How to Save

Retail Therapy Can Be Expensive

Posted on Sunday, October 18th, 2015 at 11:21 pm
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Young girl with gift bag. Isolated.Have you ever engaged in retail therapy? Technically, it isn’t really therapy, but can feel very therapeutic anyway. The thing to be aware of is how often you do some retail therapy and how much you are spending. Unchecked, retail therapy can become very expensive.

What is retail therapy?
Retail therapy is a phrase that people use when they set out to do some shopping in order to improve their mood, or to feel better about themselves. Some see retail therapy as “me time”. People also use retail therapy as a means of helping themselves transition from one stage of life to another. For example, people do a lot of retail therapy shopping while expecting a baby, after getting a new job, or after a divorce.

What are the benefits of retail therapy?
One of the immediate benefits of retail therapy is that it lightens people’s mood. People who feel lonely might feel better after visiting a shopping mall that is filled with other people. Others use retail therapy as an escape from their “real life”. They simply forget about everything else while they are shopping. Retail therapy can also be fun to do, especially if done with friends.

What are the problems with retail therapy?
People who only do retail therapy in moderation might not see any negative effects at all. They are able to stay within their budget and make small purchases that improve their mood. For example, a person could buy themselves a coffee or a new lipstick – and stop shopping after that.

Problems arise when people engage in retail therapy too often, or spend more money on retail therapy than they can afford. In some cases, this leads to larger problems. A person who overspends might get into an argument with a spouse who disapproves of retail therapy.

Those who use credit cards to do retail therapy can run into additional problems. If you don’t pay off the entire balance on the next billing cycle, you will end up with finance charges. Your moment of shopping bliss can quickly turn into a financial disaster.

How to do frugal retail therapy:
Do some “window shopping” online from your home computer. Before you begin, put your credit card away in another room so that it will be more difficult for you to use it. Go ahead and “window shop” as long as you want – or until your mood lifts. You can do this without spending any money at all.

Use your Pinterest account to pin items that you would love to buy right now but simply cannot afford. The experience of searching for things you like, and gathering them up into a Pinterest board, might mimic how it feels to walk through a store and fill a basket or shopping cart.

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Google is Testing Grocery Deliveries

Posted on Monday, October 12th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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grocery-bagHave you ever considered using a service that delivers groceries to your home? In general, you need to weigh the cost of the convenience with the quality of the products you receive. Some people live in areas where grocery delivering services are unavailable. Google might be about to solve that problem.

According to Bloomberg, Google Inc. is going to start testing a delivery service for fresh food and groceries. This service isn’t going to roll out all across the United States at the same time. To begin, the grocery delivery service will begin in San Francisco, California, (and possibly one other city).

One can assume if this trial goes well that Google might expand the grocery delivering service to more cities in the future. The types of groceries available through the delivery service can include packaged foods as well as fresh fruits and vegetables.

To do this, Google has to move away from making deliveries directly from warehouses. Fresh produce cannot be stored in the same way that dried food can. Google is going to have to figure out how to create proper refrigeration of the fresh food and how to cope with the cost of having someone quickly deliver fresh produce before it goes bad.

Google’s new grocery delivery service appears to be a new addition to Google Express. It currently offers some grocery items (but not fresh produce). Part of the purpose of the new grocery delivery service seems to be to help customers get the “full store” delivered to them. Google Express connects with various stores, such as Target and Costco, both of whom offer fresh produce to the customers who come to their stores.

There are other reasons why Google is launching a test of its newly planned out grocery services. It wants to compete with the other food delivery services that are currently available to customers.

AmazonFresh currently offers same day delivery on orders that are over $35. Consumers can purchase a wide variety of items from AmazonFresh, including fresh grocery and local products. The AmazonFresh page says you can place your order by 10:00 in the morning and have it by dinner, or by 10:00 at night and have it by breakfast.

One thing to consider about grocery delivery services is that you are paying for the convenience. Do the math and figure out if the price of the service is lower than what it would cost to get your groceries the usual way. Find out if the delivery service is able to accept coupons.

