There Are Always Savings Opportunities

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten a raise at work.  Quite a long while, actually.  While that in itself is less than optimal (read: it sucks), it gets even worse when you consider that things have gotten more expensive across the board.  Just a few examples:

  • Gas prices have gone up quite a bit
  • Food prices have gone up a lot (or they shrink the packages, which means you have to buy more, so the end result is you pay more)
  • Health insurance premiums have skyrocketed
  • Our mortgage was re-financed.  Even though we are putting over $500 more in principle away each month for a modest $150 increase in the payment, it’s still a cash flow issue.

As a result, we’ve tightened in many areas.  Just a few areas we’ve reduced expenses over the past few years or tried to offset in some way:

  • We’ve updated our insurance plan to include an umbrella policy, which actually increased our total coverage while reducing our costs about 15%.  We also increased our deductible amounts for both home and auto.
  • We combined cell phone plans with my in-laws for a family plan, cutting costs for both households.  Later, I dropped off the plan altogether when my work offered to provide a phone.
  • We’ve called every year to get our cable company to continue to give us a discounted rate.
  • We use a Costco American Express credit card for all gas purchases.  This gives us 3% cash back for gasoline purchases.  Considering that price hikes of 5% in a single day are all too common these days, this extra couple of percent barely makes a dent, but every little bit helps.

Every time there is an opportunity to save some money, it seems that it’s further and further since the last opportunity, and that it usually yields less savings.  In all likelihood this likely means that we’ve done a pretty good job at identifying potential cost savings.  You’re usually going to get the greater returns up front as you hit the ‘low hanging fruit’.

Even so, it’s always fun when you find a new opportunity and we recently did.  I’d always heard that Aldi is a great place to shop and save, but we never took advantage of shopping there.  There are two stores, both about 8 miles away, so it’s not like it was just around the corner.  I’d been in one a few times, but pretty much just walked around, looked around, left, and promptly forgot all about it.

Still, I’d heard enough about it and I guess I read one too many blog posts talking about what a great store it is, so I mentioned it to my wife and we decided to check it out.  And, it was well worth it.

Here are some of the things I learned about Aldi:

  • It is a very no-frills store.  Things are stacked up in bulk, similar to Costco.  This means they rarely run out of anything, and I’m guessing means that they minimize the need to have people on the payroll to stock items throughout the day.
  • Their prices on produce are often unbeatable.  My wife does all the shopping for our fruits and vegetables, whereas I would likely not recognize a good deal from a bad deal (at least not as quickly as she can).  She looked through the ad and was amazed at some of the prices.  In many cases, you can get fresh produce for 20-50% less than what you pay at the supermarket.  We’ve bought a variety of different things, including pineapples, oranges, avocados, peppers, and likely other products, and my wife has not complained about the quality of anything.
  • Milk prices are great.  Their milk is a full 70 cents a gallon cheaper than what we pay, and come to find out that the supplier is a company that you typically pay even higher prices for.  In fact, my wife saw the truck pulling away from the store on one trip.  Both kids drink milk, and both my wife and I drink it every day, so this is a big cost savings for our family.
  • Yogurt prices are great, and it tastes awesome.  I get the store brand yogurt which generally runs anywhere from 40-60 cents per cup.  Aldi has theirs available for 39 cents, meaning I’m saving no matter what.  I bought a couple just to see what it was like, and it tastes better than even the national brands.
  • It requires slight tweaks to our budget system.  Groceries are one item that we typically put on our credit card, but Aldi doesn’t take credit cards (another way to minimize costs), so we lose the 1% cash back that we’d otherwise get and we have to front the money instead of floating it a couple of weeks until the credit card is paid.  Minor issues, but still a tweak for a guy like me who has perfected his budget system and is therefore resistant to change.
  • Bagging is do it yourself. They have one person who runs the register, and he/she will simply take the items and place them back in your cart.  Then, you go over to a counter set in the front of the store and you bag it yourself.  That keeps the line moving even more so than you trying to bag it right at the register.  You also want to bring your own bags otherwise they charge you for them.
  • Bring a quarter for your shopping basket.  What’s the one common thing about every grocery store parking lot?  Well, there actually two.  One is that there are cart corrals which annoy you because you think it’s an empty spot until you drive up to it, and second is that there is always a handful of workers out there collecting the baskets and taking them back to the store.  Not so at Aldi, because you have to insert a quarter into the shopping cart to use it (the quarter ‘frees it’ from the other carts it’s attached to).  When you’re done shopping, just push the cart back and once it clicks in place with the other carts, you get your quarter back.  You never see carts all over the lot at Aldi, because even if someone doesn’t want to walk back up and put the cart back, you can bet that there are enterprising customers who would be happy to collect stray carts, and return them to the store to get the quarter(s)
  • They don’t take coupons.  Most brands are not recognized brand names anyways, so there usually aren’t coupons that you could even apply (and I’m thinking that’s why all the brand names are unfamiliar), but even for  the brand name stuff that they do take, you can’t take coupons.  It cuts down on their administrative overhead.

