoes*
  • Zucchini

Often times you can get first rate products for a bargain prices, it just takes a little planning & patience; but don’t wait too long or you may miss out altogether. Want more posts like this? Let me know!

What Are The Best Things To Buy In June?

1 Jun

ImageAttention shoppers, it’s time once again for the best deals of the month. Don’t forget to  follow me on Facebook, simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE to receive the best tips daily. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too. Just a quick review before I list this months best buys…

Most bargains follow a predictable pattern:

  • End of the model year (varies depending on product)
  • End of the retail season (ends sooner than calendar season)
  • Holiday sale (usually new, but sometimes older models)
  • Directly after a holiday
  • Off season
  • In season (fresh produce)

The downside includes:

  • Lack of inventory/choices
  • Open box/damage/refurbished
  • Older model/style
  • Unable to use/test until season changes, long past refund date

Brick and mortar stores clear out first since retail space is at a premium, but many online stores will offer competitive pricing even though their inventory will linger longer. The longer you wait, the lower the price, but you could miss out on finding what you need. Remember that a retailer’s season ends much sooner than a calendar season; that’s why you’ll find great deals on winter apparel in January & February, but you will hard pressed to find a winter coat in March when there’s still a foot of snow on the ground. Don’t forget to check out my post 15 Super Tips For Shopping Success to learn how to save even more on online purchases.

So here’s where you can save the most in June:

  • Tools (Father’s Day sales)
  • Cell phone (Graduation sales)
  • Gym membership (negotiate best deal, summer business is slow)
  • Apartment rentals (highest vacancies & best deals; negotiate too)
  • Picnic/bbq condiments & supplies (store sales & coupons)
  • House paint
  • Antiperspirant (store sales & coupons)
  • Diamond jewelry

When it comes to food, the best deals are to buy in season since there is a greater supply. Obviously holiday themed food bargains are best directly following the holiday, but do not overlook the perishables; starting January 2nd stores practically give away huge pork roasts that never made it to the New Year’s Day dinner table. One disclaimer on the produce; because there is some controversy regarding what is truly “in season” as the USA has very diverse growing patterns and hothouses are often used, I have placed and asterisk next to the items that are generally agreed upon. Here are the best food deals in June:

  • Apricots
  • Beets
  • Blackberries
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cherries*
  • Cucumber
  • Corn*
  • Green beans
  • Lettuce
  • Melon
  • Nectarines
  • Peaches*
  • Plums
  • Potatoes
  • Raspberries
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries
  • Summer squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Watermelon*

Often you can get first rate products for a bargain prices, it just takes a little planning & patience; but don’t wait too long or you may miss out altogether. Want more posts like this? Let me know!

Does Size Really Matter? Understanding Product Downsizing & Unit Pricing

29 Dec

ImageDoes size really matter? Yes, yes it does. Rather than raise prices, or raise them too much, manufactures have been downsizing products. I never remember this being so obvious as it has been since the economic downturn began in 2008. The most clumsy example is toilet paper. Manufacturers claim it is now thicker, and true the girth has increased, but did they not think we would notice the 2 inches they lopped off the width now exposing our unattractive toilet paper spindle for the world to see? Here’s a link to more of the most commonly downsized products.

Remember back in the 1970’s when the US government tried to switch us over from English Standard Measure to the Metric System like the rest of the world, citizens were up in arms fearing they would get cheated in their purchases and it would in turn decrease sales? The only ones who embraced it were the gun manufactures and drug dealers (including the pharmaceutical industry), yeah, really put them out of business, didn’t it?

So how do you spot a downsized product?