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Why Whole Foods Sold 25 Cent Coffee

Posted on Monday, October 5th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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National Coffee DayIn September of 2015, Whole Foods did something unexpected. They sold cups of coffee for just 25 cents each. That might have been the least expensive cup of coffee that customers could obtain. Why did Whole Foods choose to sell cups of coffee for such a low price?

Whole Foods stores have a coffee bar. Usually, they sell coffee for a price that would allow the store to make a profit. This isn’t difficult to do, since coffee doesn’t cost too much on its own, and people tend to want coffee at all hours of the day.

In September of 2015, Whole Foods offered customers a cup of coffee for only 25 cents. (It appears that this special offer terminated at the end of September). Anyone who walked in the door could have a fresh cup of coffee for 25 cents. There wasn’t a limit on how many cups of 25 cent coffee a customer could receive.

Why did Whole Foods lower the price so dramatically on a product that they typically make money on? The answer is that the inexpensive coffee was used to attracted customers. People came in to get their 25 cent cup of coffee. Many of them shopped while drinking it.

The true purpose of free samples – and super inexpensive cups of coffee – isn’t to make customers feel happy or to reward customers with a treat. The real goal is to entice customers into the store. Once the customer enters the store, he or she will probably find some other items that they want to buy.

For example, people who got their 25 cent cup of coffee might have purchased a sandwich to go along with it. Or, they might have shopped for groceries more slowly than usual, while they finished their coffee. Perhaps they saw something on a shelf that they hadn’t noticed before, and decided to buy it.

In other words, when a grocery store offers 25 cent coffee, or free samples of food, it isn’t simply to be nice. The goal is to encourage customers to stick around and buy more stuff. The store loses money on the freebie (or inexpensive coffee) and hopes that they will more than make up for that loss in the money the customers spend.

Keep this in mind the next time you are offered a free sample while you are grocery shopping. The store is hoping that you will like the free sample so much that you buy the product. That’s fine if you already were intending to buy the product. But, if you had never heard of it – you might get tricked into spending more than you planned to.

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Free Kids Events in October

Posted on Monday, September 21st, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Trick-or-TreatFall tends to bring cooler weather. While there are some free kids events that take place outdoors in October, there will also be plenty that are scheduled to happen indoors. Here is a list of some of the free kids events that your children can enjoy in October.

Trick-or-Treating
Many children enjoy going trick-or-treating on Halloween. This event is always free. All a child needs is a costume, a bag to hold candy, and an adult to accompany them. The town or city that you live in may have specific rules about what day, and what time, trick-or-treating is allowed. Make sure to find out when that will be.

In general, there is usually an alternative Fall activity that is arranged for families that do not celebrate Halloween. Find out if your church is holding one. It could be held inside, or may be a “trunk-or-treat” that takes place in the parking lot.

LEGO Stores
LEGO Stores have a monthly mini model build for kids ages 6 – 14. Registration is required. The event is free.

October 6 or 7 2015: Angler Fish – Kids will put together a mini model of an angler fish.

Home Depot
Home Depot has free building events for kids ages 5 – 12. Kids get to keep the craft they make. They also get a free Workshop apron, certificate of achievement and commemorative pin. Registration is required.

October 3, 2015: Build a Fire Truck – Kids will get hands-on for Fire Safety Month by building a free fire truck.

Lowe’s Build and Grow
Lowe’s Build and Grow offers free building events for kids. Each kid gets to keep the project they built. They also get a free apron, goggles, and a patch. Registration is required.

September 26, 2015: Fire Truck with Safety Cards – Kids will build a fire truck that holds cards that have fire safety information.

Lakeshore Learning
Lakeshore Learning offers free craft events every Saturday for kids ages 3 and up. No registration is required.

October 3, 2015: Firefighter’s Hat – Kids will create a headband that has a firefighter’s hat on the front of it. They will be able to wear the hat.

October 10, 2015: Not-So-Scary Scarecrow – Kids will decorate a paper scarecrow puppet that is attached to a craft stick.

October 17, 2015: Have a Hoot! Owl – Kids will decorate an owl that is made from a paper plate, craft feathers and tissue paper.

October 24, 2015: Spooktacular Puppet – Kids will create a paper bag puppet that looks like a Halloween pumpkin.

