Tag Archives: save

20 Tips To Stretch Your Dining Dollar

11 Feb

ImageNo such thing as a free lunch? Not so fast. I’ve collected the best tips & links to get you great deals on dining out. 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.

We all have our reasons for dining out, and depending on your motivations and budget, you can save a bundle especially if you combine the tips listed here. But whatever you do, be sure to budget your server’s tip into the bill; being thrifty is acceptable, being cheap is just plain rude.

  1. Time of day
    Lunch is cheaper than dinner. It’s usually a more limited menu & the portions are a bit smaller, but the savings, especially at fine dining establishments, can be significant. You can also go a bit later & take advantage of early bird or happy hour specials.
  2. Day of the week
    Restaurants want to attract diners on low traffic days earlier in the week with attractive specials. Also, many restaurants take deliveries of certain items on specific days of the week, resulting in specials that will give you the best deals & freshest ingredients.
  3. Skip the appetizers
    Depending on where you are dining, items such as soup or salad, is usually included in your meal, which serves as your appetizer. Appetizers at restaurants are often pricy & can actually spoil your appetite unless you split them among diners. If you have your heart set on appetizers, you can pick a restaurant that offers free appetizers with meal purchase. However, this usually can not be combined with any other offer, so the price of the appetizer will be your only savings on the meal. You usually find these with coupon issued for chain restaurants. Another option is to take advantage of free appetizers during happy hours at a neighboring bar or sometimes at the restaurant’s bar. Be sure to use a smartphone app to find the happy hour deal nearest you.
  4.  Skip the drinks
    Beverages have the greatest profit margin for restaurants, even those with free refills, so stick with tap water. If you want alcohol, follow the above suggestion and find a happy hour special near your restaurant. Some restaurants, especially those without a liquor licenses, will allow you bring your own bottle of wine or beer for either free or a small fee.
  5. Skip dessert
    While it’s nice to have a fancy dessert with your dinner, that doesn’t mean you have to have it at the restaurant, especially if you are full from enjoying a nice meal. The mark-up on desserts is ridiculous because they buy them elsewhere. If you want dessert, pick an offer that includes free dessert, or stop at a coffee shop or bakery where you can enjoy a coffee & dessert for far less and the change of venue can spare you the post-meal sleepiness.
  6. Don’t pay for the location
    Remember when you dine at a posh uptown restaurant, you are paying as much for the real estate as you are dinner, since they have higher overhead costs. Modest storefronts, even strip-malls, can house some very fine affordable eats.
  7. Don’t order what you can make at home
    This can be tricky when it comes to dining out with kids, so pick your battles wisely. Chain restaurants tend to use a lot of convenience foods that are the same as what you can buy at the store for far less. However, if you’re kids are picky eaters & the restaurant offers free kids meals, it may be worth it for a family night out.
  8. Order the special
    Restaurants plan their specials around their deliveries, so the special will not only give you the best deal, but also the freshest ingredients.
  9. Order ethnic eats
    True ethnic restaurants, especially in ethnic neighborhoods, tend to have the freshest & most interesting offerings. They are often affiliated with ethnic markets which allow them to buy imported goods for less & they tend to have less overhead, allowing this savings to be passed on to customers. I can get a delicious fresh lunch special at my local ethnic eatery for less than many fast-food value meals!
  10. Pay with the right card