All in all, we are big fans of Aldi.  The distance makes it so that we generally seem to go about every other week, which so far works just fine for us.  And, it shows that there are always opportunities for savings even when you think you’ve done just about everything.  Because, even though we try to meal plan, we clip coupons, we stock up on items, we stack coupons with sale prices, and other tricks to save money at the grocery store, there is still money to be saved on our food bill.

So, even though it’s harder to come by savings (because the fruit isn’t as low hanging), another thing I realized is that it still feels good to come across and take advantage of a savings opportunity.  That part, it never gets old!

Readers, do you shop at Aldi?  What other savings opportunities have you recently found even if you had thought you’d squeezed all the blood out of the savings turnip?

37 thoughts on “There Are Always Savings Opportunities”

  1. It’s petty but I after working at a Aldi division headquarters, I just can’t shop there anymore. Not because they do anything wrong to the consumers but just because the German company is so backwards in a lot of things. It is run in a very strange way and I don’t want to support that.

    Also, there is the burned-into-my-brain memories of Aldi back when it was, honestly, kind of gross. The produce is fine NOW but when my family shopped there as a kid, it was GROSS. Even the managers when I worked there said they wouldn’t buy produce back then. The produce would just sit in boxes in the middle of the store. Never watered or rotated or chilled in any way.

    If you do use the store often, keep in mind that you cannot call a store directly. To keep the grocery stores more efficient, Aldi doesn’t publish the numbers of any of their stores. Instead, you call the division hq, ask them your question, the person puts you on hold and calls the store, the store manager answers the question, then the division hq employee tells you the answer. So, you might get a bit of a runaround if you call asking if something is in stock.

    Last thing, be careful with their Special Items – like the non grocery stuff. Most of it is fine standard things but for a while they were selling computers and those were complete shit. (They stocked the whole office with them then a year later they all died and were replaced with Dell)

    • Wow, words from the ‘inside’ are always greatly appreciated.

      Interesting about the produce. I wonder if this varies by location, I would have to expect they source from multiple areas.

  2. We don’t have an Aldi that I know of here in Denver. But we soon will be getting Trader Joe’s, which is of course owned by Aldi. Being from California, we know AND LOVE Trader Joe’s.

    One time we were doing work in Seattle and we bought two cases of Two Buck Chuck to bring back as checked baggage. The United check-in clerk said we couldn’t do that. My wife looked at her with puppy dog eyes: “But we don’t have a Trader Joe’s in Colorado. So we HAVE to do this!”

    “You don’t have a Trader Joes?! You poor things! Here, let me help you get these checked in.”

      • I hate it when this comes up because other than legality there is absolutely no affiliation between Trader Joe’s & Aldi. They use different warehouses, offices, management style, everything. While working at Aldi we never dealt with anything Trader Joe’s related at all. Everything is completely separate!

  3. “We combined cell phone plans with my in-laws for a family plan…”

    We did that, too!

    I love ALDI. I prepare my shopping list from circulars, but I hit ALDI first to get my staples and anything that beats loss leaders there (since not all ALDI prices are advertised). It works very well for us.

