Category Archives: Save Money

My Sump Pump Backup Saved Us

Have a basement with a sump pump? A sump pump backup, is a cool set-up, where you install a special system in your sump well. If your electricity goes out, or your sump pump system fails, you have a backup. Kind of like wearing suspenders with a belt. Last night, an alarm went off in our basement, indicating our primary system failed, and the backup kicking in.

Last night in Columbus Ohio a large storm system passed through, dumping about 3 inches of rain. If you have a basement, and a sump pump system, it probably kicked on. Ours did all through the night, until the 12 year-old pump failed. It quit pumping, however since in August I installed a backup system, it kicked in, to keep the water flowing out of my basements sump well. Had I not, we would have had a flooded basement.

A backup system consists of a battery-powered pump that you install alongside your current pump. The kit comes with the necessary electrics, aux. pump, float switch, marine battery box, but not the battery. In addition, you have to buy a battery and the acid to fill it (use rubber gloves, wear old clothes, and eye googles). Your shopping list should also include PCV pipe (get same diameter of your current system), check valve, glue and cleaner for the PCV, and buy a Y connector of a few different configurations (return what you don’t need). Talk to the hardware store’s resident plumbing expert, and ask him or her tons of questions- I did. Watch a few Youtube videos is helpful too. The only tools you usually need are a hack saw, and a nut driver for the check valve clamps, and plenty of rags. I recommend you buy the battery from the hardware store and not some other place, since the one’s they have seem to last longer, than the one my brother bought at Interstate Battery, the cost is about the same.

Do not buy the cheapest backup system, but one that matches your house’ size, rainfall in your area, and if a lot of water tends to run towards your home. I spent over $300 on a backup system, yet it saved me thousands of dollars. Years ago we rented an apartment that flooded, and sadly we lost most of our wedding pictures. A local company advertising basement repairs and backup systems would not give me a quote over the phone. Since I installed this at our previous home, and didn’t want a salesperson’s pitch, I decided to do this again myself.

It kind of felt good going to Home Depot today, to buy a new sump pump. Again, I interviewed the expert for the best and right new pump. I tested the old one and it definitely was bad. Although I am $200 poorer for the new pump, at least I don’t have insurance companies to call (we have a sump pump failure and sewage backup rider on our homeowner’s policy), no mess to clean up, and a no flooded-basement$500 deductible to pay. The new one took only 10 minutes to install.

How to Prevent Theft of Your Credit Card Information

Eleven things to do to help make sure no one steals your credit and debit card information:

  1. Use cash more often for such things as buying fast food and gasoline. Some thieves attach little card readers to gas-pump card terminals.
  2. Cover your hand when entering your PIN in the public credit card terminal.
  3. Cover your card when you remove it from your wallet. Thieves have been known to take pictures of your card.
  4. Use a credit card, not your debit card, for online purchases. Both are equally protected financially for theft, but the theft of a debit card number can cause more hassle, such as bounced checks and late payments.
  5. Be careful; try to use your card only in good establishments.  The only two times credit card information theft has happened in our family were to our children’s debit accounts when they used them on a college campus at a local establishment.
  6. Shred all mail and documents before you throw them away if they have any personal information about you on them. Buy a good $100 price range shredder that can cross-shred cards, computer disks, and several pages of paper at a time.
  7. Balance your checking account every month, and pay off all credit card balances.
  8. Password protect your computer and smart phone in case they are stolen.
  9. Make online purchases at home, on your private password protected internet connection; do not use a public WIFI in places like the coffee shop or library.
  10. Don’t share your personal information with anyone that shouldn’t have it; beware of phone calls and emails that try to obtain your birth date, social security number, and credit card information.
  11. Last but not least: pray over all the things you own, investments, personal property, and information. Pray for protection and wisdom, and pray that you may be a good steward over all your possessions. Scripture reference Ezra 8:21.

What to Do If A Victim of the Target Breach

Target and several other retailers recently were victims of data breaches over the holidays. What should you do?

  1. If you used plastic at any of them, especially at Target, monitor your account daily by logging in online to check out if there any unauthorized charges on your cards.
  2. Accept the credit monitoring service your card offers, but only if it is a legitimate offer; be careful with emails that could be trolling for personal information. Through various breaches my wife and I have had over the years, we have had the monitoring service free, but we’ve never had an unauthorized use or an ID theft.
  3. Notify your bank and tell them what is going on; they may issue you a new card.
  4. Change your personal identification number (PIN).
  5. If you are sure your account has been compromised, you may want to freeze the account for 90 days.
  6. If your credit card information has been stolen, such as at a local retailer or from your purse or wallet, call the police and file a report. This may be necessary to get your money back from your bank.

What should you do to protect yourself from credit card information theft? See the next article.

 

They Are Like Good Samaritans Clubs for Automobiles

Are Auto Club’s roadside assistance to replace Christians lending a hand to stranded travelers?

Isn’t it a terrible feeling when you car breaks down away from home? Have you ever been stranded on the side of the road, and someone stopped to help you replace a flat tire, or given you a ride to the next rest stop? Maybe you assisted someone else?  In Luke 10:25-37, we see the story of a Samaritan helping someone who was robbed, naked, and left bleeding nearly dead. Modern Bible expositors believe that not only did the Samaritan have the expense of lodging, bandages and clothing,  but inconvenience that occurred between people that looked down on each other.  Maybe in these days of Cell phones and auto clubs, and concern for personal safety, I would recommend my children and spouse to practice extreme caution and spiritual discernment in such situations.

