Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Dangers of Impulse Shopping

Are you guilty of it? Most of us know that’s the reason all the candy bars, gum, magazines, and trinket items surround the grocery checkout lane. These same item displays have spread to every store from Wal-Mart to Kohls. These tiny add-ons pack on the money too.

Consider this, a regular pack of gum at the checkout aisle in $1.39. If I walked three aisles over to the gum and candy section, I could buy a multi-pack of three of the same gum for on sale for a $1. I just paid over 70% more for the convenience of not walking a few steps. Frugalnistas know this type of thing can add up quickly. This is the same reason we scan the gas stations is to get a few cents off the gallon because it all adds up eventually. Why do we buy impulsively?

Convenience is one, but often we buy items we never considered buying when we walked into the store. We come in for one item and leave with a different one, a more expensive item. A store wants to sell items, be it a brick or mortar store or online. Often the sale item will be surrounded by similiar items or add-ons. If you're buying a turkey, then you'll want gravy, turkey bags, a pan, stuffing, etc. Sometimes the sale item is flanked by items of better quality. The 49.99 microwave you originally planned to buy doesn't look so good sitting next to the more loaded models. The store is suggesting items to buy simply by placement. Online stores do this too.

Amazon always recommends a slew of items when I sign on to look. They know what I have bought or looked at previously, the fact I signed on is also an indication I am looking to buy. There is no real difference than the efficient salesperson that offers to bring a different color or size. Salons also used this technique. I went into a salon to use my gift certificate for a manicure and pedicure, and had upgrades suggested throughout my visit from a brow wax to flowers painted on my toenails. The impulse buy can also be fueled by the sales people. Not once, did I think of flowers painted on my toenails before I walked into the salon.

Often, you get home with your impulse buy and immediately regret it. Not enough to return it, besides it may have been final clearance and you can’t return it. Sometimes, we buy out of emotional need. Women will often joke about retail therapy. Nothing makes you feel as good as buying a new pair of shoes, unless it is two pairs. The feeling tends to go away when the shoes are uncomfortable. When the bill comes, it goes away big time. I’ve had incredible bargains sitting in my closet until I gave them away to Goodwill since I couldn’t use them or even sell them at a yard sale.

Avoid impulse buys by asking yourself these questions. Do I have to have it right now? (If you wait three days, you’ll be amazed that the feeling passes that seemed overwhelming at first.) If buying clothes, shoes, or accessories, can you wear the item to three different occasions? (The only thing you can rationalize wearing once is a wedding gown.)Do I have something similar to this already? ( How many pairs of black pants, black shoes, or corkscrews do you really need?) Am I buying this because I’m sad, disappointed, or even angry? Emotional buying never results in a good decision.

Want to avoid emotional buying don’t browse. Some people love to window shop, they cruise in and out of various shops with no real intention of buying anything and leave with an armload of bags. Credit makes it seem so easy because it is not like using real money. Shopping is not a recreational activity. If you need an item research it, before you shop. Look at the sales ads and check out prices online. This way you only need to hit one store with the best price. Pay in cash, always. You’ll be amazed how fast cash runs out. That is your budget telling you that you’ve spent enough.

What if you have a closet of impulse buys you now regret? Many stores will let you return them with a receipt. Others will let you exchange it for store credit and get something practical. You can also make gifts of them if no one has seen them yet. Item with tags still attached sell very well online. Just make sure to post good pictures and a detailed description. No one buys anything without a photo or a description. Often you can sell items you received as gifts you don’t want online too.

The one last thing that causes impulse buying is children. We’ve all seen some child throwing a tantrum in aisle twenty because his mother won’t get him a toy he wants. The way I dealt with this was I explained to the children before I went into the store that they would not get a toy or other item. If they were very good and didn’t ask for anything, they could pick out a candy that the three of them could share. Did this work? Yes, but it included me leaving the store once when one child tried to throw a tantrum. They all learned tantrums do not get you anything, but major trouble.

In conclusion, plan your trip, shop with a list, try not to shop when you are hungry or blue, and pay with cash. Any item not on the list but calls to you, use your questions. If you can’t afford to pay for it in cash then you don’t need it. Cutting out the impulse buys will really help your budget.

My final advice: those magazines that have those zinger headlines, which you buy for just one article, go ahead and get in the longest line you’ll have time to scan it without paying five dollars for a collection of advertisements. I will admit to paging through and seeing what stars look like without their makeup…like us. It would not have been worth three or four dollars to find that out.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Black Friday Shopping

Are you ready for Black Friday? It's not for the weak of heart. If you plan carefully you can get most of your shopping done in a day at greatly discounted prices.

1. Know what your family and friends want. Have their sizes and color preferences keyed into your phone. No one wants a call at 5am to see if they still wear 36/30 jeans.

2. Search the ads, right now online, stores are displaying their specials. They are aware of the danger of relying on the paper because fewer and fewer people are taking the paper.

