Will There Be Fewer Costco Coupons?

I wrote a post in December of last year about how Costco’s December coupons were awful.  They were so bad that we didn’t even make a Costco trip that month.  This is very unusual for the holidays.  One of my readers (Loughneylaurie) made a comment that perked my attention, as it suggested that they are going to be offering less coupons in the future.  I haven’t found any real evidence or discussion on the Internet as of yet.  But, with looking at recent coupon book release dates, I wonder if there will be fewer Costco coupons moving forward.

Latest Trend Shows Possibility of Fewer Costco Coupons

Looking up the history of Costco coupon books is fairly easy.  Many sites scan the books and post the images on line.  So it was fairly easy to find the dates of the most recent coupon books from Costco.

I narrowed my search to the last 15 books.  I’m not sure why, it just seemed like a good stopping point.

Each of the Costco coupon books traditionally associates with a calendar month, even if there’s a couple of days that bleed over into a different month.  For example, a book that runs from January 28th through February 21st would be the ‘February coupon book’.

Here’s some high level results.

  • Length – 11 of the 15 books ran for 25 days.  The other four ran for between 26 – 29 days.  This seems to have stayed fairly consistent.
  • 2016 Break – There’s usually a gap between coupon books.  A majority of the time, the break has been 3 days, and in 2016, there was four times when it was not.  The break (in days) for those times was: 0,9,10,10.
  • 2017 Break – So far there have been two breaks in the 2017 coupons, and both of those are higher than any of the times in 2016.  The first break was 11 days, and the next break was 16 days.

The fact that the last two are the highest two tells me that they could be scaling back the number of coupon books.  If they offer them for the same length of time, say around 25 days, but increase the gap, they could offer 2-4 less books per year.  This does not make me happy.

What If There Are Fewer Costco Coupon Books?

We’ve been less and less satisfied with Costco over the past year or so.  They’ve replaced many items with organic

Image from morguefile courtesy of frenchbyte

versions, at much higher price points.  While this month’s coupons are pretty good, it seems they’ve been experimenting with offerings.  Taking away savings would not make us happy.  I’ve also heard that they’re considering raising their membership rates from $55 to $60.

We’ll be keeping a close eye on what they do. We have a Sam’s Club that is just as close as Costco.  We glanced through a recent book and it was really quite good.  They also offer some pretty good sign-up deals for the first year of membership, as low as $25.  Many times you can even save on renewals as well.

We’ve floated around the idea of running two memberships at the same time.  We’d probably keep the Costco membership until at least next January, so that we could use and redeem our rewards associated with our Costco Visa cash back card.  That would give us a good time to compare the two, and determine which offers the products we need at the price we want.

The comparison hasn’t started yet, but Costco seems to be pushing us closer and closer to the line where they could very well lose our business.

Readers, what do you think about Costco?  Are we the only ones that count on Costco coupons to provide some additional savings on top of buying in bulk?  Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Free Cash: Why We Use Cash Back Credit Cards

We use cash back credit cards for just about every purchase that we possibly can.  Why?  The answer is simple, because we earn free cash and it adds up to a good amount.  Below is how much cash we’ve earned in the last twelve months.

Costco Visa Card

This is our primary spending card.  It has the most rewards that we use.  We get 4% cash back on gas, 3% at restaurants, 2% at Costco, and 1% on everything else.

They issue a certificate once per year that you take into the store to cash.  This year we’ll be getting $281.88.

American Express Blue Everyday Card

When Costco switched from American Express to Visa, we took an offer to open one of these cards.  We primarily use this at grocery stores, as we get 3% cash back.  We do make other purchases on here as well.

Since we opened this last year, we’ve earned $159.32 in cash back.

In addition to this, American Express has the best ‘offers’ of any card I’ve seen.  In addition to the above, we’ve saved money on statement credits just for using American Express to pay our cell phone bill, visit a Mobil station, or even just to sign in to their online app.  Plus we got a big statement credit just for spending a certain amount on the card within 90 days.  Without looking, I’d say we got over $350 in statement credits on top of the cash back.

