Dollar Stretcher: Decoding Walmart
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If you’re looking for Walmart deals, watch for their markdowns. Prices that end in “5” are a markdown. Prices that end in “1” are the lowest price that they’ll get. I always watch for them because I know I’m getting a real bargain!
When my teen got a job, we immediately signed up for direct deposit. It was so much easier to save this way. If he wants money, we go inside and withdraw, but I think it also helps that we have not signed up for an ATM card. Each week, he enters his paycheck in his register.
Kids play areas
If you have a play structure in your backyard, you probably want a soft landing space under it. Instead of buying mulch each year, visit your local farm supply store and buy some bulk sawdust or ground up rubber. Both are used in horse stalls and can be bought for cheap. You'll need to replace the sawdust, but the rubber pellets last forever.
We went to a sales pitch for fixed annuities. The salesman told us that the income was guaranteed for life. I spoke with my accountant and she reminded me that the income was guaranteed, but there were two things I needed to know before investing with them. First, the monthly income amount is guaranteed, but that doesn’t guarantee what it will buy. I can remember when a gallon of gas was 29 cents, so I’m assuming that prices will continue to gradually go up. The other thing my CPA mentioned was to make sure that there was a clause where I could cash in the contract without penalty if I went into a retirement home. Many do not, and if you need the money to buy into a retirement home, you could face a hefty penalty for canceling the annuity.
Saving for a summer vacation
Here are a couple of things that we do each May to help save for our summer vacation. We cancel our cable TV. It’s not a huge savings, but the kids all have finals, so it’s good that there’s no TV distraction from their studies. I also use up anything in my pantry. That cuts my grocery bill for the month. We also eliminate our weekly restaurant outing. When you add it all up, it provides a few hundred dollars that will come in handy when we visit Yellowstone Park this summer.
Mushrooms for cooking
When I have more mushrooms than I can keep fresh, I slice them, cook them in some butter, and freeze them in a freezer bag to be used in cooked dishes like soup and on burgers or chicken. Before I put the bag in the freezer, I spread the mushrooms out evenly and "divide" them into desired sections with the side of my hand or you could use a straight edge, then I fold it up on the divisions to keep the sections separated and secure with an elastic if needed. This prevents them from freezing into a solid block of more mushrooms than I need at a time. When I want to use some, I remove the number of sections needed.
Lorraine in NH
We used to have a supper club with two other couples. Once a month, we’d go out to dinner, but with dinners approaching $20 a person, it got to be a bit much for our budgets. Now, we all look for cheap ideas for our outings.
So far, we’ve gone to free outdoor concerts, watched little league baseball, and visited a museum on a free visitors day! We’re still having fun. In fact, I’d say that we're having more fun than when we were eating out!
If you have a college student who was away at school, you may have had your auto insurance company put them on “inactive” status to save money on your insurance bill. If they’re coming home for the summer, you need to remember to call your insurance company. If you don’t and they have an accident, the insurance might not cover their accident.
Easy way to track spending
Many of my friends have different credit cards for different things like one for gas and another for groceries. They’re using different ones to build up their rewards points. While this may work for them, I use the opposite approach. I put all my charges on one card. That way, I can just look to the one account to know how much I'm spending on gas or groceries.
Having it all together makes it easier for me to compare. If you’re tired of trying to figure out which card to use every time you buy something, you should find a good cash-back card and just use it everywhere like I do!
Before you Trivago
With vacation season approaching, I keep seeing ads telling me how to get the cheapest hotel room. Before I make my final choice, I always check two things. First, are there any fees that aren’t included in the nightly rate?
It’s ok if they only charge you if you use the service, but some have charges that should be included in the room rate but aren’t. I also check to see if they offer a continental breakfast. With even a simple breakfast costing $8 to $10 per person, our family of four can save $40 with a free continental breakfast. Therefore, paying $20 more for the room is actually a bargain!
A true neighborhood association
We live in a typical suburban neighborhood except for one thing. We’ve made a point to get to know each other. That’s made a big difference. For instance, we needed to reroof our house last year. Our next door neighbor was thinking of doing his roof as well, so we went out for bids at the same time. By choosing the same contractor, we saved about $500 each! We share many seldom used tools (like a rototiller, 1/2" hammer drill, carpet cleaner, etc.). Typically, if we borrow something like that, we'll give the owner half of what it would cost at a rental center. They get a little bit to help pay for the item. We get it for a discount and don't have to worry about being charged an extra day if we're an hour late!
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