12 Ways to Save (And Survive) At The Outlet Center

We go shopping at the nearby outlet center twice per year.  For us, it happens to coincide with our birthday months, due to a chicken dinner at a world renowned restaurant that is given for free during the month of your birthday.

We have usually scored pretty well at the outlet mall, so I thought I’d offer up a few tips on how to save money at the outlet centers:

  1. Have a game plan – If you’ve not been to the outlets before, think about taking a ‘stakeout’ trip where you don’t shop.  If you’re a seasoned veteran, you probably know your way around, but you should have a plan from parking to stores you know you want to hit, etc.
  2. Have a shopping list – Just like when you go grocery shopping, it’s important to have a list of things you know you might need.  How much you stick to that is up to you.
  3. Have a budget – Know the upper limit of what you are willing to spend.  If you have no self-control, then get cash out for that amount and leave your credit / debit / ATM cards at home.  If you’ve got self-control, you should still have a budget number anyways.
  4. Know when to go – Outlets, just like other stores, will have better deals around certain times of the year.  We usually go around Memorial Day and Labor Day (back-to-school) so there always seem to be extra deals.  You will have to deal with larger crowds, but if you have your game plan sorted out, it’s a small price to pay for some big savings.
  5. Search for coupons – If you know particular stores you want to go to, see if they have any coupons available for printout online or through the website.
  6. Sign up for deals – Many outlet stores will have sign-up sheets in the store to get you on their mailing and e-mail lists.  It might seem like junk mail, but if you’re suddenly being delivered coupons for 30% off your purchase at a store you plan on shopping at anyways, it’s definitely worth signing up for.
  7. Stay hydrated – Doing effective shopping most likely means you’ll be doing a lot of walking.  Make sure you bring plenty of water to stay hydrated. Avoid too much coffee or soda as the caffeine will work against you in efforts to stay hydrated.
  8. Eat – Don’t be that cranky shopper that gets that way because your stomach is growling.  Be prepared with some on-the-go snacks that you can use for a quick boost.  Granola bars, apples, carrot sticks, and crackers are easy to carry around, wont’ spoil, and will give you a much needed pick-me-up.
  9. Leave unwilling participants behind – My wife and I (along with Little Boy Beagle) go twice per year.  That’s my limit.  Any more than that would drive me crazy.  My wife will usually go at least one more time with her mom and sister.  If kids or spouses are going to mope, complain, drag, otherwise, either plan for a shorter trip if they must be there (back to school shopping) or have them find other arrangements.
  10. Comparison shop – Keep your eyes open for deals, even on stuff you’ve already bought.  You might love the pants you got at Store A for $20, but don’t stop looking even if you made the purchase.  You might find a different / cheaper option at Store B, and returns are usually easy, especially if done the same day.
  11. Know return policies – Make sure that you know the return policy for every item you bought, so that you aren’t surprised if you want to return something and can only get store credit or if you lose a receipt.
  12. Be patient – Outlet shopping can be overwhelming and a big task, but if you’re patient and keep a cool head in the midst of other crazy shoppers, you can have a fun day filled with savings.

Happy shopping!

Free Bike Repair Bliss

I haven’t been riding my bike too much this summer and that has bummed me out.  We didn’t even take them down last year, because Little Boy Beagle was just a newborn, and things were crazy enough without having to worry about the bikes.

This year, we took them down, but mine was cursed with a problem with it changing gears by itself, which is extremely annoying to say the least.  I kept putting off and putting off taking it to a bike place, mostly because I dreaded paying the bill.

We’re going on a trip for our anniversary next month where we’ve gone in the past and bikes are a must-have for us.  I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer, so last week I toted the bike off to the repair shop.  I had e-mailed them and described my problem, and they had given me a ‘ballpark’ quote of around $80.  So, knowing that things usually cost more, I was figuring on dropping at least a hundred smackers for this repair.

Read moreFree Bike Repair Bliss

Ally Demand Notes It Is! (Bye Bye Forever GMAC)

Back in May, I wondered what would happen to the GMAC Demand Notes name since Ally seemed to be taking over the GMAC brand.

It didn’t take long, probably no more than a few weeks, before I got notification in the mail announcing that it would indeed be called Ally Demand Notes as it looked like the GMAC name would be erased from anything and everything.