Citi Dividends Cards

These were the first cash back cards we ever opened, and I don’t think you can even get them as new members anymore.  But, for these (just like everything else) we get 1% cash back on everything, plus 5% on rotating categories that change every quarter.

We pretty much keep these because they’re our oldest cards, and having a card established for that long is good for our credit scores.  We’ll use this for camping reservations or other purchases that don’t give bonus money on any other card.

Between my card and my wife’s card, we have earned $125.41 over the past twelve months since we last cashed out.

Grand Total Earned From Cash Back Credit Cards

Adding all of that up, we have earned $566.81 in cash back just by using our cards.  We pay our cards off in full every month, so we aren’t paying a nickel in interest.  Nor do we pay an annual fee for any of these cards.  That’s basically us buying things or making purchases on things we’re going to anyways, and ending up with over $500.  That is a pretty good deal if you ask me.

In the past, we’ve used our cash back rewards cards to purchase electronics.  All of our flat screen TVs have been purchased with cash back rewards money.  We’ve also applied this toward a vacation in years we haven’t needed anything new.

Readers, do you use cash back reward cards?  Do you make sure to use them to your full advantage?  If so, what tricks or tips do you have?  Please let me know how things work for you in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Shopping Malls Dying While Shopping Centers Thriving

The shopping mall has been in a steady decline for a while.  As of 2014, no new enclosed malls had been built since 2006.  That’s a far cry from when the shopping mall reigned king.  Yet, while shopping malls have hit some hard times, new shopping centers are still being built at a brisk pace.  So why are shopping malls dying while shopping centers are thriving?  Here is my theory.

Online Shopping Has Changed The Retail Landscape

It’s no secret that online shopping has taken a big chunk out of traditional brick & mortar stores.  It seems every year, online sales records are shattered.  Cyber Monday 2016 was record breaking.

I know I love shopping online when I have the opportunity.  For me, as long as I can get what I want better or near the same price, I’ll buy online more often than not.  I will even pay a little more sometimes.  I figure my time saved in not having to go get the item (plus gas) makes up for the cost.

Brick & Mortar Stores Are Not Going Away

In spite of more and more shopping being done online, people still go to stores.  Parking lots still get full on busy days.  Even throughout the year, there are some places that are always packed.

I don’t ever see a time where physical stores go away.  You’ll always have people that want to browse.  There will always be items that simply don’t lend themselves to buying online.  Some items are impulse buys and even drone deliveries will often take too long compared to buying something on the spot.

You’re always going to have stores.

My Theory On Shopping Malls Dying While Shopping Centers Growing

Around where I live, we have several shopping malls within a 15 mile radius.  While most stay busy, there isn’t talk of

Image from Morguefiles courtesy of Jusben

any new ones.  There are a couple that, while not struggling, are definitely showing some signs of stress.  Renovation projects at nearby malls are infrequent and cosmetic.

Meanwhile, shopping centers are still going up like crazy.  Within just a few miles, it seems a new shopping center goes up every month and are full almost immediately.  And, it’s not like older shopping centers are dying.

So why is this?

My theory is that online shopping has taken enough of a chunk to where shopping at the store is no longer the event that it used to be.  Back before online sales, if you needed to go out, you could make a whole day of it.  Going to ten stores to buy all sorts of different things was not out of the norm.  So, why not drive to one place and have it all right there for you?  The mall was perfect for this.

Malls Are A Burden

Now, with online shopping, people still need to go out, but they no longer need to spend all day shopping.  Instead of spending a whole day shopping, they might need to just stop at one or two places.  When having to run into just one or two stores, the mall suddenly becomes very inconvenient.

Even if the frequency of these types of stops increases, meaning that people make more per month, people would still rather run in and out.  Who wants to deal with parking, making a long walk in, having to walk all around a big mall, just to make one or two stops?  Nobody.