  • New & improved. New size for sure, improved profit for them, but any benefit to the consumer is negligible. Remember the “thicker” (but shorter) toilet paper example?
  • New package design. On the surface it just may seem they just want to update their image, au contraire mon frere! It is just a way to camouflage the size change by distracting you with shiny new toys. You can get great deals on products in the older packaging at deep discount stores because not only are they priced less, you get the larger size.
  • Sold at a dollar store. Believe it or not, manufactures create different size packages for different stores, the dollar store is just the most obvious. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as long as you understand you are being charged less for less. Empty nesters, students, and anyone who has limit space or needs a small amount, welcome the idea of smaller sizes that save space and limit waste of unused portions.
  • Snack size. If you buy a box of individually bagged Cheetos, guess what? You are paying for your own laziness and extra packaging. If you can’t take the time to portion out food, whether it’s for kids lunches or your new diet, you are going to pay for the privilege of someone doing it for you and giving you less in the process.

More stealthy tactics to beware.

  • Unit price. While unit price info available at the store is a good place to start, it is better if YOU choose the unit you want to measure. Why? Not all states have mandate unit price, only grocery stores are required to post not other stores that sell food, the unit chosen for a product varies depending on the store. Depending on the store or the items, the same product may be priced by liquid measure, dry measure, English Standard, Metric, or the number of individual items in package. The size of the unit used for comparison is arbitrary as well. I find it easiest to convert to the smallest size available, usually an ounce, and let that be my unit price for comparison. Click this link to learn more about unit pricing.
  • Size shaving. It used to be that we used standardized containers, many of them reused continuously, now we have disposable packaging. Remember how the milkman used to deliver and pick up the glass milk bottles? Now imagine if the dairy was constantly changing the sizes of their containers, it would cost them a small fortune, that’s why they had the standard gallon, quart, and pint. Disposable packaging makes it very easy to deceive the consumer. Without standard one-pound containers, consumers don’t notice when they downsize from 15oz to 14oz or 10.9oz, because there was no real point of reference to begin with.
  • Same size package, less content. This one irked me the most. The package size is the same, but there’s less stuff: same size package of plastic wrap, but less on the roll; same size box of cereal, but more air and less cereal. Sometimes they add more packaging as filler like increasing the girth of the toilet paper tube to make it look like its still the same thickness, or stick deodorant that decreased the size product chamber inside the tube.
  • Changing package shape. If you lop off the corners, you’re going to get less, that’s just a fact. And while some of these new slick packages may be pretty, getting cheated out of your hard earned cash is not. Another way they do this is to keep the size of “the face” and decrease what lies beneath. You see this a lot with box products; the front of the package has the same width so it seems the same when you see it on the grocery store shelf, but when you grab the box you notice it’s skinnier.

So what did we learn today class? Disposable packaging makes it easier to cheat consumers, the Metric System would make it easier to comparison shop, only pre-packaged food is affected, and some tips to use to protect you as a consumer since the first two issues are not changing any time soon.

Good news readers, you can now follow me on Facebook! Simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too.

Why You Should Buy Holiday Gift Cards…For Yourself

19 Dec

ImageTraditionally, gift cards have not been the value for your dollar; sure, they seem slightly less tacky than throwing some cash in a card, but you can only redeem them for face-value (less if you resell) and they usually languish in a kitchen drawer until they expire.

Things have changed a lot this year, especially with the holidays approaching. Why? The lagging economy, of course. Both online and brick & mortar retailers want to insure sales stay strong by offering great deals on gift card purchase that are well above and beyond the face value. And it’s not just on traditional merchandise; you can save on everything from phone cards to spa services, fast food to car washes. Another reason is because people have had their credit cards cancelled or reduced due to financial hardships, like foreclosures. Gift cards now have a lot of credit card abilities, like paying for online purchases and you can even swipe them at the gas pump. If you go to the same restaurant for lunch a couple times a week, why pay cash when you can save big by paying with a gift card instead?

