Tag Archives: money

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!

What Are The Best Things To Buy In April?

9 Apr

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

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 April:

  • athletic shoes
  • small appliances
  • vacuum cleaner (last year’s models)
  • cookware
  • electronics (last year’s models)
  • TV (last year’s models)
  • small gardening tools & supplies

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 April:

  • Artichoke*
  • Asparagus*
  • Apple
  • Banana
  • Beets
  • Blueberries
  • Broccoli*
  • Cabbage
  • Cucumbers
  • Fava Beans
  • Figs
  • Grapes
  • Lettuce*
  • Mangoes*
  • Pineapples*
  • Quince
  • Rhubarb*
  • Scallions
  • Spring peas*
  • Strawberries
  • Watermelon
  • 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!

Reasons & Recipes To Make The Lowly Legume Your New BFF

18 Feb

ImageFunny sounding name, don’t you think? It always got more than a few snickers in grade school as our teacher robotically recited the food groups as part of the state mandated curriculum. We never really knew what it meant; in fact if you ask most adults, they are equally ignorant. Turns out one of every kids favorite dishes, baked beans, is actually the mysterious legume.

Fast forward to the Northeast Blackout of 2003, when the power-grid went down plunging several states and Canadian provinces into darkness for days, taking other utilities and gas stations down with it. Like many, I was sent home early from work and soon found myself at the local supermarket. Anything refrigerated or frozen had been sealed off from the panicked shoppers; a 30ish woman was running up and down the aisles wailing repeatedly “what will I feed my children?” At first I though she was a total idiot but then it occurred to me, she was of a generation that was raised on prepackaged processed microwavable food and she had no clue about nutrition, meal preparation or real food. Truth be told, other than canned tuna or peanut butter, I was at a bit of loss on how I would get protein in the uncertain days or weeks ahead. That’s when I rediscovered legumes.

Turns out legumes are a major component of everything from the hummus in your pita to the refried beans in your burrito, but there is a whole world of legumes out there. For those of you who wish to get your protein from places other than the fatty toxic mix of pesticides, growth hormones and antibiotics infused meat of stressed-out diseased animals from factory farms; legumes provide a wonderful alternative. Legumes are also a great source of essential vitamins, minerals, cholesterol lowering fiber and slowly digestible carbohydrates, which are especially important if you are diabetic or at risk. See nutritional chart.

While legumes are available fresh, most people use the canned or dried form for convenience. Canned legumes have a shelf life of about 5 years & are packed in liquid, which make them the preferred staple for an emergency pantry when fresh water may not be available due to extreme weather conditions. Dried legumes are the least expensive, and are best for storage since they are less bulky and have a 10 year shelf life, while lacking the sodium, preservatives & chemicals used in the packaging of the canned variety. The best prices on dried legumes are usually found at Indian grocers. Dried legumes need to soak overnight and usually cooked for an hour; see cooking chart.

RECIPES

If you or your family is new to legumes, you may want to start out slowly. Here are some easy tasty recipes, one for each legume, that include something for everyone: dip, salad, crunchy snack, soup, side dish and main dish. Enjoy!

Make legumes your new BFF, and you will be trilled at how much it trims from your grocery bill as well as your waistline.

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.

Are You Cleaning Your Floors With Dollar Bills? Great Swiffer® Alternatives!

10 Feb

ImageSwiffer®  style dry & wet mops are a great improvement over previous mop styles for cleaning most flooring, but they have their drawbacks too. Don’t throw them out just yet, I’ve got some great inexpensive, health & eco-friendly alternatives, including recipes, you can use with your existing Swiffer® equipment that you are going to love!

I first saw this style about 20 years ago on one of my trips overseas, and I though it was the greatest thing ever. At the time, sponge head roller mops were the height of technology in the US; awkward to wring and impossible to clean & dry the heads properly, not to mention the expensive replacement costs. When I first saw a Swiffer®  about 10 years ago, I ran right out and bought one, only to discover they did not have a removable cloth, but rather a chemical soaked one-use disposable pad!

My friend ran the mop over her floors every evening then just tossed the cloth in with the rest of the wash since there were no chemicals. I, on the other hand, was reduced to cleaning the floors just once a week since I had to use a different pad for each area & the cost really added up fast. You’re not really cleaning, since you are not rinsing, you are just spreading chemicals around on your floor, which then gets tracked all over your house and furniture. Can you imagine the harm you are exposing your kids & pets to as they lay on the floor and put things in their mouths?!