Everything that once made the mall the center of retail is now working against it.

Do Malls Have A Future?

With all of this, can the decline of the mall be reversed?  Who knows?  I certainly don’t see any movement that would suddenly reverse the trend of online sales, but there could be something else to change the landscape.  It’s hard to tell.

I think that the stagnation of malls will continue.  What you might see is that more and more malls will contract as they continue to age and owners realize that the cost of upkeep is no longer worth it.  Big box retailers seem to be struggling, and as they traditionally act as anchors to shopping malls, this is an ongoing risk.  As more big retailers close, the mall could die off quickly.

Malls typically also take up many acres of real estate.  Depending on the location of the mall, there might not be a big chunk of land, so a mall parcel could be very attractive.  Think of all the houses that could be built.  Or office buildings.

Or even shopping centers.

Readers, how are malls doing where you live?  Do you find yourself making less frequent visits than you once did?  What are your thoughts on the future of the once mighty shopping mall?

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.

Should Kids Have Homework In Early Grades?

At the start of the school year, I saw a lot of talk about whether kids should have homework.  Increasingly, it seems that many educators feel that homework is no longer needed.  Some schools have backed off from assigning homework entirely.  Our two younger kids (2nd grade and kindergarten) are both in the same elementary school, but there is not a set policy.  We currently have one kid that has regular homework and one that does not.  After a few months, I have my opinion on the question of should kids have homework?

The Case For Homework

Many people will argue that homework is a good thing.  There are many different arguments in favor of regular homework, even in early grades.

  • Homework establishes a pattern at a young age.  Patterns are important.
  • Assigning homework keeps kids minds working after school.
  • Working on homework gives parents more opportunities to be involved
  • Homework gives parents more insight as to what their kids are learning.

The Case Against Homework

Many now argue that kids should not receive regular homework.  This seems to be a growing trend using many different thoughts.

  • Younger kids are increasingly busy with activities and don’t have time for homework.
  • Kids minds need a break from learning and more time for fun.
  • Homework could make tired kids even more tired, which then impacts their classroom learning time negatively.

Our Mixed Homework Situation

Our kids school doesn’t have a set policy for homework.  Each teacher is allowed to do what they please.  We actually have a mixed approach this year.  Our son’s 2nd grade teacher does not regularly send homework.  He only has assigned homework to review for upcoming tests.   However, our kindergarten age daughter does have homework.  She receives a packet at the beginning of each month with about 20 worksheets.  Each worksheet takes about 10 minutes to complete.  In order to keep on top of things, we try to have her do one worksheet per month.

The mixed approach has honestly not been easy in our house.  Since our daughter has regular work where our son does not, it creates drama.  When our daughter has homework and our son does not, she doesn’t want to do it. We’ve tried getting some workbooks and worksheets to have him do, but he knows it’s not required by school.  Also, we often don’t know the day to day stuff they’re doing, so we sometimes find stuff that is too easy or too hard.

Image from Morguefile courtesy of arker

I know that many schools have school wide policies, which would probably make things easier for us.  That way it would be both kids either expecting to do homework or not having it on their list of things to do.  This mixed approach is not ideal.

Our Thoughts: Should Kids Have Homework

Having seen both sides of the coin, and at the same time nonetheless, my wife and I agree.  Our thoughts:

  • Homework is a good idea for our kids.
  • A small amount of homework is ideal for younger kids.
  • Homework sent home monthly or weekly is a better approach than having nightly assignments.
  • A school wide (or district wide) policy would be beneficial.

We’ve seen different approaches and we like a little bit of both.  Of course it isn’t up to us, but if it were, we would have our kids do assigned homework.

Readers, what do you think about homework?  Do your kids get homework assigned regularly?  Should kids should get assigned homework at a young age to prepare for what comes later?  Please let me know your experiences and thoughts in the comments below.

Copyright 2017 Original content authorized only to appear on Money Beagle. Please subscribe via RSS, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, or receive e-mail updates. Thank you for reading.