Tag Archives: finance

What Are The Best Things To Buy In August?

3 Aug



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

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 August:

  • Computer (back to school sales)
  • gym membership (negotiated)
  • sandals & flip flops
  • diamond jewelry
  • ipod/mp3 (older model)
  • wine
  • swing set/ jungle gym

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 August:

  • Apricots
  • Blueberries
  • Cantaloupes*
  • Cucumber*
  • Eggplant*
  • Figs
  • Green beans*
  • Kiwi
  • Lettuce
  • Peaches*
  • Pears
  • Plums
  • Raspberries*
  • Strawberries
  • Summer squash*
  • Sweet corn*
  • Tomatoes*
  • Watermelons*

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!


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.


15 Super Tips For Shopping Savings Success

20 Oct

ImageManaging the household budget is a career in itself, so reducing expenses while supplying groceries, health & beauty supplies, cleaning products and other household consumables takes a degree of skill and planning. Fear not, stalwart reader! The good news is that we are creatures of habit with predictable buying preferences, so with a bit of guidance and minor behavior modification you will be shocked at how much you can save.

  1. Take inventory. Know what you have in stock in order to prepare the shopping list and avoid unnecessary purchases. Keep your cupboards organized so you can see your inventory at a glance.
  2. Always use a shopping list. Even though we are creatures of habit, you still need to write it down and take it with you. Get your family into the habit of adding items to the list as items run low or run out. Keep the list posted in a central location, like the refrigerator. Plan your family menu and base your list on it. If your kid complains about dinner, show them how to add suggestions to the menu and the shopping list; make them part of the process. Be sure to double check your cupboard inventory and update the list as needed.
  3. Shop the season & the supply. If you want cherries in February you will pay more since they are usually shipped from South America. If there is a drought that dives up the price of beef, you need to look at other forms of protein that are not affected, like wild caught fish. Much depends on the law of supply and demand, transportation costs, and short shelf life.
  4. Buy from the source, or as close as possible. Packaging, transportation and storage figure largely into prices, so buying directly cuts down greatly on these costs. Farmer’s markets have great deals on produce. I usually make my purchases about a half hour before closing to get the best deals. Buying from a butcher will get you the best deal on the best quality meat. When purchasing perishables especially, you need to determine what is best for your situation based on family size, storage capacity, and the amount of income your can commit to a single purchase.
  5. Know the price. For items you buy often, you usually know when the price goes up and which store sells for less. It is important that you understand cost per unit, since packaging for the exact same item can vary depending on the store. Pay close attention to items labeled “new & improved” which usually means that the packaging was changed and you are actually getting less for the same price. For items purchased less frequently or don’t go on sale, I document item, price, size and store in the same mini spiral notepad I use for my shopping list that I keep in my coupon wallet. Shop Savvy is a great free smartphone app that lets you compare prices from various stores.
  6. Buy store brands. Store brands and lesser brands can save money, but there are some things you will need to consider. You will have to do some trial and error to see if the product will perform as well as the brand you currently use; if it doesn’t do the job or your family doesn’t like it, you are just wasting your money. You also need to factor in sale price and coupons, which may make your favorite brand as cheap or cheaper than the generic version.
  7. Buy in bulk. This is not the best strategy for everyone, but if you have a large family it may benefit you to tie up your money in inventory so you do not have to run to the store as often spending more time and gas. I have rarely seen a lower price per unit by buying in bulk than you can get for the same item on sale at your local store, especially when you factor in store reward programs and being able to use multiple coupons on multiple packages. You can see greatest bulk buying savings at the butcher if you have the capacity to buy and store the various cuts of a half or an entire animal.
  8. Shop the ads. Buy when the items on you list go on sale at the store, and in the amount you will need until the next sale. Stores usually run the best deals on an item every 3mos, lesser discounts can occur monthly; meaning an item might be $1 off every 3 mos. but $.50 off in the interim. Grocery and discount stores usually have the same items on sale at the same time, rather than staggered. Coupons from stores and manufactures are often issued at the same time to coincide with the sales. Sign up for free updates and previews on your store’s website and Facebook page.
  9. Use coupons. While coupons from the newspaper and junk mail are helpful, you can save time and get the exact coupons you need by using online resources. Coupon Sherpa is a great free smartphone app that lets you search for general grocery coupons or a specific store. Coupons.com , SmartSource.com and RedPlum.com are great websites for printable coupons. Don’t forget to “like” your favorite products on Facebook to receive coupons and other promotions. Be sure to use both store and manufacturer’s coupons for the same item when available. Many grocery stores will double the face value of your coupons, check they store website for restrictions such as amount or days.
  10. Use credit card rewards. Chose a credit card that offers a high percentage of cash back on grocery purchases. Of course, this is only helpful if you pay off your bill each month.
  11. Use store rewards. By using store rewards, you can often save not only on the purchase but accumulate additional discounts. My favorite is Giant Eagle Fuel Perks which offers $.10 off per gallon of gas for every $50 spent, but also offers additional points on certain sale items each week, allowing the savings to add up quickly.
  12. Buy gift cards. Gift cards bought at the grocery store will qualify for credit card grocery cash back and grocery store reward points, and can be used at the store or online. Buy gift cards for shopping you would have to do anyway and don’t qualify for credit card cash back or the percentage is lower than that is offered for groceries.
  13. Leave the kids (and the guilt) at home. You are less likely to stray from your list if you don’t have those cute little faces pleading for treats or taking the time away from completing your mission quickly.
  14. Don’t take a cart if you only need a basket. Your stuff expands to fill your space, whether it’s a home, car or shopping cart; take the smallest container possible for the items on your list.
  15. Bundle your errands. Time is money (especially if you are paying a sitter) and gas is not cheap. Since you will probably go to more than one type of store to do your entire household shopping due to price, preference or availability, you do not want to waste time or travel resources making separate trips. Take your coupon wallet and list with you when you leave they house, like your do your keys and phone, and work your shopping into your other errands based on location, time, and items. Perishables, chemicals or bulky items that do not fit in the trunk are best purchased on the way home.