However, several times over my life, I have helped someone with a short ride to the next exit, asked if they needed a jump-start or other assistance — but I was cautious, aware and prayerful. It is a great opportunity to bless other people. Likewise, I have been a benefactor too. In light of this I think there is solid merit for people to join Auto clubs like AAAMCA and Better World Club; they offer very useful benefits, such as roadside assistance and towing. Many of them today are offering much more, including car repairs.

In addition to clubs, other competitors have entered that market place, including credit-card issuers, insurance companies, car manufacturers, and oil companies. So before you buy, first check to see what benefits your auto insurance company and car manufacturer provide.

What I like about firms like AAA is the convenience during emergency situations. The last time my car broke down, I was in Michigan between Grand Rapids and East Lansing, on a business trip in the middle of nowhere. I had a company car and I am embarrassed to say I ran out of gas. It was very difficult to locate a towing or roadside assistance company, for I was not sure which small town I was near that might have such a firm. Secondly, a bad winter storm had just gone through the previous day, and I was low priority for the towing companies, since most with good-sized fleets were taking care of club customers. It is never convenient to need someone to bring you gas, tow your car to the closest good repair shop, give you a jump-start, or unlock your doors if you locked your keys inside. Club membership can help you avoid disaster on a pleasure or a business trip, and it can of save you many hours of trying to get help (and then perhaps getting it from someone who may not be reliable). Clubs have strict standards, so that added confidence helps a lot.

Auto Clubs offer this peace of mind, which is especially helpful with our 3-car family, with one at college. The mileage readings on our three well maintained vehicles are 298,000, 175,000, and 160,000, combined to more than 600,000 miles. This means a higher possibility of needing roadside assistance. I understand that we are not the exception. Avoiding car payments and owning cars is the way to go for those trying to be financially savvy.

Lastly, the local AAA Club in Columbus Ohio is offering something very intriguing right now for their auto service centers—a year-long discount program for maintenance. I was pretty much impressed with their program. For $100 members can get the following services within a year: 4 oil changes, a 39-point inspection with each oil change, 4 battery and starting/charging system checks, 2 tire rotations with balance, 1 air filter, 1 set of front wiper blades, 1 headlamp replacement, 1 A/C pressure check, and 12 monthly tire pressure checks. This would save the regular person about $300, or the partial do-it-yourselfer and deal finder about $200, I’d guess (probably paying for or exceeding the cost of the membership).  Peace of mind on maintenance and roadside assistance are nice things, especially valuable to those with older cars, lack of family close enough to call for help, or fear of being stranded in a dark place waiting for help to arrive.

In conclusion: I think we need to be wise with our auto insurance and maintenance budgets, while giving room to receive blessings from others, and to be a blessing to people too; therefore this is not an ‘either or’, but a ‘both and’ situation.

Also, rest assured I derived no financial benefit from highlighting these firms, and I don’t prefer them over others. If you are a club or a car repair firm and have an idea for an article and would like a mention, please contact me.

An Emerging Grocery Shopping Trend: Bargain Chains

Do you ever worry about the costs of groceries, whether you will have enough money for the food you need, or the food you like to eat? In a moment, we will review a low cost option people are using today to have enough food, good variety and at a low cost. But first, think about these key Bible verses: Matthew 6:25, Matthew 6:31, Acts 10:12-15, and Daniel 1:12-16.

Have you ever shopped for groceries at a bargain chain store? They are growing in broader acceptance because of low prices and great value. But first, let’s review the various ways people shop for groceries today and their advantages:

  1. Convenience chain shoppers: This is typified by people wanting speed and high quality. Prices tend to be the highest this way, but some people cut prices by using coupons and taking advantage of sales. This appeals to busy households, and those not wanting to become coupon queens or multi-store shoppers.
  2. Coupon shoppers: These folks know the skills of couponing well, and often go to more than one chain store. Going this way, you’ll develop some real skills and know how, and in time will grow a stockpile of free or deeply discounted items. The time spent to do this each week amounts to earning $50 per hour.
  3. Quick-mart shoppers: These folks shop at quick-markets and eat a lot of fast food. Sometimes this is the main market for people living in tough inner-city neighborhoods, or those that have few kitchen skills.
  4. Organic store or specialty store shoppers: This appeals to those who value and can afford this the most highest priced of all grocery store options. Trader Joe’s, Earth Fare, Wild Oats and many more.
  5. Big-box buyers: High product value, quantity and selection appeal to these shoppers at Costco and Sam’s Club. Prices are good, but it is easy to impulse spend and over-eat.
  6. Bargain market grocery shoppers: This appeals to people who value price over the best selection or product. Bargain grocery stores like Aldi, Marc’s, and Save-A-Lot compete in this market.

aldi2The Great Recession of the preceding decade stagnated or lowered people’s incomes. Healthcare and gasoline compete for their share of budgets, and with high food costs, more and more people are shopping at these bargain food outlets. I have had people tell me that they are embarrassed to shop there, but this image is going away. Their stores were once viewed as only a place where the poor would shop, but now we see people who only used to shop at large grocery chains there. Aldi announced plans that they are increasing U.S. stores by 50% over the next 5 years to meet this growing trend.

We shop there each week, because it is a good part of our food saving strategy including couponing. The food quality is mainly good, although selection is limited, we can get by. Some things I actually like better than other stores. For example, their store brand cheddar cheese has good flavor, and is much better than the no-taste low cost Sargento that Walmart markets.

Remember to bring your own bags, since they don’t have any and your bag your own. Lastly, don’t forget your quarter! You need a .25 cent piece to insert into a slot to obtain a grocery cart.

Looking for a great last minute gift idea?

I dislike shopping; crowds, traffic, and confusion, however I love to be creative. So when I got this idea for a gift, my heart leapt for joy!   This year, on one side of our family, we are doing a minimal gift exchange for $25. It is so hard to come up with a good idea, that doesn’t turn out to be next year’s white elephant gift for them to give. This gave me ideas for other gifts in the coming year.

basketNew Year’s Eve Celebration Basket: While strolling around Home Goods, looking for a Chotchky, which is Yiddish for trinket, or something of little value. I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if we could put together a New Year’s Eve date basket, for my brother and his wife (I hope they don’t read this article). We found a cool basket at Home Goods for $7.99 and headed off to The World Market to fill it.  I’m glad we got the basket at Home Goods because it was nicer and costs less than what saw at World Market. We filled the basked with a bottle of Champagne, cheddar cheese wedges, Carr’s Entertainment Crackers, Ghirardelli chocolate sampler square,s and a old-fashioned wooden pop gun to announce the coming of the new year. Total cost came to a tad over $30. All high quality items, and probably cheaper than buying a pre-assembled basket.

Here is a picture of it, although my wife Laura has yet to pretty it up with ribbons and paper. Laura found a holiday-ish napkin, and we might toss in a piece or two of fruit. Fun to do this, and glad that store was conquered. Happy New Year!

 

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!

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.

Deep Down Savings, In The Basement!

houzThis series of several articles will feature ways to save money in every room of the house. From the basement to the attic, including the kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, closets and garage. Sometimes money savings articles can be hard to follow, because they connect various areas of life, but for those of us that are visual learners or like to compartmentalize things in our thinking, this approach can be more manageable for some people.

The basement is often a neglected area when thinking about saving money. Some areas of the country have few basements, so for you this is your storage area or place where your utilities are housed.

The basement is often a neglected area when thinking about saving money. But just like Christ is the sure foundation for life (Matthew 7:24-27), looking towards our basements (or utility closest if you don’t have a basement) might be full of wisdom too.

  • Have your furnace and air conditioning (HVAC) serviced once a year. Find a good HVAC company (Angie’s list?), they often have specials, or multi-year contracts that deeply discount annual system checkups. Call a few companies to find out their regular cost, so that you can identify a good deal.
  • Replace furnace filters about every 30 days, this will help you save on electricity and gas not to mention HVAC repairs
  • If you have a basement, make sure your homeowner’s policy has sewer back-up and sump pump failure coverage. Often this is not standard, so if you are not covered, you will lose money for these common causes of water damaged property and HVAC equipment, which costs thousands to replace if immersed in water.
  • Some plumbers recommend to extend the life of your hot water heater, is to drain it once a year to remove the sediment buildup. This is easy, but be sure to search the internet for the proper procedures, since the water is very hot! Also, if your hot water heater’s drain faucet is plastic, I say don’t bother draining it. I did once, and the plastic was so cheap that it didn’t re-tighten and broke, and I had to hire a plumber to install a brass one.

While on the subject of savings on HVAC related costs, now is a good time plan to save money on electric, gas or heating oil bills.

  • Outside doors are a huge source of heat escape: weather stripping cost $3 to $15 per door
  • Windows are another huge source of heat leakage, wait for a warm day to apply caulk: cost starts at about $3 per tube
  • On sunnier days, keep the blinds and curtains open, but close everything in the evening, these will act as insulators or solar heaters.
  • Have you noticed lately many space heaters being sold at the big box retailers like Costco, Home Depot and Wal-Mart, and TV ads selling the latest and greatest? A low-cost one can pay for itself if you turn the heat down low throughout the house and put the heater in the room you occupy. Great article for more information Don’t burn cash: A space heater may help you save on your heating costs.
  • Insulate wall plates and windows (switches and plugs) on outside walls

Those of us in colder climates might have high heating bills costing up to or more than $200 per month, for 5 months. This could easily amount to a 5-month cost of $1,000, so a 20% savings is going to save you $200. These low-cost suggestions can go a long way to helping you save thousands over time.

 

Cut Your Grocery Bill in Half

This is just a quick post, to give you a few ideas for cutting your grocery budget in half.  This is definitly interesting to a lot of people since food costs can easily be 25% of people’s budget, if they are in the low to moderate income brackets. Wisdom, work, and good ideas are certainly key to this.

The Blog “Blissful and Domestic,” has great ideas about thrifty living and she seems to be really successful at it.  The whole concept is that you plan all of your meals for the month at one time, and then shop for the whole month in one day.  It saves a bunch of time.  She has instructions on how to freeze milk, bread, produce, etc.  That way you can buy in bulk when things are on sale, and still use fresh ingredients.

One my friends report “I have done this way of grocery shopping now for 3 months (Aug, sept, and just did Oct).  I am EASILY saving $150 – $200 a month on groceries.  But, the trick is, you can’t go back to the store for any reason – unles it’s a “need”.  Staying out of the store limits all of those “extra things” we pick up every time we enter the store.  I’ve also been buying some groceries at Aldi.  I have never done this before, but saving on things like rice, pasta, baking supplies, ect, seems to be a no brainer.  I don’t think there’s much difference in those items.   She also has recipes on her site and other ways to save money. ”

When I looked at our expense tracker last night (Mint.com), I noticed we went over some for September, and it was totally due to the little side trips, so this ideas seems to make great sense.

There is also a book “Cut your grocery bill in half” by Steve and Annette Economides that looks to be a good reference too.

Long-Term Car Loan Insanity

It has been reported that 7- and 8-year car loans are becoming the norm. This isn’t surprising, when you consider that the cost for a new mid-size family car, mini-van, hybrid, or small SUV can easily be $25,000, and it is not uncommon that if nice features are added they can easily cost $30,000 – $35,000. Full size models with a lot of features, or more luxury brands can kick the cost to above $40,000.

Many people look at the monthly payment, and they buy based on what they think they can afford. However, I find that most people don’t do a budget (nor live by one) before making a final decision based on monthly payment amount.

Before purchasing, it is not uncommon for new car purchasers to:

  • Fail to calculate what their real budget is: They often think they can afford something but in reality there isn’t enough room in their budget for the new car payment.
  • Fail to calculate the overall cost of buying a car: The cost includes final purchase price, which includes title and other dealer fees they add on. Secondly, most states have a sales tax.  Assuming someone purchases a $27,000 car, pays 6% sales tax and $500 in other fees: The purchase price is $29,120. This doesn’t include rebates or dealer discounts.
  • Fail to know how much total interest they will pay: Using this example, lets assume they put $2,000 down; they will borrow $27,000 at an assumed interest rate of 5% (this will depend upon credit rating and arrangements the car dealer has with lenders), and they will finance it for 7 years. The total interest paid on the loan would be $5,055.
  • Fail to know how much they will be upside down when they drive their car off of the lot:  That new car will depreciate about 10%. That new car purchased for $27,000 will now only be worth about $24,300, even though they owe the bank $27,000.
  • Forever upside down: Especially with a long-term car loan, because of the interest you owe, the car’s depreciation, and a small down-payment, you most likely will owe more than the car is worth for the entire term of the car. If you run into financial problems, such as becoming unemployed or underemployed, and you run out of savings, you might not be able to sell the car if you owe more that it is worth. So now you have a car you can’t afford, and it will be difficult to sell it! Hello repo-man.
  • Fail to calculate the impact to their financial net worth: On their balance sheet, on the asset side they can add the car’s value of $24,000; however, on the debit side, they have a $27,000 debt plus $5,055 in interest, for a total liability of more than $32,000. So their net worth has decreased by $8,000 ($32,000 – $24,000).
  • Fail to consider fuel and maintenance cost:  Some people are really savvy buying high MPG and hybrid vehicles; however, many people don’t compare that at all to other models, nor do they compare it to their current car, and they buy a car that is more thirsty on gas.
  • Fail to consider that debt is bondage. It is actually feeling like you are a slave to the lender. Proverbs 22:7
  • Debt is betting on the future.  It assumes that you can afford the payment for a long term, even though your employment, health, and overall financial situation and economy could worsen. It is spending tomorrow’s income before you even have it. It is taking many things for granted, including the Lord’s blessings.

Those who are really economically minded buy used cars with cash or short-term loans. They also calculate the total cost of ownership: purchase price and cost, interest, fuel, insurance and maintenance. Short-term loans have higher payment, making them not as affordable for many car-buying consumers. This tempts many people to lease instead of buying. Most financial experts though, like Dave Ramsey, recommend not leasing–Dave calls leases car-fleeces. Some very well healed people lease cars, and they get a new lease every few years, but for those on a tight budget, working hard to minimize debt and build wealth, if they have to borrow, short-term loans are the way to go (with large down-payment). Patiently buying good used cars with cash and maintaining them well is usually the best way to go financially.

How to Save on Razor Blades

baby shaveMen’s razor blades can be very expensive, easily costing $15 to $35 for a package of replacement cartridge blades. However, I may have found a couple of cheaper solutions: one is an online service called Dollar Shave Club (DSC). I cringe every time a single item at the grocery store costs $15 or more, so I was intrigued when I heard an advertisement on AM radio for DSC. This is a seemingly low-cost way to get razor blades online.

Razor blade coupons? You might not be interested in another ding to your debit or credit card each month for DSC, thinking you will use a coupon instead. However, these are really hard to find–since the only coupons you normally see in your local paper are just for a razor handle and one blade, or for low quality disposables.  A few weeks ago my local grocer accepted a $4.00 off coupon even though it wasn’t for the exact item, but for the correct brand. This is worth a try. I don’t feel like I am cheating the system, figuring the cash register is wired for correct coupon verification. So it is worth it to keep an eye out for your brand’s coupons, whether or not the deal matches exactly what you are buying.

Regular replacement cartridges can cost about $3.00 per cartridge for my old school 3 blade Gillette Mach III, so with a coupon it came to only about $2.50 with tax per cartridge. The 5 blade Gillette Fusion 8 pack of cartridges can be found for $28, or $3.50 per blade, and prices can climb even higher, depending on the number of blades and features. It can be really easy to spend more than this.

Everybody is different: What is the best deal for you really depends on how often you change cartridges, how thick your beard is, and your skin’s sensitivity. I can get about 4 weeks out of my Mach III’s; towards the end, the shaves can be a little rough and not as close. However, if I can stretch them a few extra days, it is worth it to save a few bucks.

Regular annual cost: If I use a new blade every three weeks, probably more typical for the average person, that comes to 13 blades in a year’s time. That seems low, so I’ll round it up to 15 blades a year to be safe. Assuming no coupons or special deals, that comes to $45 dollars per year–not that bad. If you have a thick beard and have to replace blades every week and a half, you would go through about 35 cartridges a year. Using the $3.50 per cartridge example, that comes to more than $120 per year.

dsc

How does Dollar Shave Club work? DSC is a monthly subscription service that sends you a supply of cartridges each month for a set price. When you sign up, you get a free handle. You choose between:

  • The Humble Twin: $1 per month plus shipping and handling: 2 blade head , 5 cartridges per month
  • The 4X, The Lover’s Blade: $6 per month plus S&H: 4 blade head, 4 cartridges per month
  • The Executive: $9 per month plus S&H, 4 cartridges per month

Is Dollar Shave Club a good deal?  For me, I’m pretty sure the Humble Twin wouldn’t provide the type of shave I am used to with the Mach III, but the 4X would probably work fine. $72 plus S&H is pretty good for 48 blades per year. Assuming with shipping and handling $90, that comes to less than $1.90 per cartridge. However, this is way too many cartridges for me. I could easily stop the service after 6 months and have enough for the remainder of the year for about what I now pay. DSC’s higher quantity would allow me to change them a little more often. These are not name brand cartridges, so I am guessing I will have to replace them more often if they get dull more quickly.  If you have a thick beard, the Executive would probably be the way to go, and with shipping you would probably spend something like $120 per year for 48 cartridges, or about $2.50 per cartridge–again, in this example, more blades for about the same cost.

Convenience: There is this factor too–it seems as if I always forget to buy cartridges when I need them. It would be nice to have a ready supply of them whenever needed and save a little on gas from making special trips to the store.

Conclusion: Dollar Shave Club is a great idea; they have a nice web site, and you can stop or start the membership anytime, saving a little money and time. If there is more than one adult male in your home shaving every day, this would probably save you a little money and allow you to change blades more often–pretty nice. What about for the ladies?  They don’t have cartridges specifically designed for females, and DSC is definitely targeted at guys, so ladies would have to gauge their usage to see if this is good for them. Let me know if you try this service: what the cost for shipping and handling is, and if you think the quality is good. If you work for DSC, send me a few samples to try so that I can blog about your product.

Extended Warrantees and Buyer Protection Plans

Is buying extended warranties a good idea? Sometimes they are called buyer protection plans too. The general consensus from almost all financial planners, writers and personal finance personalities like Dave Ramsey and Susan Orman is that they are a rip-off.

Most products come with some sort of warranty, and that is a good thing to compare when considering a purchase. However, automotive dealers and electronics sellers are always trying to get us to buy contracts that extend the normal warranty beyond the store’s or manufacturer’s.  Recently I bought a memory stick for less than $5, and I was offered a warranty by the cashier–come on, that is silly! The cost of the contract, or premium for the insurance, is usually expensive, and the odds are that most people never benefit from the investment.

They do provide some peace of mind, knowing that you won’t have to spend money in the future if the item breaks within a reasonable time period. I think there are several ways to make sure product failure doesn’t set you back financially:

  • Compare customer product reviews and ratings online before purchasing.
  • Research products in Consumer Reports. This costs a little money, but our library provides it online for free.
  • Probably the best thing people can do is to make sure they have plenty of money in their emergency savings in case a product needs repair or replacement.
  • We often buy the extended warranty ONLY for laptop computers and cell phones, especially for the one’s our children own. Laptops, tablets, cell phones and really nice iPods can be prone to break in the early years, so sometimes it is worth it to buy warranty extensions for these things.
  • Purchase things from a good retailer that you trust. Often sellers will go to bat for you to fight or recover from the manufacturer, especially if they see a lot of similar problems. Sometimes local retailers will eat the cost of the replacement or repair if they want to keep you as a customer, especially if the product failure wasn’t reasonable at all.
  • Purchase items with a credit card that automatically offers extended warranties- Is this a good idea?  This definitely goes against Dave Ramsey’s advice to always use cash and avoid using credit cards since that often causes us to overspend and build up a balance- so I don’t recommend this either. However a small percentage of credit card users are excellent at staying under budget, pay off the balance every month, and are good at non-cash negotiation, then using a credit card to provide extended warranties at no cost may be a good idea for these few people.  This is not a good option for most especially if you are trying to pay off your credit cards, and trying to break the credit card habit. If own something that you purchased with a credit card in the past, and it breaks be sure to contact your credit card company to see if there is protection.
  • Pray for your possessions. Recorded in Deuteronomy 8:4 “For all these forty years your clothes didn’t wear out…” Even though the Israelites were walking across the desert for 40 years, God maintained their clothing. That is why we pray for our cars, home and appliances to not break or wear out. We have a sedan with over 290,000 and a van with over 170,000 miles, with less than normal repairs. We had a set of tires with decent tread go over 100,000 miles, and hot water heaters last several years beyond our neighbhor’s whose houses were built before ours. We prayed for them and continue to do so, and are thankful for the blessing.
  • Maintain your possessions. It is excellent stewardship to not misuse possessions, as well as do regular maintenance. Simple things like car fluid changes, furnace and air conditioning (HVAC) regular service and filter replacements can extend the life of many things you own. Check your appliance’s, car’s, HVAC’s and other owners manuals for recommended maintenance schedules.