    Many restaurants offer their most generous rewards for paying with their credit card when dining out; use this for more expensive meals, since that will give you the best returns & these restaurants often don’t issue gift cards. Less expensive meals, mainly at chain restaurants, are best paid for with gift cards. As outlined in my post Why You Should Buy Holiday Gift Cards…For Yourself buy your chain restaurant gift cards for as much as 40% off face value.
  11. Coupons & Promo Codes
    Sites like RetailMeNot can help you find the best dining deals near you, however, they are almost exclusively for chain restaurants & often need to be printed out in order to be redeemed, so this not the best method if you are away from home or using a smartphone.
  12. Smartphone apps
    There are a number of smartphone apps that can help you find great deals, especially when you are already out for the evening.
    Scoutmob lets you browse participating restaurants who offer 10% to 50% off, “Return Perk” deals for repeat customers & info on upcoming events in the area.
    Foursquare  lets you “check in” to restaurants in your area via your smartphone to access coupons for the specific merchants nearby.
    Jump Tonight allows you to view upcoming deals a full week in advance.
    Night Out real-time updates about restaurant specials, happy hours, and other promotions in your area with savings of up to 50% off.
    Around Campus enter the name of the school in your area and you’ll instantly see a list of restaurants, bars, and cafes offering vouchers or coupons, for discounts and deals such as free beverages or 50% off on your birthday.
    dealnews browse deals or set up alerts for your deals from your favorite national restaurant coupons as well as aggregated local deals from the likes of Groupon, Living Social, and more.
  13. Group discounts
    Group buying networks such as Groupon and LivingSocial, or even the more traditional restaurant.com help restaurants reach a new audience quickly, which usually means big discounts just to get you in the door.
  14. Membership benefits
    Nearly any group you belong to can be eligible for a group discount, but they need to be negotiated in advance. National organizations like AAA have discounts set up as part of their membership package, while others, like trade unions, often negotiate locally on an as-needed basis. Almost any organization, workplace or club, from fraternal organizations to civic groups, can set up member discounts.
  15. Veteran’s benefits
    Veterans & active service discounts, but best offerings are on Memorial Day & Veteran’s Day.
  16. Show your age
    Birthday Freebies offers vary, some require an accompanying purchase, almost all require advance registration.
    Kids eat free searchable database with locations, maps, and contact info for chain & local restaurants. Usually requires an accompanying adult meal purchase.
    Senior discounts many discounts available to seniors including those as young as age 50.
  17. Mystery shopper
    There are a number of reputable companies such as Bestmark and Goodwin Hospitality , that have diners complete surveys about their meals in exchange for a set fee, which is either equal or greater than the price of the meal.
  18. Write a review
    There are a number of ways to write a review in exchange for dinner, not just blogs or community newspapers, but also customer reviews on apps like Yelp. Receiving a free dinner depends on how you sell your service to the restaurant owners.
  19. Culinary school restaurants
    The best bang-for-your-buck restaurants across the nation are culinary school restaurants. It’s not just nationally know schools like Le Cordon Bleu, but local colleges & even high schools. I can get an entire gourmet meal at my local high school restaurant for less than what I would pay the butcher for the filet mignon.
  20. Package deals
    This is most commonly offered when booking hotels or entertainment via online or local travel agents. Sometimes they are advertised, but if they are not, be sure to ask.

