Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thanksgiving and Black Friday Illusion

It is strange that we have Black Friday so close to Thanksgiving. Going from a time of thankfulness into rapid intense materialistic fueled buying, that the Wall Street Journal reported is just a rip-off anyway, more on that in a moment. Last year about this time, I wrote about Thanksgiving, because I think it is one of my favorite Holidays of the year.  It is a great time to be thankful for all of the good things that we have, and for the challenges that made us better. Having a thankful attitude is much healthier than any other way to think: it is felt contentment. It is at the core of happiness.  Although having a positive attitude is good, but sometimes that even leads people to depression. Funny, a book came out about a year ago that exposed this truth: The power of negative thinking, I wrote about that too. So before you jump from Thanksgiving into Black Friday, consider the following:

The Wall Street Journal reported today in Black Friday : A Retail Illusion, The Dirty Secret of Black Friday Discounts, is merely a manipulative ploy to get you to buy things you think are at the lowest cost of the year. In actuality, retailers are really smart, they know how to price things, and adjust the prices in anticipation of low Holiday sales, just to trick you into buying.

Is the practice legal?  According to the Federal Trade Commission, it is a violation to artificially increase a price just to run it lower on sale. For example, you can’t advertise the price of a car for $25,000 and sell it with a $5,000 discount from the beginning, unless it was advertised for $25,000 and sold it at that regular price before. How do retailers get away with it?  They know the law and they carefully do all kinds of little tricks to not cross the line. I imagine if a store offered a men’s dress suit online for or in the back of their store for a while at one price, with the full intent of later increasing the display and inventory, to move it out front for 40% off, then they could skirt the law.  Too bad most major retailers play the sale game to compel sales. When some do it, it seems all have to play the game, or face less business since everyone is doing it. Why don’t retailers just have high credibility and offer things at their lowest price already, and only discount at the end of a season to blow out inventory?

JC Penny tried to just have a low price, but they failed.  Earlier this year, new management (that is no longer there), tried to just price things competitively, save money on sales advertisement and other promotions, believing the consumer would see the value and buy. This approach failed. Other retailers and JC Penny learned that people want the feeling of a sale and discounts, since it makes them feel emotionally better at the cash register.

Low price teaser products are offered in small quantities to get you into the store. For example retailers like Best Buy will probably offer a HD TV for a deep discount, just to get you through the door. They might not make any money it on it, but once you are in there, you will buy probably buy a CD, computer, DVD player, game system, Cell phone (and service) or appliance. But who are you buying those things for?

Black Friday is not just for gift giving, since many people for themselves at those sales. This fact breaks many people’s Holiday budgets and adds a lot of money to retailer’s bottom line (and your credit card balance). If you are on a tight budget, watch out for these temptations. It always kills me to see….

People wait in line for days for the special teaser items. I have heard reports that people have been waiting in front of some stores for more than a week already, just to save a couple of hundred dollars on some piece of what will some day be junk!  Wouldn’t those people have been much better off, working a part-time job for those days, wouldn’t they have more money in their pocket from a paycheck and from not buying things? Yes.

Can you still get some great deals on Black Friday? Yes you can, but take your smart phone if you have one, to compare prices online, to make sure you are not getting fooled (some stores price match to online prices). If they run out, because you researched it and delayed shopping for it for a day or two, so what, there will be other sales before 12/25. The competition is fierce, and retailers will be competing. However, know what is a good deal before you buy, don’t buy into the…

Back Friday hype and hysteria. Instead of spending all your time fighting the crowds, traffic and for parking places; relax. I work too hard to spend all my day-off time doing something that literally gives me a headache. You can tell I don’t like to shop to begin with, but…

If you enjoy Black Friday shopping because it kick starts your Holiday spirit, then go for it, but have a budget; a list of the people, things, and price limits. Also, talk to your spouse or accountability partner before you go, and tell them you are going to call them for emotional support before you go off budget. It is good to have a checks and balances person, to avoid impulse spending and to get their opinion on a price before you buy.

I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

50% Off eFinPLAN for Veterans

I appreciate the service, commitment and sacrifice veterans have made to our country and its people.  To honor you, we are offering 50% off the regular cost of eFinPLAN of $49 semi-annual, so that all interested veterans can get a comprehensive financial plan for only $24.50.

We created eFinPLAN in 2007 to help people obtain a low cost financial plan, so that along with their trusted advisors, people can have an organized and comprehensive system for obtaining their financial goals.

Veterans please contact me and I will send you a coupon code for you to use when you sign up.

Savings Throughout the House, Room by Room: Frugal Kitchen

Second article in a series featuring many ways to save money in every room of the house. From the basement to the attic: today’s article provides some tips for saving money in the kitchen.

Countless articles here and other blogs cover ways to save using coupons and knowledge of the game of grocery shopping. So for this article, we want to provide a few non-coupon tips:

Create a meal plan – this alone will save you lots of time, money, and when you are exhausted, trips for convenience food (pizza, Mickey D’s etc.)  This helps you plan for variety in your diet and also helps you prepare your grocery list more easily.  It also prevents last minute trips to the grocery store and the added  expense of things that ‘fly’ into your cart on each extra trip.