Conclusion: Extended warranties are usually expensive and seldom used, so for the most part avoid them.  If your car dealer offers you one, be sure to read the contract cover to cover a couple of times, to ensure that what you are considering buying covers those really expensive repairs that could really set you back. However, at the end of the day, praying for your possessions is one of the best things you can do.

Consumers are sometime gullible

headHave you ever bought a product but later discovered it was a piece of junk? Trevor Moore is a comedian that demonstrates how gullible some consumers are. He hocks awful products that he creates that don’t work. His brand Winnovations comes up with all kinds of ridiculous products that people believe in. For example he created a device, the Flava-Pult,  that smacks food against a wall; he tells people that the device will make food better because of what it does to the molecules. Another product, the Blow and Grow,  transfers one’s carbon dioxide to one’s scalp to grow hair. His videos show people actually using the products and they think food tastes better, or hair grows–all for laughs.

PT Barnum said a fool is born every minute, and I think he is right. Everyone has bought products from the Internet, infomercials, or maybe the fair. Last summer we went to the Ohio State Fair; walking through the various buildings we saw all kinds of products being demonstrated and sold. We bought some amazing glue that actually works better and faster than super glue. It was $20 but was worth it. Another product was this little spring action whisk that is supposed to whip things so well it can make whipped cream from skim milk in less than a minute. We didn’t buy it, but later we found the same item at a dollar store for  a few bucks. It works okay, but not quite as well as the demonstration made it look.

My experiences and these Winnovations videos tell me that we need to be careful of miracle product pitches or we may end up spending money on worthless junk. What have you bought that you later regretted?

Car Power Plants Reviewed: Electric, Hybrid, Gasoline and Others

Have you thought about buying an all-electric vehicle, or hybrid with the costs of gasoline being so high. Maybe you are ecologically minded, and think electric power is better for the environment. Before you run out and buy an alternative fuel car, I thought it would be good to cover the advantages and disadvantages of the various types of engine systems that power cars.

Within the next 10 – 20 years it is quite possible that all-electric plug-in vehicles will be the majority of cars being purchased, yet today they represent less than 5% of new-car buys. Hybrids are really popular today, and plug-in hybrids are gaining in popularity, but if you are confused by all of the options read on.

