Fix Financial Hiccoughs In The New Year

More than just your waistline could be hurting after a very merry holiday. The season has a way of getting out of control despite your best efforts. Between travelling, handing out presents, and all of the extra seasonal accoutrements that come your way, you can end up going over budget. Before you know it, it’s a new year and you’re stuck with the financial consequences of 2016. At least there’s an easy way to fix your financial discretions, and it all starts with a direct lender.

Direct lenders are quickly becoming a preferred alternative to conventional lenders because of their quick and convenient processes. Many traditional, brick-and-mortar lending companies still rely on in-person meetings and in-depth review of your credit. A direct lender has eliminated these time-wasting elements from their practice. They still require basic financial information, but they collect it online through a simple application form. If there’s any data they need to verify, a representative will call at a convenient time and clarify them. Millions of Americans prefer these methods to the bureaucratic red tape of the nation’s top banking institutions.

By conducting the majority of their business online, direct lenders can connect you with the money you need quickly. Their applications shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes to fill out, and you’ll know if you qualify almost instantly. Should you be approved, your small dollar loan or line of credit can be directly deposited into your account within one business day. This efficient and speedy response means you won’t have to wait endlessly as a whole team of financiers look over your application. Instead, you’ll have the money you need before the upcoming due date of your bills.

These basic features are shared by most direct lenders across the States, but each company will differ slightly from the next. In some cases, direct lenders will stand out because of the predatory rates and fees that are associated with their products. It’s important that you stick with lenders such as MoneyKey that follow your state’s lending laws. These regulations were put in place to protect consumers by limiting the rates, terms, and interest allowable on their products. You can go online to learn about online direct lenders and see how a lender like MoneyKey intends to ensure their short terms loans remain a responsible lending option.

Confirm with your lender if even the state-regulated rates and terms are something you can accommodate in your budget. One of the representatives available at MoneyKey can discuss their products and processes in depth so you understand the extent of your loan. Once you have a small dollar loan or personal line of credit at your disposal, you can easily tackle the leftover bills from an overeager holiday.

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.

Stockpiling Works For Us (At Least For Now)

One of my long time favorite bloggers, Funny About Money, is contemplating something that you rarely hear about: Quitting Costco.  She’s finding that, for her, not going to Costco is actually saving her money.  Could bucking the stockpiling trend actually work?

I think that many people don’t even consider such a thing.  They just assume that Costco saves them money by giving them lower pricing, with the tradeoff that you have to buy in larger quantities in order to realize the lower per-unit pricing.  So, the kicker is that you have to use more in order to really realize the savings.

Looking At Our Stockpiling Habits

After my wife took a recent trip and left me the pile of stuff to put away, as is our arrangement, I started taking a look at our stockpile in our pantry to see if waste was leading to us actually overpaying for items.

I’m happy to report that we went through our entire pantry shelf and found just two items that we threw out because they were past their due dates to the point where we no longer felt comfortable using them:

A can of cream soup and a half a box of taco shells, both which expired in early 2014.

And, what’s even better: Neither of these items was bought at Costco.

So, it seems that for us, the food we buy at Costco to take advantage of the lower per-unit pricing actually gets eaten.  This is a good thing.

The (Much Much Higher Priced) Organic Trend

We’re still keeping an eye on Costco.  I think there are factors that come into play that affect our ‘value proposition’.  For example,  who’s noticed that they’re shifting more and more food items to organic options?  If you have this as your preference, then I suppose this is great.  However, for people who don’t necessarily have the budget or the desire, buying organic may not be practical.mb-2015-03-checkbook

Every trip we take, we seem to find at least one item on our ‘regular’ list that we either have to choose to pay more for to get organically, or switch back to our grocery store to purchase the non-organic option.

Right now, we still save money with our Costco membership, but it’s started to occur to us that if Costco really wants to shape themselves as the Whole Foods of the bulk warehouse shopping category, they might very well lose us as customers.

Funny makes a great point. It’s always good to really take a step back and make sure that you’re getting value from your membership.  Even though Costco memberships are a way of life, they aren’t always a guaranteed money saver.

Readers, do you save money with your Costco (or other warehouse) membership?  How often do you check and how do you evaluate your return on investment?  

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.

Lesson Applied: Lower Prices Usually Return

Last year, my dad opened my eyes to a pretty simple theory about prices, and that lower prices will typically return.

Learning The Lesson

I learned the lesson last year when we were computer shopping.  My wife’s laptop was no longer working well for her online business, so we decided that it was time to get a new laptop.  My dad has always been very tech savvy and on top of the latest trends, as well as what is good pricing.

Don’t pull the trigger too soon!

I found a laptop that I liked and sent him the specifications and the pricing.  This was an advertised ‘one day deal’ site, so you had 24 hours to take advantage of the deal.

My dad and I spoke and while it was a good computer at a good price, he felt that it was not something that we had to necessarily jump at, as he thought that we would either find the deal to come back at the same or lower price, or that we’d find an even better machine at the same price.  As it turned out, he was right on both accounts.  The deal was actually extended past the 24 hour window, and within a few days, we found a much better equipped machine at a comparable price, and so far it has worked out very well.