3. Talk to friends who are previous Black Friday shoppers. Some stores are guilty of doing teaser ads. There is a great computer for $400, but there is only ten of them. No matter what time you get there you will not be one of the ten. These are stores you don't even want to waste your time on. Hint: Wal-mart, Best Buy, video gaming stores since they don't purchase that much product

4.Know the stores that stock the item and offer rain checks. I always shop h.h. Gregg because they always have what they advertise and they make a point of opening up before the other stores. They all all their employees there and you're out in under thirty minutes every time.

5.Know the stores to avoid, you probably seen them all the news. These are the stores with out-of-control crowds and someone gets hurt, if not killed. I avoid both Walmart and Target. Any special they have I can get online cheaper and not pay state tax usually. I also don't waste time stuck in the Wal-mart parking lot when I could be shopping at other stores.

6. Save your coupons. Places like Bed,Bath, and Beyond; Bath and Body Works; DSW, allow you to use your coupons on Black Friday. Other stores will have Black Friday coupons just to get you in the store. Read the coupons because they can only be used on certain things.

7. Go for the specials only. Don't start piling on stuff that isn't on sale.

8. I head to my favorite store, Kohls, which is everyone else's favorite store and hide everything I want to buy, then shop at the other less liked stores to avoid standing in line for two hours. No one has found my stuff yet.

9. Have an inside source. I've had employees who I knew casually actually hold promo merchandise for me.They offered to do it because I taught their child and I agreed. That's how my son got all the Pokemon games one year.

10. Because this is serious work, you should wear athletic shoes and sweatshirts, even fanny packs. You will need your hands free. You can wear your Santa hat for a festive note.

11. Shopping carts are usually not your friend. You can slide through crowds without a shopping cart. I know sometimes you need them.

12. Do not bring your children. Teen-agers can handle it if they can wake up early.

13. Ironically, with the focus on the day after Thanksgiving, more stores are starting their sales on Thanksgiving. You can easily buzz into Kmart, Walgreens and Big Lots before the big dinner.

14. Watch the Internet deals too. Many stores have an online presence and you can get the same deal without leaving your home.

15. Many malls offer gift wrapping if you want to get it all done at once.

16. If you shop in a group, take turns parking the car, so different people get a head start in the building.

17. Bring snacks. A granola bars and water stashed in the car will keep you going. Even gum will help some.

18. Be polite. It cost nothing to be nice, but it might cost you the items you want by being rude.

19. If you don't get what you came for, remember there will be other sales, lots of them.

20. Shop outside the box. I get amazing buys at Menards, Tractor Supply, even Rural King. Sure I am usually buying for my adult sons, but you'd be amazed the items they bring in just for Christmas.

Happy Shopping

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Is Extreme Couponing a Workable Deal?

Who hasn’t been amazed at those folks on the couponing shows who manage to get $200 of groceries for only $13? I know I have. I’ve envied them too. There are a few reasons why I won’t ever be the next Extreme Couponing Queen. I have a full time job, which prevents me from spending 20 hours a week combing newspapers, online coupons sites and sending off for coupons. Never mind the time needed to organize coupons, plus plan shopping trips to stores that maximize double, even triple coupons promotions, plus mailing in the rebates. Then there is the expense of buying the newspapers, and ordering coupons that I need to deduct from my amazing savings. I would be able to pay myself $7 an hour for every hour spent couponing. Most jobs pay more and offer some benefits.

My sister is an extreme couponer. She showed me off a garage full of metal shelving units filled with endless rolls of Rice Roni, canned tomatoes and cleaning supplies. My first thought was it looked like a supermarket. My second thought was she doesn’t cook much and she has a cleaning lady. How in the world can she use up all these items?

Would you buy something if you had a really good coupon? I would, at least once. This is what the manufacturer is hoping you’ll do. If I find out I don’t like the product for some reason then I would never buy it again. Makes sense. The extreme couponer often stocks up on items she’s unfamiliar with since it is such a good deal. Even items she would normally use go bad, especially cereals, crackers, chips and cookies. Cake and bread mixes attract weevils. Grain products attract rodents and moths. Grocery stores constantly battle insect and rodent issues. Do you want this for your garage or basement? If you live in a hot, humid climate there are few things you can store for long. It is never a good deal to have items that will simply be thrown away at a later date.

Instead of extreme couponing, I participate in Pretty Good Couponing. I sign up for all the promos, rebates, and loyalty cards I can. I usually get coupons in the mail from retail stores for 30-50% off. If I want to go to a particular store or place, I google a promo code for it. I usually find one.

Use your connections to get coupons or promos. I actually get several discounts from my AAA card and being active duty. Don’t be afraid to ask for the discount. I paw through the newspaper because coupons aren’t always in the middle. I listen to the radio for deals. I print off coupons I hear about. I tell my friends what I am interested in because they may have a coupon for it, or know a promo code.

Bring ads from competitors and ask if your favorite store will meet their price. Many will. Always talk to the manager often sales associates do not know. I do online surveys to keep myself in Penney’s coupons. Each coupon is good for $10 for any $25 worth of merchandise.

On the whole, I do not shop without a coupon, a promo code, or a loyalty card. I may not save $200 on groceries, but I do okay, especially considering the time I put into it, which isn’t much. I only buy products I like and will use. So for me it is a win-win situation.