Don’t be reluctant to delegate some of these tasks to your spouse and children; they consume products and need to own part of the process. They need to understand that if they prefer certain items, they need to find a way to make it happen and your job is to show them. Don’t whine about “having to do it all” if you are not willing to delegate. If your child wants a special cereal or shampoo, have them add it to the list and show them how to find the ads and coupons; otherwise you buy whatever is on sale that week and they can use their allowance money for special preference purchases. You are teaching them about setting priorities and taking responsibility, and fostering healthy attitudes toward money that will serve them well in life.

Got a great money saving shopping tip? Tell us about it!

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How Living In A Wealthy Suburb Increases Your Car Insurance Rates

2 Sep

ImageSurprised? I was too. When we downsized from a Nouveau Riche suburb of McMansions with meticulously landscaped Chemlawns to an Inner-Ring Suburb with a Frontporch Culture of modest homes and mature trees, our car insurance rates actually went down by a couple hundred dollars a year.

After I got over my initial shock, I called my insurance agent to make sure it was not a misprint. Although many factors influence car insurance rates, I found out the main culprit is that people in affluent neighborhoods simply file more insurance claims, thus driving up prices for everyone in the area. The other main reason is that no matter where the incident takes place, both the site and the residence become part of the statistics. Below are some other common reasons for the increase:

Affluent ZIP Codes

  • More expensive cars; more expensive to fix
  • Multiple cars
  • Kids drive & often given a car; all the reckless inexperienced behavior & bad judgment that goes with that
  • NIMBY; translating into longer commutes to workplace
  • Shopping malls; whether it’s actually crime or a Lexus getting into a fender bender with a Jaguar in the parking lot
  • Chauffeuring children; rather than using school or public transportation

Modest ZIP Codes

  • Less expensive cars; less to repair
  • File less claims; usually know someone who can fix it, or not a priority to fix
  • Better access to public transportation especially to city jobs; avoids accidents, tickets & break-ins
  • Walkable neighborhoods & bicycle friendly; access to stores, parks, schools, church, etc

If you’re making at least six-figure, you’re not reading this blog anyway so you don’t care that you are filling the coffers of the insurance industry because they’re probably in your financial portfolio, but if you are a hard working middle class American who is fiscally prudent these are definitely points for you to consider.

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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