I’ve Been On An Amazon Buying Binge

Some things go in waves, and I’ve noticed that ordering from Amazon seems to be one of those things.  I’ve placed three orders just in the last week, but I’m completely OK with that!

Order 1: Taking Care Of Stinky Kitty

OK, so it’s not really the cat that smells, but with his litter boxes down in the basement, it has become apparent that the peeing that is supposed to happen in the box wasn’t happening at 100%.  It didn’t smell overpowering, but as anybody who has had cats knows, the smell is strong, and if left untreated, it will linger long after he is eventually gone.  I’m pretty particular about odors so I set off to do some research.

It turns out that the fix is pretty easy.  You can spot where a cat has peed by shining a UV flashlight, and you can eradicate the problem areas with special products that contain enzymes that break things down.

So, I purchased a flashlight, as well as a pair of safety glasses, and a bottle of enzyme neutralizer.  Upon doing an inspection of the basement, it looks like most of the problem is around the litter boxes.  He probably just misses or doesn’t get everything in. There could be some areas that were from the other cat that we had up until 2013.  I’m confident that it’ll work, though it takes time and multiple applications for things to break down.  $38 and we’re on our way to having a much nicer smelling basement!

Order 2: Summer Breezes

We love to sleep with the windows open when possible.  The problem is that our kids rooms are on sides of the house that don’t get much breeze and they can get stuffy even when the temps drop at night.  We’ve talked about getting fans for their windows since last year, but neither my wife nor I ever acted upon this.

I was looking around and saw that the type we wanted (a dual window fan) was at the lowest price that it’s been over the past year (I use the Camelizer plugin for Google Chrome), so I ordered a couple.  $45 and they’ll be plenty less stuffy.

Order 3: I Knew I Forgot Something

Making a list is often necessary to avoid missing something, and that’s something I should have kept in mind.  A couple of days after placing order #2, I realized that I’d forgotten to buy something.  I discovered these ‘Fatwood’ firestarter sticks that we use when camping for starting campfires.  They’re awesome and I’ve not used lighter fluid since getting these.  I realized that I was nearly out, so it was time to order another box.

That alone wasn’t enough to get me to the order, so I looked at my list of things that I mb-2015-06-fireneeded to buy.  I remembered that I needed a replacement extension cord.  Mine was starting to crack and expose wires, and I just don’t dig that when I use it for walking around outside to do the edging, trimming, and lawn clipping cleanup.  I can probably tape up the other one and use it somewhere where it won’t be moving around as much.

For $36 we get campfires and safety!

Future Order: Smooth Skin

Of course, I *really* need to get a list going.  I usually order my razors from Amazon and, of course, the day after I placed the third order, I opened my bathroom drawer and noted that I was running low on cartridges.  I’m still a few weeks away from needing to place an order, so no need to place order number four just yet, which is a good thing, because even though the prices have been good, these are definitely starting to add up!

Readers, do you find your Amazon ordering habits to be consistent or do you go through periods where there are brown boxes appearing on your porch almost daily?

Copyright 2015 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.

How We’ve Dipped Our Toe Into Using Craigslist

I haven’t used Craigslist in quite some time, but decided to give it a shot and have had pretty good luck.

I’ve been a little spooked by some of the different horror stories, and I suppose there is always a risk any time you sell anything, whether it be through Craigslist or a garage sale or through eBay.  The trick is to be sensible and safe.

Table and Chairs

We recently replaced our kitchen table and chairs with a new set.  We were using our old set since we moved into the house and we were ready for a change.  We’d actually gotten that set for free, a find through my in-laws, and so when the new set came and was put together and setup, we decided to get rid of the old set by Craigslist.

mb-201312billscoinsIt didn’t take very long and I had a response.  Working back and forth I arranged to have them come to the house during day light hours, and the table and chairs were out in the garage.  A man and his son showed up, and it was gone within 10 minutes.  They had a truck full of other furniture, and I’m guessing that they look for items that they can somehow flip for a higher price.

Bike

My wife replaced her bike a couple of years ago.  Her old bike had served her well since she was a teenager, but it was built for sidewalk riding, as it didn’t have any ability to withstand bumps.  She wanted something a bit more rugged that could handle the converted train trails (gravel) as well as some of the trails at various campgrounds.  She got a great deal and has been very happy, but we never did anything with her old bike except hang it from the ceiling in the garage.

I never wanted to keep it for very long and this spring an opportunity came when she had someone she knew on Facebook post that she was looking for a bike if anybody had one.  My wife offered it to her for free, and she said she would be by to pick it up next week.  It didn’t work out and she promised to pick it up the following week. Repeat a couple of times, and finally she responded that she actually got an old bike from a family member and that she didn’t need it.

By this point, I’d already pulled it down and even filled up the tires and oiled the chains, so I knew that it was in good working condition.  After I fumed for a couple of minutes, I decided that no way was it going back up on those hooks.  I snapped a picture, put up a Craigslist ad, and within 2 hours had a deal lined up.  The next day, the bike was gone.

How We Stay Craigslist Safe

Some of the things we do to minimize risk are:

  • Accept cash only 
  • Deal only during daylight hours
  • Have anything we’re selling outside or in the garage.  Nobody from Craigslist comes in.
  • Get names of the buyers and look them up.  I ask “Where are you coming from?” and match that up with any details I can find online, and look them up on social media.
  • Transact when I’m not home alone.  We lock the door and I’ll be outside.  My wife knows when things are happening and she’ll keep an eye out to make sure everything is going well.

We have a couple other things we’d like to sell soon:

  • Double stroller – Our stroller is in great shape but we don’t have a need for one that sits two kids any more.  They hold great value so we should get a good price here.
  • Exercise bike – I love working out at the gym and prefer the treadmill over the bike that’s downstairs.  The biggest obstacle I have here is that I need to find someone to help me haul it upstairs before listing it.

Readers, do you use Craigslist for buying and selling?  What are your methods to make sure you stay safe as either the buyer or seller?

Copyright 2015 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.

What If Costco Was In Our Backyard?

Costco is one of our favorite places to stock up.  We have a list of items that we believe Costco gets us the best price, and we stock up regularly on those items.  We fully take advantage of their regular coupons on items that we could buy anyways or items that can replace other items that we might buy anyways.

We make a list for our Costco trips, but we are admittedly guilty about adding things to it during the course of a trip, though we really keep it to a minimum.

We save what we believe is a good amount at Costco, and we also try to limit our spending, with one thing helping us in that regard: Geography.

We don’t have a Costco within 11 miles of our house…yet we have four of them within 14 miles.  That means that we are basically in the dead center of an area with no Costco stores.  This actually works to our advantage because it limits our trips.

However, there is a rumor floating around that a recently closed Kmart spot about a mile from our house is drawing interest from Costco as a new location.  Looking at the geography that I mentioned, that would make sense as a potential new location in our area, though I’m sure they would have to balance this against potential reductions in sales at other stores.

Would Sales Go Down At Other Stores?

I’m sure that Costco would not open a new store unless overall sales were expected to increase.  Otherwise, why would they take on the overhead of another location?  But if they were able to see slightly reduced sales at the surrounding locations from the potential ‘new’ store that were more than offset by the new sales, it would likely be worth their while.  They would  likely accomplish this in several ways:

  • Increased visits from current customers – We would likely fit in here.  My wife and I were talking about this and we might end up spending more on smaller trips, with the hope that we would offset purchases elsewhere.  These would largely fall into items that we can’t buy regularly with our current once-every-four-to-six-weeks schedule, like milk, bananas, eggs and other items that we might prefer to buy at Costco, but will often buy elsewhere because going 11 miles out of our way for a ‘fill-in’ trip just won’t happen, whereas going a mile away would not be a problem.  We’d just have to be careful that it was truly an offset, but regardless, Costco would likely benefit.
  • New retail customers – There are likely people living near us that simply choose not to go to Costco that might if one were closer, so you would likely attract a new customer base.
  • New business customers – Along the same lines, many businesses like to stock up on supplies and ingredients from Costco.  We have a large mix of businesses in the area, from retail to manufacturing, and many offices, and I would expect that if a Costco were to open, it would be attractive for businesses, which I know is a very lucrative area for Costco.

For now, a local Costco is just a rumor, but if it came to fruition, I’m not going to lie, I would be pretty happy about it, though I know we’d have to make sure that more frequent usage would in fact lead to savings for us.

Readers, do you have a Costco (or other warehouse club)  ‘just around the corner’, and if so, how does it affect your shopping habits?

 

Copyright 2015 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.

Use Gift Cards As Currency For Holiday Shopping

As holiday shopping starts winding down (or starts to peak for those who have not gotten started), one fact remains and that is that the holidays are expensive.  Have you had your first bill come in or checked your credit card statement for pending transactions yet?

As we look to complete (or start) our shopping, it’s helpful to think of different ways to make the holidays pack less of a punch on your wallet while still letting Santa cross things off his list.

My wife recently had a great experience where she was able to use gift cards for holiday shopping, and I thought it was a great idea that I could share, and can be a useful and effective strategy.

Two Cards, Two Approaches

My wife was doing some shopping for our son.  We wanted something from Toys R Us that they only stocked online.  She got everything ready in her shopping cart, then remembered that she had gift cards from items that had been returned on gifts for him when he received duplicate items in the past.

She entered in the gift card information and was able to get him some items at no cost.

She went onto another site and was able to take care of other purchases using a gift card for TJ Maxx from returned clothing items and such that she’d purchased for herself months back and had later changed her mind.

In both cases, she got items for gifts without having to make a big dent on our credit cards.  This was pretty cool.

Did Using Gift Cards Impact Overall Spending?  It All Depends!

There are some additional questions that came out of this.  Specifically, did it reduce our overall spending.  The answer for each case was slightly different.

In the instance of my son, we used the opportunity to flex our budget a bit.  Since the original intent was for him to receive gifts at whatever point in time he received the original gift, it didn’t seem right to simply reduce our budget.  Not that the original gift givers would know the progression, but all the same, it seemed the right approach.  So for him, we had a ‘cash’ budget going into the season and we used that plus the gift cards.

In the instance of the items from TJ Maxx (which went to multiple people), we had no problem using that money to reduce our cash outlay.  The reason being that the original purchases were made for items to be used within our household.  In the end it worked out that we’d basically spent the money for the gifts back when we made the original purchase.  In that case, we had no qualms about reducing our cash budget for the season.

Can Your Gift Cards Be Used To Buy Gifts?

This day, it’s probably more likely than not that you have an unused gift card laying around.  Can you use these as part of your gift purchasing and gift giving strategy?

I don’t see why not.

There might be limits on how far you want to go with this, but honestly, I think that depends on each person and their own scenarios.

A couple possible situations come to mind, and I’d be curious to get your feedback.  These are hypothetical:

  1. mb-2014-12mallYou have a gift card you probably won’t use – What if you got a gift card from somewhere, but you know you’ll probably never use it for one reason or another.  Is it OK to simply re-gift the gift card?  If you do this, you might want to make sure the original balance is still intact.
  2. You use gift card balance to buy a gift for the original giver – What if you got a gift card to JC Penney from Aunt Lorraine last year, then turned around bought Aunt Lorraine a sweater this year…using the gift card she gave you?
  3. Discounted gift cards – Every once in a while, you can get a gift card purchased for less than face value?  If you got $100 worth of gift cards for $80 and your balance was $100 for that person, would you call it good after getting the discounted gift cards or would you take the $20 in savings and buy additional presents?

Readers, do you use your gift cards as part of your shopping strategy and if so, what do you do?  Any dos and don’ts?  Ever been involved one way or another on any sort of gift card faux paux? 

Copyright 2015 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.