October 31, 2015: Spooky Spiderweb – Kids will create a cute spider and a decorative spider web from a paper plate, pipe cleaners, and more.

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The Frugal Way to Clean a Mini-Fridge

Posted on Monday, September 14th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Baking Soda and ToothbrushA mini fridge in your college dorm room can make your life a bit more convenient. Every once in a while, you are going to have to clean the mini fridge. You can do it without spending a lot of money on cleaning products.

Why do you need to clean the mini-fridge?
A mini-fridge is not self-cleaning. It’s not like a dishwasher where you can run it without any dishes inside it and have it become clean for you. In other words, you will have clean it (more than once). Cleaning it every two weeks will generally do.

Mini-fridges that do not get cleaned will develop a bad smell. Usually, it is because you left food in it for too long and that food has gone rotten. That smell, of course, is going to stink up your dorm room. This can all be avoided if you just clean out the fridge on a timely basis.

The other reason to periodically clean your mini-fridge is to keep it in good condition. Did you rent the mini-fridge? You might be able to get your deposit back if you return the mini-fridge in excellent condition. Clean the fridge often, and you can avoid a last minute panicked cleaning the night before you have to turn it in.

How to clean a mini-fridge
First, take everything out of the mini-fridge. Throw away anything that looks unsafe to consume, or that has a bad smell. Want to make this part super easy? Clean the mini-fridge on a day when it hardly has anything in it.

Second, mix up an inexpensive, yet effective, cleaner. Add 1 or 2 tbsp. Of baking soda to 1 quart of warm water. Dip a dishcloth into the mixture. Use the damp (but not dripping wet) cloth to wipe every surface inside the mini-fridge. Let it dry.

Third, put the food and beverages that are still good back in the mini-fridge. You aren’t done yet! Use the dishcloth, and the cleaner, again. Wipe down every surface on the top, sides, and front of the mini-fridge. Don’t forget to scrub the door handle. It can pick up a lot of dirt and “gunk”.

Simple tricks to make this all easier
Put the opened box of baking soda inside your mini-fridge. It will help absorb bad smells. When it is time to clean the mini-fridge again, use some of that box of baking soda. You probably won’t have to buy more for a while!

Wipe off soda cans before putting them inside the mini-fridge. This removes whatever dirt, or stickiness, that the can picked up before you purchased it. Less “gunk” going in means less “gunk” you have to clean out of your mini-fridge later on.

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Save Money – Buy or Rent Used Textbooks!

Posted on Monday, September 7th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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booksThe textbooks that are required for college classes tend to be expensive. Unfortunately, students need those textbooks in order to pass their classes. One way to cut down on the costs is to purchase used textbooks instead of new ones. Here are some tips on where to find them.

Amazon.com says it can save you up to 90% on college textbooks. The exact amount of the discount depends on which book you need and the discount that has been assigned to the book.

You can also rent textbooks from Amazon. You might receive a new or used textbook. All used textbooks will be in acceptable rental condition. If you return the textbook within the first 30 days of the rental period, in the same condition as when you received it, you will get a full refund of the rental fee.

Eligible students who live in certain states are tax exempt on textbook purchases from Amazon. Those states include: Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Barnes & Noble offers some of their used textbooks for 90% off their sticker price. Use their search engine to look for the textbook you need and see if they have a used one that you can purchase.

You can rent textbooks from Barnes & Noble. You can rent a textbook from 60 days to 130 days. You are expected to return your rented textbook in a condition that would allow someone else to reuse it later. (This means you can be charged for the replacement of a damaged textbook.) If you return your rented textbook within the time limit, shipping is free. They give you an easy-to-use UPS shipping label.

Staples Will also save you up to 90% on your textbooks. Staples has teamed up with BookRenter to provide students with a top notch textbook rental service. You can rent a textbook for 30 days to 125 days.

Unlike other places, Staples does not consider your rental period to have started until your books are delivered to you. You are allowed to write or highlight in the textbook, but it is advised that you keep that to a minimum. If you have done too much writing, a damage fee will be charged.

Other options for Used Textbooks:

Find out the ISBN number of the book you need, and see if you can buy it from a student who took the class last year. Make sure the ISBN number of the book matches the one your teacher assigned. Check to see if the used book is the correct edition.