In fact, it is estimated that each year, US & Canadian consumers spend $800 million on cleaning wipes! If all types of disposable wipes consumed annually in North America were loaded into trucks, they will fill 9,000 18-wheel semis, stretching 68 miles! Worst of all most wipes are not biodegradable because of the synthetic fibers, not to mention impregnated with harmful chemicals that pollute our water supply & soil, and currently account for about 22% of landfill waste. See the problem?

So what’s the alternative?

First of all, you will be glad to know you can keep your Swiffer®  equipment. Since they have the pinch style attachment, you can tuck any of these refill suggestions and most are also the exact same size (you can always trim if you need to). You can find multi-packs of all the following items at your local dollar store so you do not have to buy the name brand.

swiffer alternatives dry

Dry/dust mop. Package of 16 Swiffer®  dry cloth refills will run you about $5; for $1 you can get the following generic versions at the dollar store.

  • 10 pack of disposable dry cloth refills. For the times you have to use disposables, like cleaning up after pest fumigation.
  • Handiwipes ®. Usually 6-pack; these are great especially if you need to apply a spray polish & need a flat cleaning head. You can use this as a disposable or hand-wash these.
  • Microfiber cloths. Usually 2-pack; these are best for grabbing dust bunnies & pet hair. You can rub it together to ball & remove most pet hair before tossing it the wash.

swiffer alternatives wet

Wet mop. Depending on the type you buy, a 12 pack Swiffer®  wet refills can set you back about $7. Again, we go to the dollar store to find everything needed.

  • Disposable wet refill. Depending which dollar store, you can usually find these 6-10 per pack. Again, these are for times when you  may be cleaning up something more harmful than the pads themselves.
  • Handiwipes ®. Usually 6-pack; these are usually best for washing tall windows or applying coating to a no-wax floor. Depending on the situation, you can either hand-wash or dispose after using.
  • Microfiber cloths. Usually 2-pack; these are best for almost all situation since you can use either the smooth or napped side. Just throw in the wash afterward.
  • Microfiber dishcloth. This cloth has a napped side which can be flipped over to the  nylon mesh on the back side when you need to scrub. You can throw this in washer, but hang-dry because of the mesh.

swiffer alternatives liquid

Cleaning liquid recipes. In lieu of pads soaked in chemicals or the 42oz cleaning fluid refill that runs about $7, you will be using a spray bottle from the dollar store with a homemade cleaning solution, depending on the surface. CAUTION: NEVER reuse the reservoir or cleaning fluid bottle! This can cause damage to body & property due to fumes, explosion & fire when chemical residue mixes with even natural products! Spray the floor in front of you & mop as you walk backwards. Use a free kitty litter bucket for your rinse water, since it the right size & shape, allowing you to squeeze excess water out by pressing it against the inside wall above the waterline. If you don’t have one, ask the people you know or post a request on Freecycle. Here are some great recipes using simple, inexpensive, & eco-friendly common pantry items.

So stop using dollar bills to clean your floors & use the method that is best for your flooring, health, wallet, and the planet. You’ll be so happy with the results you’ll wonder why you didn’t start sooner!

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.

What Are The Best Things To Buy In February?

1 Feb

ImageGood 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. Now back to the blog…

With the inevitable Valentine’s Day and Presidents’ Day sales looming large on the horizon, it got me to wondering if there is really a best time to buy something or if the sales are all hype; turns out, there is. In this post I’m going to give you a few general tips, then list the specifics for this month.

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. You’ll notice diamonds/jewelry are not on the list; this is because men notoriously wait till the last minute and do not comparison shop, so the retail industry is poised to cash in on this.

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

  • TV & home theater (Super Bowl sales)
  • Cell phone (Valentine’s Day Sale, usually BOGO)
  • Winter coat/boots/clothing
  • Camera
  • Computer
  • Video games (Xmas releases)
  • Valentine theme food, products & gifts (day after)
  • Calendars
  • House/condo
  • Motorcycle
  • Boat
  • Broadway theater tickets

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. In February you want to check out the Super Bowl themed foods that never made it to the party, as well as Surf & Turf the morning after Valentine’s Day. 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 February:

  • Tangelo
  • Grapefruit*
  • Orange*
  • Papaya*
  • Lemon*
  • Broccoli*
  • Cauliflower*
  • Cabbage
  • Peas
  • Chicory
  • Celeriac
  • Asparagus
  • Rhubarb
  • Holiday theme candy & snacks (day after)
  • Super Bowl theme perishables (day after)
  • Surf & Turf (day after Valentine’s Day)

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.