When stretching your dining dollar, be sure to plan ahead & combine offers whenever possible. If you don’t see any offers, it never hurts to ask, and always, always, always, tip your server. Bon appétit!

Advertisements

What Are The Best Things To Buy In January?

4 Jan

Image

Attention shoppers, it’s time once again for the best deals of the month. This is the final installment in the series because apart from some minor alterations, the monthly categories will remain the same from year to year. 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 January:

  • air conditioner
  • bicycle
  • boat
  • Broadway theater tickets
  • business suit
  • calendars
  • carpeting & flooring
  • clothing
  • computer
  • diamond jewelry
  • formal gown
  • furniture
  • gift card (pre-owned)
  • house
  • house paint
  • linens/bedding
  • pool & hot tub
  • perfume
  • TV
  • video games
  • winter coat

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 January:

  • Avocado
  • Broccoli*
  • Cabbage*
  • Cauliflower*
  • Grapefruit*
  • Kale
  • Leeks*
  • Lemons*
  • Oranges*
  • Papaya*
  • Radishes
  • Spinach
  • Tangelos*
  • Tangerines*
  • Turnip

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 March?

1 Mar

ImageSince my post last month on What Are The Best Things To Buy In February got so much traffic, I thought I would try it again for March. 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 March:

  • motorcycle
  • boat
  • furnace
  • frozen food (National Frozen Food Month)
  • snowblower
  • video games
  • electronics (older model clearance, new models released in April)
  • TV (older model clearance, new models released in April)
  • small gardening tools & supplies
  • perfume  (post Valentine)
  • Holiday theme decorations (day after)

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 March:

  • Arugula
  • Asparagus
  • Broccoli*
  • Brussels sprout
  • Collard Greens
  • Endive
  • Guavas
  • Kumquat
  • Lettuce*
  • Mandarins
  • Mangoes*
  • Mint
  • Onion
  • Parsnips
  • Pineapples*
  • Potatoes
  • Rhubarb
  • Strawberries
  • Spinach
  • Tangerines
  • Holiday theme candy, snacks & food (day after)

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.

Aside

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!

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.

FREE Pet Meds!

28 Jun

ImageYou may be aware of free prescription drugs offered at many pharmacies, but did you know your fury family member can also benefit? All you need is a prescription from your vet.

You can also take advantage of competitive pricing on generic and brand name drugs; simply shop around for the best “cash price” the same way you would for your own meds. Do some research online and talk to your vet to determine which human meds would work and if generic would be appropriate.

Some common human drugs for pets include:

  • Anti-depressant/anti-anxiety
  • Acid reducers
  • Seizure
  • Antibiotics
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Pain

Like this post & what to see more like it? Let me know in the comment section or share your own tips. Sign up for free emails and follow me on Twitter & Facebook!

Avoid Surprise Costs on Generic Drugs

26 Jun

Most people do not realize that the same generic drug is not the same price at every pharmacy. Why? Every pharmacy negotiates its own prices with the supplier; so what may cost $5 at one pharmacy, may be $30 at another.

Prices can even differ greatly between different dosages of the same drug at the same pharmacy. It is not unheard of for the doctor to cut your dosage in half, yet your bill is now double! Why? Because pharmacies can get a better price on a more popular dosage since it is a volume discount.

If your insurance offers free generic drugs, especially if you are on Medicare, you don’t have to worry about it, right? Wrong! A pharmacy may charge a cash customer $5 for a specific drug, while it charges and insurance company $50. For your “free” medication, you just got marched toward the “donut hole” 10x faster than if you would have just paid the five bucks! With careful planning, you may be able to reduce or avoid the “donut hole” altogether (but I’ll save that for another post).

So, what do you do about it? Negotiate! With any negotiation, remember the 3Ps: Pleasant, Patient & Prepared. You are not entitled to a discount, so you want to make it easy for them to accommodate you.

Preparation:

  1. Call around and check the internet for the CASH price of your prescription of LOCAL pharmacies.
  2. Ask if the price is different for a different dosage.
  3. Gather needed data: Drug name, dosage and quantity. Competing pharmacy’s name, address, phone number, price quote you got over the phone or print out of price on their website

Negotiation:

  1. Present your evidence to the pharmacist and ask if they are willing to “price match”  the CASH PRICE to the competing pharmacy.
  2. If not, inform (don’t threaten) that you would like to keep them, but may need to change due to financial limitations. If that doesn’t work, transfer your prescription to the new pharmacy. Many pharmacies offer a bonus for switching.
  3. If the dosage is the problem, ask if they will price match to the other dosage or ask your doctor to rewrite the prescription for the new dosage with different instructions, such as cutting the pill in half or taking 2 pills instead of one.

Always get the 90 day supply, since it is almost always cheaper. Take advantage of store reward programs whenever possible.

My favorite? Giant Eagle Pharmacy! They always price match (I usually use Costco as my example) and I get store rewards toward grocery and gasoline discounts!

%d bloggers like this: