Don’t Be Wasteful When Shopping In Bulk

Personal Finance Firewall did a great post a couple of weeks back on how to get the most of your products when shopping in bulk.

The best part of the post, in my opinion was going through the differences between the various dates and how they’re labeled (e.g. Best By, Sell By, Use By).  This information would probably be useful printed out and kept on the wall in people’s pantry!

We buy quite a few items in bulk.  I thought about a few things we do that weren’t mentioned that might go along well with the referenced post.

  • Buy stuff we know we’ll use – This may seem obvious, but most of the time, we’ll only buy stuff that we know we use regularly.  An example here is raisins.  I started using raisins regularly with my morning breakfast of oatmeal.  Once I knew that was part of my routine, it made sense to start buying raisins in bulk, and we’ve saved a lot because of it.
  • Stock your cupboards and pantry using First In First Out – When you get home from Costco or whatever your choice of bulk food provider may be, it’s tempting to just stick the stuff you bought on the shelf in the easiest way possible.  That usually involves some combination of filling in empty spots, or pushing what’s there to the back.  This usually means you’ll have older stuff in the back, where it will often fall victim to the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ downfall, and end up not being used.  I take the time to put our newest stuff in the back.
  • Re-arrange things now and then – Even if you do keep the older stuff in the front, you’d still be amazed at what you forget about.  Every so often, I’ll do a complete overhaul of our bulk food stuff.  Most of our bulk food stock goes on a shelving unit at the bottom of the basement stairs.  I’ll move everything around.  This accomplishes to things: It makes sure that I touch (and become aware of) every single things we have.  The second is that it returns order and organization to the mix.  Often, with bulk food buying, you’ll need more space for one thing and less for another than you did previously.  Re-arranging will allow you to make best use of your space, and reduce waste.

I’m sure there are a lot of other ways.  Give the article above a read, and see if what I added on can help you make the most of your bulk food buying.

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Whatever You Do, Don’t Buy Designer Sunglasses

I saw a ‘money saving’ news story on one of the local news channels that discussed the value (or lack thereof) in purchasing ‘name brand’ or designer sunglasses.

Long story short, the extra money that you spend on a designer label, like RayBan or Oakley, simply isn’t worth it.  One thing that I never knew is that many of the labels (the two I just mentioned included) are actually owned by one company, Luxottica, so the competition between brands really isn’t competition at all in many cases.

To top it off, Luxottica owns many of the retail outlets that sell the designer brand of sunglasses, including the staple of many malls, Sunglass Hut.  It’s also reported that when you shop at one of these stores and pay for a pair of ‘designer label’ sunglasses, upwards of 60% of your purchase is pure profit for Luxottica, and a good portion of what you’re paying for at a mall store is the ridiculously high overhead that goes into operating a mall store.

In other words, don’t buy designer sunglasses!  They’re just not worth the extra cost.  Yes, you get the fancy little label on the side, and you may even get a little case to put the glasses in that makes you feel extra special, but even so, most of what you’re paying for is rent, employees, and most importantly, to line the pockets of some already rich investors.

I have never had a pair of designer sunglasses.  I guess I’ve always been too cheap to buy one, and now I’m glad of that!

My experience is that I will buy most of my sunglasses from one of the kiosk stores at the mall that sells ‘compare to’ styles of the designer brands.  Chances are, they’re identical or practically identical.  I know that I’m still paying for overhead, but the overhead at a kiosk has to be pennies on the dollar compared to a store.  The rent charge is obviously much lower, and there’s only one employee at a time at most kiosks.  Most of the sunglasses I’ve purchased here have been in the $15-20 range, and I’ve been satisfied most of the time.

Personally, I find that, for me, sunglasses reach their end of life under one of the following circumstances:

  • They go out of fashion and/or I get sick of them
  • I lose them
  • I drop them and scratch the lenses

I’ve had a couple of pairs that have started to fall apart, where a screw might start working itself loose repeatedly, but considering that I can buy five or six pairs of the type I typically buy for the same price that one pair of ‘designer’ pair cost, I am confident that I have still come out ahead.

Way ahead.

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Three Ways To Control Impulse Spending

It’s almost inevitable.  You go to the store and you walk out dropping a bunch of money on stuff you had no intention of purchasing.  Some people are worse than others at this.  Some purchases have more of an impact than others.  For example, an unexpected pack of gum probably isn’t going to set you back as much as a 50″ Plasma TV.

I use three ways to curb our impulse spending.