Get Fit For Less

9 Jan

Image

It’s the most popular New Year’s resolution, “get fit”, and it would have been yours had it not been for lack of coin. Well put aside your excuses, because I have a solution for every budget, interest, and ability, whether you are looking to get fit, loose weight, or just be healthier. There is also plenty of variety to keep you from getting bored and quitting. So squeeze into your spandex, lace up your tennies and let’s hit the ground running…after our warm-up stretches, of course.

  1. Free at the Library. You may know the library has no shortage of the latest health & fitness magazines, diet cookbooks, yoga DVDs, and workout music, but did you also know they have free classes? Check all your local public libraries for offerings since you are not limited to your city of residence as long as you have a valid library card.
  2. Free diet and fitness apps. There is no shortage of free apps to help keep you on motivated and on track.
  3. Free fitness videos. If you would rather see videos online, try sites like YouTube for clips on specific exercises or Hulu for full length routines.
  4. Free & cheap equipment. Whether you are looking for a treadmill, yoga ball, exercise DVD, skis, or  Wii Fit accessories, you are sure to find something free or cheap on sites like Freecycle, Craigslist, Ebay, and even Amazon. Some things are used, some new; I got new stuff free via Freecycle and used stuff cheap on Amazon, so you just have to look and ask. Craigslist lets you barter or swap. Make sure you check for recalled items, beware of shipping fees, and know the return policy. If you need to check out an item in person before buying, there are plenty of fitness resale shops.
  5. Parks & rec. This one is by far my favorite for the quality, value & variety! It is not only at the city level, but also area, state & national park systems.They offer a variety of all season, all age, all ability programs that are free or affordable priced including equipment rental. This is where you usually find sports leagues and other community activities. Most have fitness centers that rival or exceed any commercial gym or spa, complete with instructors. So whether you want to shoot hoops, learn bellydancing or how to snowshoe, there’s plenty to keep you from getting stuck in a fitness rut.
  6. Free groups. These are usually more informal. They can be anything from groups of individuals that like to go hiking with their dogs at the state park, to mall walkers, to bowlers. If you can’t find a group that fits your needs, make your own. You can find these groups on sites like MeetUp and Craigslist, but also check your local bulletin boards at your college, church or apartment complex. At my one job, we organized yoga at lunchtime, which was really popular. At another job we had a walking club. Don’t forget to use free support groups, which is not only a great place to get ideas and support to stay on track, but also meet people you can ask to join you in your exercise activities.
  7. Drop in. You can find this drop in option not only at fitness centers, but also studios for yoga, dance, and martial arts to name a few. Some let you try for free, while others charge you a pay per use free. Beware of anything that says “trial” since that means you have to cancel in order for them to stop taking from your credit or checking account, and depending on the contract, its not always as easy as it seems.
  8. Use your connections. Members can usually bring guests for free or cheap to fitness centers, city rec centers, even condo association facilities, so buddy up with one of your friends that is already a member. If you are an alum, you can usually get a great deal on use of the athletic complex if you still live near your alma mater.
  9. Alternative settings. Like city rec centers, these settings are usually much cheaper than commercial gyms. Churches have jumped on the fitness bandwagon, and while they may have been the setting for support groups for years, fitness centers are relatively new. Some owned gyms already through their affiliation with private school or ethnic social clubs. Some are open to the public, while others serve members only. Schools, especially universities are opening their fitness center doors to non students.
  10. Use your benefits. Did you know your employer or health insurance provider may offer free or discounted gym memberships? Good health is just good business. You can use your Health Savings Account as an eligible expense if you have a letter from your doctor, and most of us have at least some boarderline condition that would qualify.
  11. Gym Discounts. If you have decided to join a commercial fitness center, you may as well save some money. You can find discounts, promo codes and coupons on sites like Retail Me Not, Groupon, and Living Social. If you comparison shop, you can go with the best price, or ask your favorite gym to match it. When they offer you all the tempting extras and add-ons, just say “no”. And finally, don’t pass up the “pretty person discount”. Gyms have a lot of wiggle room when it comes to pricing, pretty, fit, and young members act as free marketing for them. People come to gyms for the hook-up as much as the workout, so if you’ve got it, work it to your advantage.

So get off the sofa and get moving; you’re starting to make the cat look like an overachiever.

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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.

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