I can understand that since GMAC was associated with pretty much everything bad about GM, the banking industry, the housing bubble, and the credit crisis.

Everything on the website and the information I get in the mail has completely eliminated the GMAC name and they are now called ‘Ally Demand Notes’.

The checks still say ‘GMAC Demand Notes’ but since they are underwritten by a third party bank, they are still valid and will be honored.  I confirmed this with customer service.

If you are eligible for participation in Ally Demand Notes (you have to be a GM employee or retiree, or related to one), I still think it’s a good investment for long term cash holdings, where you are agreeable to some risk (they are considered a money market and are not FDIC insured).  The interest rate is 2.25% which is pretty much double of even the best savings account or CD rates.

Though there is the risk I mentioned, I think (for the moment) that Ally looks to be on solid footing.  If my opinion changes, I will definitely let you know!

Reposting: Adventures In Insulating

Welcome!  I’ve been at this blog for slightly over two years, and I thought it might be time to re-visit what became my first ‘popular’ post.  When I wrote this back in September of 2008, I was getting just a few visitors per day (mostly my parents and family members that I was begging to come visit).  This was the first post I had that someone read that was submitted to StumbleUpon or Digg (can’t remember which) that got some attention, and got me a lot of traffic.  Since summer is coming to a close soon, it’s a good time to start planning a fall insulation project to save you money in the coming months, so thanks for reading this re-post of ‘Adventures in Insulating‘.

I’ve mentioned, a couple of times, adding insulation to your attic as a good way to save money in the long run. Along with my father-in-law, I added insulation to my attic this past spring. I’m hoping to realize the benefits of the extra insulation with the upcoming heating season, and of course many to follow.

Read moreReposting: Adventures In Insulating

5 Ways To Save At The Beach

We love going to the beach.  It’s a great way to get out of the house and to enjoy the summer heat, which has been in big supply this season.

Here are five ways that we save money at the beach:

  • mb-201008beachBuy an annual pass – Our beach charges $5 for admission or $30 for the season.  If you know you’ll be going enough times, get the annual pass.  If it’s your first year, though, you might want to do daily passes just to make sure you don’t fork over the money for the annual pass and then find out the beach doesn’t hold your interest for the entire season.
  • Don’t buy food at the snack bar – If I had to guess, I’d say that beaches probably make any profit they make from the snack bar.  Don’t give in.
  • Bring your own snacks and drinks – Packing a cooler full of stuff is not only going to save you money, but chances are you’ll pack it with much healthier alternatives than you’ll find at the snack bar.
  • If you must get a snack, remember your pre-school lesson (Share!) – I know that you can’t always avoid the snack bar.  Sometimes, on a hot day, an ice cream just sounds too good to pass up, and the cooler solution isn’t going to let you bring your own.  But, if you do give into that siren call, don’t get one treat for everybody.  Most of the time, half of a treat will give just as much satisfaction as an entire one, so split your treats and save some money.
  • Bring a library book – Reading a book at the beach is one of my all time favorite pastimes, and it costs me nothing (except for a few pennies in gas) to get my books from the library versus spending money at the bookstore for something I’ll probably read only once.

As you can see, the beach can be a great, fun way to spend time in the hot summer time, and it can be done on the cheap!

Thanks for reading! Please subscribe to my RSS feed. This original Money Beagle post Copyright 2010 Money Beagle is authorized to appear only on www.moneybeagle.com. Thank you for reading and remember: It’s a great day to be alive!

Small Gaps Can Mean Big Waste

Our bedroom has a vaulted ceiling.  It also sits on the second floor and catches a lot of afternoon sun.  So, it’s typically the hottest room in the house on warm, sunny days.

Even so, I was starting to get a little tired of exactly how hot it was getting and decided recently to get to the bottom of it.

I was noticing that the temperature in the room would rise much faster than in other areas in the house.  I expected that the things I outlined above would have an impact, but after spending some time watching the temperature fluctuations, I figured there was more to the story.  I started seeing the temperatures rising even before the sun hit it.  And, later in the day, I would see the temperatures stay warm even after the sun stopped hitting it direct.

I knew that I had some sort of leak or problem somewhere and was determined to fix it.