Learning The Lesson

One of the things that has been moving up our list is to replace our wireless router.  We currently have two wireless networks running in our house, neither of which is meeting our level of satisfaction.  We have an older Linksys router, I’m talking 7-8 years old, that doesn’t have great range and seems to have gotten more and more flaky.  I’m concerned about security as Netgear has never released even a firmware update for it.  I’ve thought about getting rid of it altogether but there are a couple of devices which have seemed to work better on this network, so it’s always avoided the ax.

We also use the built in network offered by our cable company.  The range on it is terrible, but we do have a range extender, and it’s only compatible with this device.

Basically, it’s a patchwork situation, and both networks just don’t offer what we need.

We’ve been looking at a new router for awhile, and I had my mind settled on one in particular.

I’d been looking on Amazon, and it has been around $99.  I had budgeted $100 for a router, and that was the maximum I was willing to pay.  Now that Amazon charges sales tax, the $99 price would actually run us about $105 and change.

No good, especially since I used the Camelizer plugin on Chrome to show that it’s been as low as $85-90 before.

Since it wasn’t something we needed urgently, I decided to apply my dad’s principle, and to wait.

Applying The Lesson

I checked every day and the price was roughly the same for about a two week period.  It was $99.87 or so most of the time, typically going down around a quarter.  I did miss one opportunity when I saw it for $91, but I was somewhere where I couldn’t take the time to finish the transaction, and by the time I looked the next day, it was back up to $99.

So I waited.

Finally, on Easter, I hit paydirt. It was $89!  This plus sales tax made it roughly $95.  So, instead of going $5 over my budget, which is what I could have done by not waiting, sitting back and waiting for the price to return actually left me with $5 extra.

That’s what I call a win any day!  Thanks, Dad!

Readers, have you ever used patience to make sure to get the price you wanted? When you see a ‘never to be repeated’ price, do you jump on it?  Or do you find that waiting is the best way to go?

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.

Only Buy Sale Items At The Fancy Grocery Store

We have a few different grocery store options near us, and they cover all of the different price categories that I would say are available.  Here’s how I would define the price options and an example of each that is pretty widely known:

  • Cheap: Wal-Mart
  • Moderate: Kroger
  • Expensive: Whole Foods

Where We Do A Majority of Our Shopping

We do most of our shopping at Meijer, which is a regional chain that I would classify as moderate.  We have a Wal-Mart nearby, but honestly the experience of shopping in that store just isn’t worth it.  (Note to Wal-Mart: Opening two registers at peak time and causing a 30-minute wait for a standard basket of items is a guaranteed way to get people who value their time to shop elsewhere).

Recently, a store opened near us that isn’t Whole Foods, but it is along the same lines.  It’s called Fresh Thyme (get it?) and it’s actually a pretty cool store, just as is Whole Foods.  They have the requiste huge selection of organic and gluten free foods, and they have a lot of things that say ‘all-natural’ and the like.

And of course, the high prices that go along with it.

Whole Foods And Other Expensive Stores Serve A Purpose

Now, there’s nothing wrong with stores like this, and I’m sure there are people who do their regular shopping at places like this. mb-201101apple That’s fine, but it’s not us.

However, we do go to the store, with one basic rule: We buy just about everything on sale.

See, Fresh Thyme has a pretty nifty produce department, and they usually have a lot of great things on sale, and their quality is very good.

So, what do we do?  We buy just the sale stuff!

My wife showed me a bill from a recent trip and it was pretty close to the following list:

  • Bananas – ON SALE
  • Raspberries – ON SALE
  • Blueberries – ON SALE
  • Cucumbers – ON SALE
  • Tomatoes – ON SALE
  • Carrots – ON SALE

Every one of the items on the list had a regular price and the sale price for which we paid.  My wife knows produce and the sale prices were actually good prices!

She ended up with the list above (and maybe a few more items) for just about $17, with the savings noted as over $10!

Use The Expensive Stores To Fill In

By using the expensive store as a secondary store, it saves us money.  My wife makes a weekly trip to the regular store, but by planning out her trips, and buying her produce across multiple stores to make sure she gets the best price, we add up our savings quite a bit!

What works for us is that the expensive store is right down the street.  While many people simply don’t have the time to go to multiple stores, the location makes it worth our while.

Now, I have no idea if they’re actually making money on us.   I can guarantee that we’re not their target customer.  I’m sure that they would prefer that their customers either do their full shopping trip there, or at least fill in their sale items with a few regular priced items.  Hey, as long as there are enough of those people out there, we’ll be content to shop there just for the sales!

I don’t know if the $10 that she saves is repeatable every week, but with even half that amount, we could be saving $260 per year!

That’s a nice chunk of change, and you figure, we’re probably getting better quality food on top of it.

Expensive stores (as a fill-in option) for the win!

Readers, do you save money by shopping between multiple stores?  Do you find yourself frequenting the more expensive stores exclusively for their sale items?  

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.