Here’s some ways you can cash in:

  • Cash back credit cards. Most credit cards that offer cash back have highest rewards for grocery store purchases (usually 3-5%) vs. a paltry 1% on general purchases, so buy your gift cards for all your needs at the grocery store.
  • Customer reward programs. Although stores offering their own gift cards may also have store customer rewards that you can take advantage of, your best bet is still the gasoline discounts when purchasing gift cards at the grocery store, with or without a cash back credit card.
  • Retailer promotions. Many retailers are offering some very generous bonuses if you purchase their cards. Sites like Pocket Your Dollars shows you where to purchase these cards so you can take advantage of the special savings. Remember, many of these cards are used for purchases you make every day, so why pay cash when you can get a discount?
  • Third party vendors. Stores like Costco offer one-stop-shopping for all your gift card needs and you can purchase them online. Some are sold for face value, but many contain the same holiday bonuses you find at the retailers website.
  • Resale card vendors. You can save as much as 35% off the gift card’s remaining balance by buying partially used gift cards from sites like Giftcards.com.
  • Promo codes. If you’ve read my post “15  Super Tips For Shopping Savings Success”,  you know to get additional savings by using promo codes when you redeem your gift cards, but what you may not realize is you can also use promo codes to purchase your gift cards.

Don’t forget to combine offers whenever possible when purchasing gift cards, and use promo codes when redeeming your gift cards for added savings. Play your cards right and gift cards can practically pay for themselves, but you had better hurry before these holiday offers end.

Good news readers, you can now follow me on Facebook! Simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too.

Tips To Avoid The Pain At The Pump

9 Dec

ImageWe are spoiled in this country; really, really, really spoiled. Most of us were raised with Cold War superhighways and the attitude that we are entitled to car ownership, sometimes many times over, without a thought to the consequences to our health or the health of the planet. Even our kids are far too bougie to ride the school bus, instead insisting on be chauffeured around in home theaters on wheels. We don’t seem to mind all the hard earned tax dollars spent on subsidies, or that poor families are disproportionately deployed to fight wars in the Middle East to protect oil company profits, or that our pristine public lands are being destroyed while these companies can take our oil then sell it back to us; yet when gas prices go up we scream and cry as if someone were extracting one of our kidneys sans anesthesia.

So what can you do? You follow tips to reduce your gasoline consumption, maybe even bought a fuel efficient car, now its time to explore gasoline discounts.

  1. Price finding apps. My favorite free app available for both PC and smartphone is Gas Buddy, which can not only help you comparison shop, but you can earn free gas cards for reporting changes in gas prices.
  2. Credit card cash back. Credit cards can offer attractive cash back programs for gas purchases as well as other types of purchases. Compare credit card cash back programs including fees to determine which the best option for you is.
  3. Grocery store gas discounts. Many grocery stores offer discounts on their affiliated gas stations based on accumulated grocery purchases.  In my area, Giant Eagle Fuel Perks offers additional gas discounts on the purchase of selected grocery items. If you shop at these stores anyway, this is a good deal especially since buying gift cards are counted as grocery purchases.
  4. Gas station customer reward card.You earn points towards gas discounts, although they don’t seem to be as popular.
  5. Discount gas cards. You purchase these cards at a discount store the same as you would any other gift card, but they offer an automatic discount at the pump. These are harder to find but in my area you can find Speedway cards at Marc’s which offers a $.10 per gallon discount without having to make any additional purchases.

You can increase your savings by combining these methods. Remember if you have to make additional purchases to qualify, pay additional fees, or have to drive out of your way for a discount, it is no longer a bargain.

Personally I would love if gas prices were based on how much you conserve so people who wasted less would get charged less and people who are gas hogs would pay a higher price since it seems that would be the only hope of changing their wasteful ways; but that would be too much like right…

Good news readers, you can now follow me on Facebook! Simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too.

No Frills Wills & Costco Coffins; 10 Tips To Make Your Dirt Nap Dirt Cheap

27 Oct

ImageIt’s Halloween, that time of year when we celebrate all things dead, but when it comes to planning our own final exit we turn into complete scaredy cats. Most of us leave it to a surviving relative and hope there’s enough insurance money to cover it; but is that really fair? During the recent economic downturn many people who had life insurance polices had to cash them in because they could not afford their premium or needed the money to keep the family out of the homeless shelter.