  • Traditional gasoline powered, internal combustion engine. Within the last 30 years this reliable power has gotten very efficient, light weight and low polluting. The improvement in engine technologies have been aided with lower weight chassis to expand the miles per gallon of all trucks, cars and SUV. Contrary to conventional wisdom, and media criticism, gasoline engine vehicles use a very efficient power plant.  I’ve read articles about the science of them, and they convert power from fuel very efficiently considering all the things they do. In addition they are low in maintenance, accelerate quickly and can go nearly everywhere. Their biggest advantage over any all-electric vehicle is that they can go for hundreds of miles before needing a fill up. The worst SUV may still get less than 15 miles per gallon, but the best subcompact may obtain MPG ratings in the high 40’s. The world wide supply of oil seems to be adequate to meet the demand for the balance of this century, however the ecological and political issues surrounding its use, exploration, extraction and its increasing costs make gasoline and diesel power problematic for some.
  • Diesel powered engines also have come a long way in the last dozen years. They don’t pollute nearly as much as they used to, accelerate faster than the diesel powered cars of the 70’s and 80’s. They have tons of torque, which is very helpful if towing or trucks carrying a lot of weight.  Diesel powered cars get better gas mileage than their gasoline brethren, however since most diesel powered cars cost more than equivalent gasoline models and the price at the pump of diesel costs about fifty cents more per gallon, it may take 5 years or more to recoup the additional cost. Some maintenance is less for diesel cars, but it seems diesel is best for those putting very high mileage on their cars every year, and keeping them for a very long time, such as 10 years or more.
  • Natural Gas powered vehicles are on the road today, but mainly Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) or Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) power fleets of city vehicles. Natural gas costs less than gasoline, doesn’t get as good miles per gallon, however unlike diesel, the increased cost of the vehicle and the less MPG is more quickly offset by the reduced price of natural gas.  There are not many CNG or LNG fueling stations in the U.S. to make this a viable alternative for most people. The supply of gas in the U.S. seems to be strong, however the controversy over fracking puts gas in question whether it will be the fuel answer in the coming years.
  • Hybrid powered cars and SUV’s are a blend of internal combustion and electric engines, using sophisticated systems for the efficient balance between both plants, and some extract energy from braking. In my mind there are two types of hybrids; one I call dedicated hybrids, for these the entire vehicle design and construction was built to highlight the advantages of these mated technologies, like the Toyota Prius or Ford C-Max. The second type takes an existing platform, such as a Toyota Camry or Ford Escape and swaps in the hybrid components- I call these modified hybrids.  Clearly the price of  modified hybrids can be several thousands of dollars more than the non-modified version of the same model, again like diesel, the increases costs of modified takes many years to recoup, making them a bad deal in my opinion.  The dedicated hybrids get a lot better gas mileage than the modified, because they were designed around that technology from the ground up. Dedicated hybrids still cost more when you compare cars of similar internal space and trunk size, such as if someone were considering a Toyota Corolla verses a Prius, but if someone usually purchases a car in the price range of a Prius, they are attracted by great gas mileage and well thought out design that makes their smaller space seem roomier and with hatch back’s great use of space. Prius owners love them. The other draw backs besides space and price, are the price of battery replacements if owned for a very long time. I am not a fan of modified hybrids, but like the dedicated hybrids a lot, especially if you can a great deal on one.
  • All Electric Plug-In vehicles are wonderful because you never have to buy gasoline. If you have a convetional car getting 25 miles per gallon, you can easily spend $200 or more per month on fuel, depending on the length of your commute.  The cost to recharge plug-ins are about $3, so if you drive it 28 days per month, and have to give it a full charge, your electric bill will go up by $84, maybe more if you recharge it twice a day, maybe less if you recharge it every other day, or only need partial charges. Individual buyers will need to calculate the costs for themselves. The drawbacks are they all run $30,000 – $40,000 or more for most all electrics, more than double that for a Fisker or Tesla. The Federal government provides $2,500 – $7,500 in tax credits, which helps to make them more affordable. Plug-ins are very small- not good for those wanting more space or safety of large cars. The biggest draw-back of plug-ins is their range. Most can only go 60 to 100 miles per charge, so unless there is a charging station where you are going, plug-ins are best for shorter commutes and around town driving, making them a good thing to consider if you have a second vehicle used for longer trips.  Plug-ins may not be good for apartment dwellers and condo owners who are not able to find an easy place to recharge them. One last thought- within the last several years we have had several multi-day power outages. During such times, my local coffee shop didn’t mind my camping out there to recharge my phone and laptop, but I think they would draw the line with an extension cord out to the curb. Not having a reliable gasoline powered car available could be problematic for  some.
  • Hybrid Plug-ins combine the long range and efficient capabilities of dedicated hybrids to achieve all electric use for low cost shorter trips, yet gasoline power for acceleration and longer trips. The Chevy Volt, Toyota Prius Plug-In, and Ford C-Max Energi provide these types of power plants. These cars don’t have quite have the range in all electric mode as the all electric plug-ins, since they have more weight to carry with the gasoline engine and heavy fuel on board. Expect a range in the neighborhood of 11 to 50 miles depending upon the model, for electric-only mode. However when using the combination of gas and electric, the range will be as far as many cars with just gasoline engines, and some much farther. Hybrid plug-ins seem to offer the best of both worlds, however the costs can be high for these models even after tax credits, usually making the increased cost of the purchase of the vehicle in excess of the energy saved.

Conclusion: If someone is considering the purchase of a car, I think it would be best to decide what they want in a car, such as performance, space, safety, purchase price and reliability first. Once they have arrived at that, then consider what cars are available in that price range.  If one the non gasoline-only cars fall into consideration, then calculate the fuel savings and overall features for what you are looking for- always doing the math to decide if the increased costs of the hybrid will be offset by the fuel savings. In other words don’t just look for efficiency and forget safety and price, in the end you might not be happy with the performance.

The Low Hormone Rip-Off

Radio and Television is awash with silly advertisements aimed at anyone 40 or older, to get you to buy supplements to counter the effect of lower hormones as we age.  The ads ask if you are fatigued or depressed, have low sex drive, are gaining weight, or are generally having a feeling of malaise. These ads appeal to everyone really, since everyone experiences some of the symptoms as they age.

Amberen is the product that I hear advertised the most on AM radio for women and Andro 400 and Ageless Make for men. Looking at Amberen’s web site, I see a  list of the ingredients that include basic vitamins a lot of people need. Listed are calcium and magnesium, zinc and vitamin E. My wife has been taking calcium/magnesium for years, and it helps her a lot with her monthly hormone fluctuations. You can buy these supplements a lot cheaper than Amberen’s regular price of $149.

Also Amberen has MSG, an additive used in many food products like snacks and Asian food, to enhance flavors. MSG gives me migraine headaches, and I have read a lot of side affects of taking MSG on various web sites. I’m puzzled why this ingredient is added, although the Amberen website says it is added for energy.

The other ingredient listed is an amino acid, which they indicate helps with emotion when coupled with magnesium.

