How to Win the Warehouse Club Game

They’re big, they’re filled with temptation and millions of people shell out fifty bucks a year on average to be card-carrying members of the big three warehouse clubs: Costco, Sam’s Club and BJ’s.

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While the whole idea is to save money by shopping at a warehouse club, membership alone does not guarantee that will be the result. In fact, just the opposite is as likely to happen, where members end up spending far more than they imaged they would because they just don’t how to make a club work for them.

As a long-time warehouse club member, it’s taken years for me to really figure out how to win the warehouse club game.

KNOW BEFORE YOU GO. It is really dangerous to your wealth to cruise into the club without a clear idea what you are going to buy. The way to know before you go is with a written shopping list. If you need it, you know it before you arrive. If you discover things you need that are not on your list, make a second list—things you will buy on your next trip to this club. Make sure to check the monthly ads for your specific membership club for items with instant savings or discounts.  Read more

Want What You Have, Buy What You Need

Years ago, I read in The New York Times that according to Yankelvich Research, the average American adult is the target of some 3,500 commercial ads in a single day. How outrageous is that? Sure, we live in a highly commercialized society but 3,500 ads? In a single day? I figured that had to be a gross exaggeration.

Winnie the Pooh telling Piglet that the secret to contentment is found in gratitude

I decided to conduct my own test. I would count the ads I heard or saw in my typical day. I knew it wouldn’t come anywhere close to 3,500.

The next morning the radio alarm sounded and before I could even open my eyes, I needed to put two hash marks on my score pad. So prolific were the ads on television I could barely keep an accurate count and get ready for the day at the same time.

Of course I had to count every message, banner, business placard, real estate sign, billboard, license plate frame, bumper sticker, commercial vehicle and bus I saw on the way to work all the while being careful not to miss any radio ads. Good thing I wasn’t driving.

Reading the newspaper boosted my count significantly as did flipping through a few magazines. Have you ever counted the ads in a typical magazine? Try it sometime.

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Online Shopping Safety Tips

As convenient as Internet shopping can be (stores never close, no parking problems, no cranky salespeople), there are as many hazards. There are many good buys online, it’s easy to assume that everything is a good buy.  The simplicity of online shopping can blind us to potential pitfalls.

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The way to become a savvy online shopper is to know how to avoid these hazards:

Hidden costs. The quoted price may not be the full price. It may not include applicable sales tax (varies by state and merchant) or the costs of shipping and handling. “Handling” can include just about anything that merchant wants to charge for the box, packing materials, tape and labor to put all of that together. The cost of shipping can vary greatly depending on the carrier and speed of delivery.

Unscrupulous merchants. There are millions of online merchants online including some with no scruples. The way to avoid this hazard is to know your merchant. Stick with merchants you recognize because they have brick and mortar stores. Read the reviews others have posted regarding their experiences with that merchant. Read more

Bargains on Stuff Kids Need for School

Most people aren’t paying attention in the middle of summer when stores like Office Depot and Staples go crazy nearly giving away school supplies with their one-cent sales. How can they do it? They’re willing to bet that most customers will grab up the bargains and then add a few full-priced items as well before they get to the checkout. 

multiethnic group of children thinking

The way to really save on all of your kids’ back-to-school needs is to start early so you can cherry pick all the stores. Load up as you can to last the entire school year because you won’t see these kind of bargains again until this time next year.

School supplies. The Grocery Game has added a school supplies category to its lineup. Check it out: First log in at TheGroceryGame.com (you can get a 4-week free trial, and you should), then in the upper left select all stores in your area. Above the list items, click your mouse in the “Search” box, which will open up a “Category” box with drop down menu. Select “School Supplies.” Just look at the bargains! New items and deals constantly change, so log in each week and pick up the deals as you do your regular shopping.  Read more

Signs You Might Be a Shopaholic

 

You can own 85 pairs of shoes 100 DVDs and not suffer from shopaholism. The test, experts say, is if you spend so much time and money shopping that it negatively affects your finances and your relationships.

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How can you tell? Here are four signs you might need help, according to April Benson founder of shopaholicnomore.com, a psychologist who specializes in treating shopaholics and author of  “To Buy or Not to Buy: Why We Overshop and How to Stop”:

You feel overwhelmed by your need to buy things. Compulsive buyers often buy things they don’t need or can’t afford. They buy things just because they’re on sale or feel an overwhelming urge to buy something—anything—and don’t care what they bring home. If you’ve ever gone shopping for a white blouse and came home with a purple blouse, shoes, pants and new throw pillows, too, you know what I’m talking about. Read more

Get a New Grocery Shopping Attitude

 

1. Exercise patience. Instead of buying items when you run out, watch for bargain prices on products you want and buy them when they are on sale. As you are able, buy enough to last for a couple of weeks, or until that product goes on sale again (probably about 12 weeks). Ultimately, the goal is to only buy things when they are on sale and never at full price.

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2. Eat the sales. Instead of creating your menus for the week around what you saw on Pinterest or in a magazine, discover what’s on sale this week. Now create your menus based on what’s on sale. If you need help, take a look at eMeals.com (use coupon code debtproofliving for a discount), a meal planning service uses what’s on sale this week in your favorite supermarket to create your family’s ideal meal plan. And you have choices from classic to gluten-free, low fat and even paleo—and quite a few others, as well. Check it out.

3. Go international. Spices boost flavor without adding sodium or fat, and many have their own health benefits. You’ll find them for less in the international aisle. In my local supermarket, an ounce of cloves costs $4.79 in the spice aisle but 99 cents in the international section. Read more

Shop Twice, Buy Once

 

Every week I invite readers of this column to send me their clever tips for how to save time and money. Then once a week I open the Everyday Cheapskate mail box to let you take a look.

Some rights reserved by kelly cree

Some rights reserved by kelly cree

SHOPPING TRICK. My son studied a carpentry course called, “Measure twice, cut once.” I have adapted that phrase to my shopping: “Shop twice, buy once.” When I am grocery shopping, if I see something I’d like that isn’t on my list, I add it to next week’s shopping list. When I am making out my menus and grocery list the following week, I consider the item. Often, by then, it has lost its appeal. I do the same thing with other shopping; items I am considering buying go to next week’s to-do list. By the time the week rolls around, I’ve had plenty of time to evaluate the purchase, and make a non-impulsive decision. Mary Beth, email  Read more

The Art of Consignment Shopping

Everything I know about buying and selling clothes on consignment I owe to my friend Kathleen, a remarkably well-dressed woman. She shops exclusively in consignment stores, but only those that are located in upscale areas. And boy, can she dress. She’s a consignment seller, too. In fact, I’ve known Kathleen to buy an outfit from one of her favorite consignment stores for a special occasion, then turn around and sell it back into consignment the next day. See what I mean? She’s very clever.

The consignment process is simple. The store sets its criteria for accepting merchandise, and sets the price—usually 50 percent of the new retail price. Expect a consignment shop to have very high standards for what they will accept: Must be a current style, must be brought in clean and must have no visible wear, holes or stains.

If you are a seller and your items meet the store’s criteria, your items will be put on the sales floor and displayed for 30 to 60 days. Once sold, you will receive 30 to 50 percent of the purchase price depending on that store’s policy. Read more