Another factor fueling this change is the Green Funeral Movement; after all, it does not make sense for someone who has been eco-friendly and thrifty in life to spend an obscene amount of money on a funeral including pumping the body full of toxins then dumping it into Mother Earth. Most of these alternative practices also allow for a more intimate experience of the persons passing and a true celebration of their life.

For the best FREE resources for understanding all your options from A-Z as well as the legalities, I highly recommended The Funeral Site and Final Passages.They also have some really creative ideas for customizing your passing, whether you want to be buried at sea or go out with a bang as part of a fireworks display…seriously!

Here are 10 great money saving ideas for your final exit strategy:

  1. No-frills wills. My relatives are notorious for not having wills and it always ends in the deceased wishes not being followed, one relative absconding with the valuables, and another getting stuck with the bills. Wills are great insurance against a family style Michael Vick dogfight. Free legal forms are available online,many courtesy of your local library. You can get it notarized for free at your bank. There are also online services that will run you about $20 for a simple will.
  2. Preplan, not prepay. When you do your research and plan well in advance you make better choices and save money. Don’t tie your money up prepaying funeral expenses, but do preplan and make sure you share your written plans with responsible family members or friends. Shop around and ask funeral homes for their itemized price list to better understand mandatory and optional services, making sure you understand hidden costs. This will give you’re a roadmap for how to plan your funeral, even if you decide not to involve a funeral home in the process. The only exception to the prepay rule is if it is part of a Medicare spend down since it is exempt as an asset.
  3. Funding the funeral. While life insurance and Social Security benefits are the most obvious, remember to explore any organizations, clubs or employers you have been involved with over your lifetime, such as Veteran benefits, trade union benefits, employer benefits, and fraternal or social organizations benefits. Depending on the manor of death, you may get funds from home, auto or travel insurance, even credit cards!
  4. Viewing & services. Home funerals are becoming very popular again. When my grandfather died, he was laid out in a casket in the living room allowing our family to have the viewing, wake and post-funeral potluck reception all at the house. Embalming is not required by law especially if the body is buried within 48 hours, but it helps to crank up the A/C where the body is kept. The undertaker was only involved in transporting the body to the church and cemetery. Many churches also provide one-stop shopping for viewing, services and reception for a nominal fee to members.
  5. Alternatives to burial. By forgoing a traditional burial, you can usually save at least $7,000, by eliminating the need for embalming, casket, transportation, burial plot and headstone. You can save all funeral expenses by simply donating your body to science and your family can still receive your cremated remains free of charge; contact your local medical college for details. Most states, with the exception of California, permit burial at sea. Cremation is the most popular alternative, but unfortunately pyres, including Viking Funerals, are illegal in the US due to the lower incineration temperature.
  6. Green burial. As previously stated, embalming is not required by law, neither are caskets or vaults/grave liners. Green caskets can be cardboard, wicker, wood or other biodegradable materials for a fraction of the cost. You can skip the casket altogether and opt solely for a shroud. Although the law does not require vaults for ground burial, your cemetery might, so check your contract. While there is no federal or state law prohibiting burial on private property, aka your backyard, nearly every local government has ordinances prohibiting it.
  7. Casket costs. Buying a casket has never been easier and most include free shipping; Costco, Wal-Mart, eBay, and Overstock.com, just to name a few. Same is true of grave markers and other funeral supplies. Don’t forget to use the promo code for additional discounts like I taught you in my  15 Tips For Shopping Savings Success” post. If you are opting for cremation, you can simply rent for the viewing. Since there are no laws governing caskets, you can build your own any way your want for a fraction of the cost. You can also put more than one person in a casket, even if they did not die at the same time. In my family, young children and babies are often added to the buried casket of a previously deceased family member.
  8. Plot savings. With people needing money due to the economic downturn and families becoming more transient, you can save a bundle by buying an unused plot from the owner on Criagslist or eBay rather than from the cemetery. Suburban cemeteries cost less than urban areas, since after all, it is real estate. My family has at least two caskets stacked in each grave since our cemetery does not expressly prohibit it.
  9. Omit the obit. Unless you live in a small town and it’s always a slow news day, you will have to pay for an obituary in the newspaper; usually $100 per inch and $100 for a tiny photo. You can eliminate the cost by approaching the paper to run it as a human interest story, especially if you are planning something alternative. Another option is to use free social media including setting up a Facebook page where mourners can be contacted, get updates, and post tributes.
  10. Other savings ideas. Have a friend drive the family to the cemetery rather than rent a limousine and decline the traffic escort. Have a potluck style reception including donation of dinnerware and utensils. Ask musician friends to provide the music. Bury the deceased in their favorite clothing, not new expensive clothes.