I would avoid these pills, since the advertising is misleading and their product is expensive. At the very least talk to your doctor first. If you feel you need these vitamins and proteins, first eat more nutritious food, and if you feel you fall short on some items, buy high quality but much lower cost supplements.

Contrary to the ads, most people will notice very little change in their fatigue, depression, sex drive, or weight loss. Just like people avoided the snake oil sold centuries before, avoid big claims and big price tags. Save your money. The best way to treat these things is through better life management, including good personal finances, diet, exercise, adequate sleep, professional medical care, and habits to promote positive mental health.

 

Save Big on Hanes

Average quality, 100% cotton underwear seems to have really gotten expensive the last few years. While shopping for just basic plain white T-shirts, we were amazed that a packet of 5 costs $34 at Sears and Kohls. Sometimes you can find where they are throwing in an extra shirt or briefs so you get 6 for the price of 5. Is that supposed to help you get over the shock of having very little change left over after tax, after laying down a couple of $20 bills on the merchant’s counter?

Sears and Kohls often run these items on sale, as they did recently. The deal being advertised was “Buy One, Get One 50% Off”–what coupon masters refer to as BOGO. So now you are tempted to buy a couple of packages. If both items cost $34, then after tax you will spend about $55. I hate the feeling of having $100 bucks in my pocket–5 $20 dollar bills, and then be down to only having 2 of them left, plus change. I feel like I have been taken to the cleaners.

My son went to the Internet to check prices. He found the same items being sold for $18.99 at Amazon, so after buying a couple of packages that normally sell for $34, we could have had them for about $40, plus free shipping for Prime members. The same items were on sale at Hanes.com for $14 per package, but some other items were a little more expensive and they didn’t offer free shipping. So after comparing both websites, we saved a couple of bucks at Amazon.

Later, I wanted to buy some for myself and I only found them at the Hanes website, and searched for discount promo codes and saved another 5% off the entire order, so I ordered them directly from Hanes. My order was just under $60, so I was going to have to pay 10.99 shipping, so I was able to add another low cost item ($6.99) to get free shipping.

You can buy decent quality 100% cotton name brand underwear online right now, without having to give ther shirt off your back to buy them.

Costco Cost Savings and Warnings

Big Box retailers like Sam’s Club and Costco can sometimes save you a lot of money, but if you aren’t careful you can end up spending more money than you planned to. I suspect most people do go over budget at these places.

We are avid coupon clippers and deal shoppers, and often our receipt from the regular grocery store shows we saved 25 % – 45%, so I think we can tell when something is a good deal or not.

What I like about Costco: Take for example batteries. It is easy to buy an average size package of batteries at most places for $8; even if they are the smallest AAA you often get fewer than 10. Last time we bought double and triple A batteries at Costco we paid less than $15 for a huge package–I think it had about 40.  The savings is not unusual. We find good deals on hummus, some frozen and produce items, jeans, prescriptions and some health and beauty items, such as an unbelievable price on a Claritin generic. I also like the fact that some food products are organic and don’t have MSG added, and many of their deli meats don’t have nitrates. Don’t get me wrong, they are not anything close to an organic grocer. However, if you are like us and can’t afford to shop organic exclusively, you might like the fact that they make some effort, at a price you can manage, to avoid some of the things organic shoppers don’t want in their food. It is probably not good enough to satisfy those that shop organic exclusively, but it is good for those on a budget that like to be able to get some products that are more healthful.

A few other Costco savings examples: Last month they had top-brand windshield wipers, buy-one get-one free for $7.99. That was about 1/3 of the normal price. A friend of mine recently bought a new Honda Accord through Costco, and, after negotiating with several local dealers in the area, was still able to save money through Costco.

What I don’t like about Costco: I have noticed that almost every item in the store starts out at nearly $10, so it is easy for the things in your cart to add up to $100. Of course there are a lot of exceptions, but Costco is a masterful marketer, so you may be drawn impulsively to buy things you don’t need. I don’t like the fact that some of the containers are so big, such as canned goods. Americans throw away a lot of food, so you have to be careful to buy only what you will realistically consume. Emotionally our brains tell us that if the package is big, it must be cheaper. However, we find that some things, such as laundry detergent and some dry goods, are cheaper elsewhere, especially when we use our coupons and our organized system of  using sales and grocery cycles. Don’t be drawn to buy something that seems cheaper without doing some price checking.

Do people save money there? Sure they do, but I would venture to guess that most people end up spending more money. Generally observing what people are pulling off the shelf, we can see quickly the things people are overspending on. My wife teaches a class on couponing, which is actually more like home economics. She finds that most people lack proper knowledge about pricing and sales, buy out of habit, and don’t plan because they feel they are too busy. However, she estimates that for every hour she spends planning and cutting coupons she saves $50. For us this adds up to $200 in savings each month. Try asking your boss for a $200 monthly raise.

In summary, groceries are one of the biggest parts of monthly budgets; however, if we plan and shop smartly, we can prevent big box retailers from breaking our budgets.

Life After Foreclosure, Other Personal Finance Headlines

Interesting articles worth checking out: Homeowners qualifying for new mortgage after short sale. Auto purchasing and the various fine print costly add-ons. Estate planning: Naming a trustee for your trust, and living wills. Roth IRA escape hatch, for those that already converted, but now regret it.