Read moreSmall Gaps Can Mean Big Waste

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.

Read moreDon’t Be Wasteful When Shopping In Bulk

Car Registration Fees Review

One of our registrations comes due in August.  As such, I always get the renewal form in late July.

In order to level out our spending, I have a ‘sub-fund’ dedicated to Car Registrations & Roadside Assistance (AAA) costs that I just contribute $25 per month.  For the past couple of years, this has worked out great.

We bought a new (used) car last year.  It actually was an SUV.  I knew that our cost would most likely increase.  This was mainly due to the  fact that it was newer than the car it was replacing (a 2007 vs a 2003)  plus that it was a bigger class of car (the state of Michigan classifies it and most SUVs as a ‘station wagon’, which never fails to amuse me).

So, how much did it go up?

Read moreCar Registration Fees Review

Links: For One Day Only, Don’t Read This Blog!

I’ve been bad about doing a link roundup lately, so I thought I’d give it a go and catch up on some great posts that I’ve read from fellow personal finance bloggers.

Give these a read and consider subscribing to their blogs as they have great personal finance advice and stories.  But, as always, make sure to come back to Money Beagle!

  • Money Reasons gave his thoughts on what he would do if he struck it big in “If I Were Rich Today” – This inspired me to do a similar article.  I think this is something we all dream about so go ahead, think of what you might do if you found a pot of gold!
  • Monevator gives the opinion that we are not in for a lost decade in “No Lost Decade: Why We’re Not Japan“.  The Japanese economy has not been anywhere near levels that it was even in the 1980’s and 1990’s, but this article gives opinions on why our situation, though it shows many signs of moving towards a ‘lost decade’, isn’t the same.
  • Mrs. Nespy’s Frugal World included a post called “8 Interesting Uses for Chalk” and I have to say, these are very interesting and extremely useful.  I think that my next trip to the dollar store (where I’m guessing they have chalk) will include some white chalk, as it appears to have a lot of great uses especially in the laundry and cleaning areas!
  • We try to be frugal when doing laundry, but Fabulously Broke takes it to an extreme I’ve not heard of as she admits her “Laundry Secret: I Don’t Use Laundry Detergent 99% of the Time“.  She says that the agitation gets her clothes clean that aren’t stained or spotted.  I’m not sure if I’m tempted to go this far, but for those daring enough, try it!  At the very least, it’s a great reminder that most people probably use way too much laundry soap.
  • Everybody Loves Your Money has seen “Impromptu Garage Sales” popping up a lot more frequently, and wonders if they are becoming more from desperation than from trying to raise a few extra bucks.
  • Sweating the Big Stuff asks “Are Social Shopping Sites Too Enticing?”  If you find yourself buying GroupOn deals just for the sake of buying them, you might be getting a little too caught up.  Remember, you’re only saving if you are getting money off on something you would buy anyways.  If ‘buying a deal’ means you spend money you wouldn’t have otherwise spent, you are not saving!

Have a great weekend and enjoy the reading!

My Old Condo Has Been Given Up

Our family was driving through a parking lot after leaving the grocery store when my wife randomly spotted my old neighbor entering a drugstore in the same plaza.  She works somewhat close to where we live, so this made sense.  We stopped the car and went in, as she’s a great lady and we hadn’t seen her in quite some time.

She caught me up on the fact that the person that bought my condo has given it up and turned it back to the bank.

This didn’t surprise me but it still left me sad.  I loved the condo, it was the first place I owned, but the signs were there that her purchase might not work out:

  • She financed the entire purchase – She purchased at the tail end of the ‘easy credit’ phase and was able to finance the full purchase.
  • She used Countrywide as her mortgage company – They ended up being the epitome of bad loans with awful rates.  Again, she was probably one of the last people to get a loan from that company before the bottom fell out.
  • She ended up moving out a few months later – She was a single lady, but I heard that she reconciled with an ex and moved out of the state, leaving the condo as a rental to try to stay afloat
  • The condo market just sucks – Condo sales around the metro Detroit area have been harder hit than any other element of residential real estate.  Quite honestly, I bet the purchase price on most condos in that complex would be less than that of what I originally paid in 1999.

Read moreMy Old Condo Has Been Given Up