Just because you spent a fortune on a funeral doesn’t mean you were loved most, it just means you overpaid. So before you go on permanent vacation, take the time to plan your bon voyage party.

Good news readers, you can now follow me on Facebook! Simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too.

Great Deals On Barber, Salon & Spa Services

8 Oct

ImageWhen the budget is tight we often skimp on maintenance, which includes our personal appearance. While it may sound like vanity to be well groomed when you have replaced the Sunday roast with Hamburger Helper, it is actually an investment. We all know the saying about “looking the part”, and it is very true whether you are angling for a promotion or want to negotiate a better deal on that apartment rental, not to mention the affect it has on your self esteem. So before you break out the Flowbee, I’ve got a few options you might find a bit more attractive.

So what’s the big secret?

Schools! Students can provide you with high quality services for a fraction of the price; everything from haircuts to massage. These students are far from amateurs, not only do they have to complete numerous requirements before they can work on clients, but many have already been working in the field but lacked the license. I’ve had a number of “students” who were only in school because they had moved from another state and need a new license. Students generally are much more passionate about their work since they are at the beginning of their career, and are very knowledgeable of the latest techniques and styles. The instructors are constantly monitoring them and always do a final check to make sure the work was done to properly and to your liking. I have had a range of services and have never had a problem, and I have very difficult hair to work with.

So how do you find a good school?

Start by asking your friends and acquaintances, including on Facebook. Check out the reviews on Yelp. You can also do a Google search for “barber college” “cosmetology school” “beauty school” “vocational school”, depending on your need, and add your ZIP code for the closest location. Check out their website, give them a call and ask questions, then visit and ask to see the faculties. You want to get a feel for their professionalism, pricing, and range of services. Ask if they run specials or have coupons. Most do not make appointments or allow children, so it is best to ask to verify. We have two schools 10 minutes apart; my friend prefers the one that is more posh and higher priced, while I’m very pleased with the less expensive one in the more modest setting. Both are very professional and get very good reviews, it’s really just a matter of preference.

So what’s the catch?

Time is the main consideration, especially since most do not make appointments. They usually have more limited hours than a regular shop. Since they are students and need to have their work checked, it takes longer for the service to be completed. For example, I get a $30 haircut & style for $6.50, but instead of 20 min it is usually about an hour from sign in to final inspection. I had a $75 facial for $20 with no wait time, since it was a less popular service. While you can sometimes request the same student, it is never guaranteed. Even if they allow kids, believe me, you do not want to bring them. Kids cannot sit still that long and you don’t save that much compared to a Best Cuts type salon. The greatest savings are on women’s services. Since students are not paid, be sure to tip them well.

With a little research and patience, you can look like a million bucks for a fraction of the price!

Good news readers, you can now follow me on Facebook! Simply visit Real Penny Wise and click LIKE. Be sure to SHARE with your friends too.

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