The school’s library might have a few copies of textbooks on hand for students to borrow for a hour. You might not be allowed to take the book out of the library, so plan on studying it there.

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UnitedHealth Care Has Healthy Savings Program

Posted on Monday, August 17th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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Tips for Shopping at Your Local Farmer's MarketUnitedHealth Care is the largest health insurer in the nation. It has launched a program that could help its customers to get healthier. The program is called Healthy Savings and it could lower the grocery bill of UnitedHealth Care customers.

The Healthy Savings program is only for people who have a health insurance plan with UnitedHealth Care. If your plan is with a different insurance company, you should check with them to see if they offer a similar program. It doesn’t hurt to ask, or to check their website for more information.

Right now, HealthySavings is being offered in Wisconsin and in the Chicagoland area in Illinois. These areas are considered to be test markets. If things go well, it’s possible that UnitedHealth Care might choose to expand the program to other areas.

The savings program is currently limited to people who purchased health insurance from UnitedHealth Care through the individual exchange. It is also open to people who work for an employer who is insured by UnitedHealth Care. In the Chicagoland area, Healthy Savings is working with three grocery stores: Jewel-Osco, Mariano’s, and Shop n’ Save.

How does Healthy Savings help lower a UnitedHealth Care customer’s grocery bill? Customers are issued a special discount card. Every Sunday, that card is automatically pre-loaded with $40 to $50 worth of new savings. The discounts are on the healthiest types of food that can be found in a typical grocery store. Bring the discount card to the store, do your shopping, and scan the card at the register.

In other words, people who use Healthy Savings do not have to spend any time searching online for coupons. They don’t have to clip coupons. They don’t have to do something in order to have the coupons attach to their discount card. It all works automatically.

The list of featured foods can be viewed from the Healthy Savings website. Customers can also have that list sent to their email. Mobile users can access a mobile-optimized list from their smartphones. In addition to discounts on healthy foods, customers can find recipes and keep track of how much money they have saved in total since they started using the program.

Obviously, when health insurance companies offer some kind of discount to consumers, there is an ulterior motive. Healthier customers need less doctor visits. They might be able to prevent some illnesses and thereby lower medical costs. Health insurance companies want healthy (less expensive) customers.

The Healthy Savings plan is unique because it isn’t specifically focused on weight loss goals. Instead, it makes the healthier foods more attractive by helping customers get them at a discounted price.

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Try These Tips to Save Money on Groceries

Posted on Monday, August 10th, 2015 at 7:00 am
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woman-with-groceriesWant to lower your grocery bill? Using coupons is one way to make that happen. However, they are not the only way to save money on groceries. There are plenty of other things you can do that will make your grocery bill less expensive. Try these tips and find out how well they work for you.

Go Vegetarian
One quick way to reduce the amount of money you spend on groceries is to go vegetarian. One pound of sirloin is going to cost a lot more than a 14 ounce block of tofu. Cutting meat from your meals, and substituting the meat with vegetables, makes your grocery bill less expensive. It will work even if all you do is go vegetarian for one day out of each week.

Do you need some ideas for vegetarian recipes? There is a movement called Meatless Mondays. They have plenty of recipes for you to try. One of them could become your new favorite meal!

Eat Seasonally
Did you know that fresh produce is less expensive when it is in season? It’s true! Start planning your meals around the vegetables and fruits that are currently in season. Change up the recipes you selected when a key ingredient falls out of season.

It has become fashionable for restaurants to offer meals made from in season produce. Restaurants do this for two reasons. One is because it helps them to save money on the cost of ingredients. The other reason is to be able to give their guests new recipes to try. People can get bored with eating the same old thing all the time.

Choose a Healthy Portion Size
One meal at a restaurant can have twice the portion size for an adult on one plate. People get used to seeing oversized portions on their plates and conclude it is the right amount of food for them. In reality, it is too much!

What portion size should you be aiming for? Choose My Plate can help you to figure that out. The website is run by the United States Department of Agriculture. Serving a proper portion size can reduce the amount of food you serve at each meal. It an also reduce food waste by decreasing the amount of leftovers.