  1. Identify your ‘problem areas’ – If you sit down and think about it, you’ll probably find that there are certain areas in which you typically are prone to impulse buying.  For some, it’s clothing stores.  For others, it’s at the grocery store.  Identify what you would consider your top problem spots.  For me, I’ve discovered that my biggest pinch points are at Costco and at home improvement stores.
  2. Make a list before you go shopping at these stores – Most of the time when we impulse shop, it’s because we don’t have clear direction on what we want to spend.  If you set limits by creating a list, chances are you will stick to this list or at least curb your impulse spending dramatically.  Now, whenever I venture out to Costco, we prepare a list beforehand, and same with the home improvement store.  Though we occasionally find something that gets added, having a list has probably cut 90% of impulse shopping in these stores.
  3. Estimate prices on the list – If possible, expand your list to also create a spending estimate by item.  This obviously requires that you have an idea of what things are going to cost, which is probably a pretty good idea anyways.  This worked great at Costco, because in addition to having a list, I was able to add up the estimated cost per item and generate a number of what I expected to spend.  Once I had that number in my head, I found that I was going to work even harder to achieve that spending limit.
  4. (Today’s a BONUS day, so you get an extra step at no cost!) Once you’ve conquered your top spots, see if there are other types of stores you want to apply this to.  You may only have one or two types of stores which this is a problem.  Just be sure that you don’t start making a list for every single trip you make out.  That can have the opposite effect because you’ll inevitably feel overwhelmed and give up altogether.  Creating a balance here is key. For example, I don’t normally create a list when I go shopping for clothes, because I typically buy too few clothes rather than too many (says Mrs. Beagle).

Follow these easy steps and I can practically guarantee that you will cut back on a good deal of your impulse spending, and that’s just money that you can then stash away for more productive things like debt payment, retirement savings, or that always important emergency fund.

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My Fear Of Craigslist Selling

Last October, I successfully sold a car via Craigslist.  I didn’t give much detail at the time, but the basic summary of what happened was:

  • I listed the car at Kelly Blue Book price
  • I got no offers
  • I lowered the price $250
  • I got 2-3 of lowball offers that were suspiciously like spam.  The offers were over $2,000 less than I considered reasonable and came from weird e-mail addresses.  I ignored them.
  • I got discouraged
  • I got an e-mail from someone who seemed legit.  We exchanged e-mails.  I took the car over to where she worked (about five miles away from where I worked).  She and a friend came with me for a test drive.  She made an offer on the spot (my asking price).  I accepted on the spot.
  • Two days later we met at the bank.  She gave me an envelope full of cash.  I gave it to the bank teller.  We drove the secretary of state.  We signed things, I took off my old license plate, bid the old gal (the car, not the buyer) a fond farewell, and we parted ways.

Everything was cool.  I felt confident selling the car on Craigslist because I kept my radar up so that it seemed like nothing really bad would happen.  I ignored the spammers.  I was doing any ‘look-sees’ at the car in public spots.  I was not doing any out-of-state transactions.  I was insisting on cash.  Everything met the sniff test, and everything went well.

I have, however, a bunch of stuff at home that I would love to sell.  It’s a random of assortment of items such as a baker’s rack (which I bought at my previous residence, is perfectly good but just doesn’t fit anywhere in the layout of our home), some old furniture, and some other odds and ends.

I’m reluctant to put the stuff on Craigslist, though, because of my safety fear.  See, out of the criteria I listed above that were important to me, there’s one that’s very difficult to accomplish with the items I want to get rid of: They can’t be shown at a public place.

I can’t very well strap a couch to the back of my car and insist that a potential buyer meet me at the parking lot of the CVS, whereas such a suggestion for a car is perfectly reasonable.

I guess what I’m saying is that I’m reluctant to have people come to my home.  You never know what you’re inviting in, or nowadays, when they’ll come back.  Uninvited.

It surprises me that this sort of scares me, because before I moved, I sold a bunch of other furniture and stuff and didn’t think anything of it.

I guess what’s different between then and now:

  • I was moving so chances are if they ‘came back’ they wouldn’t find me or my stuff
  • The home I live in now is nicer and I would think might be more attractive to potential no-gooders
  • I now have a wife and child that I want to keep protected
  • The economy has gotten much worse so there are more people that would probably do something bad than there were in the past.

So, I guess I’m stuck.  The subdivision garage sale came and went, so I’d have to wait another year.  I could potentially donate the items and just claim the write-off.  I could keep my ears open with friends and family to see if anybody needs anything I have or has friends/family that they know of.

It’s funny how times have changed.  Back in ‘the day’ before Craigslist even existed, you wouldn’t even have the option of selling stuff there.  Now that the option is there but I don’t feel comfortable using it, I feel frustrated.

Any ideas of what I should do either with or without Craigslist?

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