  • enlist your family to help make a list of their favorite foods/meals.
  • write out a weekly meal plan and put it on your fridge for reference.
  • make a ‘MASTER’ grocery list.  Include items you buy each week so you don’t have to ‘re-create the wheel’ every week.   Keep a printed or copied list that you can add on to in the kitchen.

Breakfasts:  Make homemade versions (or buy in bulk) pancakes, waffles.  I used to make homemade ‘Mickey Mouse’ waffles and keep them in the freezer.  One minute in the microwave and you have breakfast.  Most grocery stores have an inexpensive large bag of frozen pancakes.  Again one minute in the microwave is all it takes to heat and eat.  Make healthy muffins ahead of time and freeze them.  See other ideas on the enclosed recipe cards.

Cook more than one meal at a time:  If you buy a chicken plan two or three meals out of it.  Eat the thighs and wings for dinner on night #1.  Make chicken salad for night #2.  And soup for night #3.  This Thanksgiving stock up on inexpensive turkey and stretch it until it snaps.  You can try casseroles, turkey salad, sandwiches (hot or cold), etc.

  • You may also try a meal exchange with friends.  Each person makes a frozen meal then you all trade.
  • We buy ground beef and cook it with Mexican Flavoring, then freeze in a Ziploc labeled ‘Mexican cooked ground beef’.  We have a Mexican Fiesta at least twice a week heating the frozen cooked Mexican ground beef on a tortilla with grated cheese, then we add lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and salsa.  It is faster to make, eat and clean up than it would be to get in the car and drive to Wendy’s and back.
  • We also cook chicken tenders (either on the George Forman Grill or in a skillet) and then we freeze them in labeled Ziplocs.   Any dish that calls for chicken can be made in a hurry or we can just heat and serve with a vegetable or salad.  When heated and sliced in to bite sized pieces it is fast and easy served on a salad.

Slow cookers are a huge time and money saver:  If you hate staring in to the freezer to try to figure out which lump of frozen meat would be the least time consuming to magically turn in to something edible, it’s time to get your slow cooker out of storage.  Get the frozen meat lump out in the morning and put it in the crock pot. 

Scripture Reference: Proverbs 21:5  The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.

Savings Throughout the House, Room by Room: Laundry Room

laundrySecond article in a series featuring many ways to save money in every room of the house. From the basement to the attic: today’s article provides two great ways to save money in the laundry room: detergent and spot remover.

Laundry detergent can be rather expensive, easily costing $10 or much more for your typical bottle of Tide. The first most common way to save on detergent is to buy on sale and use coupons. Doing so can bring down the cost to $5 or less for a typical 32 load bottle. Price and sizes vary greatly, so this is just an example.  This may not seem like a big deal, but my theory is that if you are able to reduce what can cost $10 or more to a few dollars, on many items that you regularly purchase, then your grocery bill will come down a lot. Coupon professionals can even save more money.

Lately we have been making our own laundry detergent using a simple recipe. The formula below makes 1 gallon of detergent for less than $2. The per load portion size is 2 ounces or 1/4 cup. Therefore 1 gallon yields 64 full loads of laundry. The following comes from Mary Hunt of Debt Proof Living is as follows (thank you Mary):

What You Need: Laundry Detergent

  • 1 one-gallon empty container with tight-fitting screw on lid
  • Twenty-Mule Team Borax – available in the laundry aisle – $3.49 for 4 lbs (76 oz)
  • Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda – (sodium carbonate) (I found it at Meijer in the Laundry aisle $3.29 for 3 lbs (55 oz))
  • Blue Dawn dishwashing liquid –  “Original,” “Ultra Concentrated”, or “Advanced Power” are ok.  As long as it’s blue and it is authentic Dawn—not some generic brand, it is okay – $2.89 for 24 oz.
  • Step 1: Measure 3/4 cup borax and 3/4 cup Super Washing Soda.  Pour both into the empty one-gallon container.
  • Step 2: Add 3 cups of the hottest water you have available out of your tap.
  • Step 3: Apply the lid and shake the container vigorously until the powdered ingredients appear to be dissolving.
  • Step 4: Fill the container with hot water to within about an inch of the top, more or less depending on the shape of your container. Leave enough room for the 3/4 cup Dawn.
  • Step 5: Slowly pour in 3/4 cup blue Dawn dishwashing liquid – try not to make any bubbles.
  • Step 6: Once you’ve poured in all of the Dawn, fill that measuring cup with more hot water so you can top off the container.
  • Step 7: Apply the lid. Notice how the dawn is not fully mixed up. That’s fine. Just get that lid on tightly.
  • Step 8: Instead of shaking it up, just lay the container on its side and roll it around a bit to get everything mixed.

Directions for use:  pour 1/4 cup laundry detergent in to your washing machine for each load.  Do not use more or your clothes will be stiff.

We have been using this to clean our clothes exclusively for two months and are very happy with the job this detergent does. We love the fact that it has no dyes and scents. If you want yours scented, you can easily add a few drops of essential oils from your local organic grocery store or from a doTerra representative.

What You Need: Homemade Stain Removal Spray

  • 1 cup Blue Dawn
  • 1 cup Ammonia
  • 1 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a spray container.  Home Depot sells empty spray containers for about a dollar. REMEMBER NEVER TO COMBINE PRODUCTS CONTAINING BLEACH WITH PRODUCTS CONTAINING AMMONIA.  Make sure you don’t use this in a bleach load.