Pack a Lunch
Packing a lunch is a great way to avoid having to spend money on fast food. It’s also a great way to reduce the amount of food you waste. Your lunch includes food that you purchased at the grocery store. Regularly packing lunches helps you to use up food before it goes bad.

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Tips for Shopping Tax Free Weekends

Posted on Monday, August 3rd, 2015 at 7:00 am
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School SupplySummer isn’t over, but the back to school sales are already starting. One way to save money on school supplies is to shop during a tax free weekend. There are things that parents should know about the tax free weekends in order to get the most savings from them.

Not All States Have Tax Free Weekends
A total of 18 states have tax free weekends. The rest do not. If you don’t live in a state that participates, you may be out of luck. For example, North Carolina eliminated its tax free days and replaced it with a tax cut.

Not all of the states that offer tax free weekends have it take place in August. Some will happen in June or July instead. Here’s a list of the upcoming tax free weekends that can help parents save money on school related items:

* Alabama – August 7-9
* Connecticut – August 16-22
* Florida – August 7-16
* Iowa August 7-8
* Missouri – August 7-9
* New Mexico – August 7-9
* Ohio – August 7-9
* Oklahoma – August 7-9
* South Carolina – August 7-9
* Tennessee – August 7-9
* Texas – August 7-9
* Virginia – August 7-9

Read the Details
Before you start shopping, make sure to take the time to find out what, exactly, your state will include as eligible tax free items. Do backpacks count as school supplies? How about computers? Many states do include clothing and shoes as an eligible tax free item.

Most states have limitations in place on how much a particular items costs, or a group of items cost. Go over that maximum limit, and your purchase will not be tax free.

Check Out the Back To School Sales Ads
It’s time to do a little math. What will save you the most money on back to school supplies – the tax free weekend, or a sale that happens during the week? Sometimes, shopping at the local dollar store can give you the best deals.

Set a Budget
Resist the urge to splurge during a tax free weekend. Doing so can make your shopping more expensive than you can afford. Create a budget before you shop. Keep track of the prices of the items you select. Stop before you go over the budget that you set aside for back to school shopping.

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ALDI Will Add 45 Stores in California

Posted on Monday, July 20th, 2015 at 6:58 pm
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aldiFrugal shoppers who live in California have something to look forward to. ALDI is planning on expanding and will add approximately 45 stores in California. The store is already popular in other states because of its low prices.

Why is ALDI expanding into California? The answer has to do with a study that the store organized. It was done through KRC Research and conducted via an online survey of 1,029 Americans who were ages 18 or older. The survey was done during May 21 – 24 of 2015.

In the survey, 61% of US adults said that it was too difficult for them to eat healthy and organic foods on a budget. About 8 out of 10 respondents said that they would buy fresh, high-quality and organic products if it wasn’t so expensive.

ALDI has low prices on fresh, high-quality products all year round. This includes organic items, which they sell for 50% less than traditional grocers do. (That number was based on a price comparison of comparable products sold at leading retail grocery stores.) ALDI has been known for it’s low prices for a very long time.

The growing consumer interest in lower prices and better quality of food is the main reason why ALDI is expanding into California. Their plan is to launch approximately 45 new stores in Southern California in 2016. The first stores of this new expansion will open in March of 2016. This is part of a five year plan that will result in the opening of 650 ALDI stores across the United States.

In addition to low prices, ALDI is known for a few things it does that not all grocery stores do. They rent their shopping carts to customers. It costs a quarter to rent a cart. Use the cart to do your grocery shopping and to bring your groceries to your vehicle after you are finished. Bring the cart back to where you got it from, and you can get your quarter deposit back.

That unique system is part of what helps ALDI keep its prices low. They don’t have to hire someone to go collect the carts, periodically, all through the day. The carts stay in one place, and are not out in the parking lot. This reduces the damage that can happen to cars when a stray cart rolls into one.

ALDI charges customers for shopping bags. This is something that many stores in California already have been doing, especially in places that have a plastic bag ban. Customers can avoid the extra charge for bags by bringing in their own reusable shopping bags. ALDI doesn’t have to pay for the plastic bags that some other stores hand out. This enables ALDI to charge less for their products.

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