  4. Aldi is great! I have three that I can go to and some are better than others. Saves me a bunch of money. As for squeezing the savings turnip. It seems everything is going up and I had recieved notification that my electrical supplier was going to be jacking me by almost 20%!! After a good search found a new supplier at the same rate that I have now and will “lock” the rate until 2015. And yes it is still a “thrill” to bag a deal!

  5. My wife and I shop at Aldi all the time. We often price match all the produce at Walmart because it’s closer and has a bigger selection! Price matching saves us a ton of money each week!

    I’m not sure if you’re interested but I wrote an article about the possibility of canceling the cable TV bill and finding shows online that can be hooked up to the big screen TV still.

    Also, great work on the cell phones. Those plans can cost a fortune!

  6. An Aldi just opened near our home not too long ago. We also got a Trader Joes around the same time. We love that store, but I might have to try out Aldi as well. We save a lot of money by going to Trader Joes, except for on meat. Their meat is expensive.

  7. I don’t think there is an Aldi in my area, but I am cutting back as well. I have not had a raise in many years too. For the last 3 years, we have had furlough (unpaid) days. Last year, it represented a 5% cut in pay. Hopefully, the economy is getting better and our state budget will be okay.

  8. I don’t have an Aldi in my area, but my parents shop there all the time and love it. I have had the itch to cut back on something lately and am keeping my eyes open for what that opporunity might be.

  9. I don’t have one of those stores near me, but that shopping cart idea sounds awesome!

  10. When Aldi starts taking credit cards, I may check them out. I don’t have a debit card and don’t really want a direct line of access to my checking account. I also hate cash. Too inconvenient and too hard to track purchases.

      • For a very long time, Aldi had their cashiers memorize product codes and type them in manually when ringing up items because it proved to be faster/more efficient than using the code scanners.

        I’m not making this up.

        • I have noticed that the cashiers there just seem more efficient. I’m guessing they have more stringent hiring practices or performance guidelines that need to be met.

  11. These are great ways you’ve come up with to save extra money. I just opened a letter in the mail from the City of Houston to find an 8.9% increase in our water/sewer bill going forward! Looks like we need to offset that extra cost elsewhere…

    • That’s tough but we had those rate increases year after year, and now it turns out some of that was likely due to corruption in the city of Detroit water department, but do you think they’ll roll the prices back? Heck no!

  12. I would love to have a store like Aldi. Produce is so expensive, but I will probably always buy it. Canned stuff just isn’t the same. I think it’s important to always be on the look out. When you think you have already optimized and gotten all the discounts, there is always something new that pops up. I try to get new insurance quotes every year. The past couple of years, everything has been going up, especially our homeowner’s insurance. Geico just started offering homeowner’s, but it is through other companies, like Travelers. I just saved $700 a year by switching everything over. I just about hit the floor. Even if it is a teaser rate, that’s still $700!

  13. I’ve never been to an Aldi’s! Sounds like a decent place to get groceries. I flip flop between two major markets in Vancouver + smaller trips trips to the farmer’s market, local fruit markets, and Whole Foods.

  14. Living in the metropolis known as Texarkana, we don’t have anything close to an Aldi. However, I love the idea of the shopping carts. There’s nothing more frustrating in a parking lot than dodging random carts (or “buggies” as they say here).

    • I recall my great-aunt used to say ‘buggy’ when referring to what we call a shopping cart. Here, I guess there was a switch in the term probably as a generational thing. Always interesting!

  15. I must admit that I’ve never been to Aldis because I’ve been afraid to. I’ve been shopping at a new Spartan store has opened up near me though and their prices are pretty decent.

  16. Yes I know about Aldi that’s another best place where we can save money but today it’s available on only some particularly country.

    When you save money that means you are ready or you are able to face any critical situation. Saving automatically increasing own confidence level.

    That’s true, when we cut expenses for saving that’s always beneficial, currently I am working on some section for saving:-
    -Buy in bulk (I knew it, here I invest more money but save some money always that’s always my first choice)
    – Cut unnecessary routine purchases
    – Connect new call phone saving plans
    – Cut down on unnecessary entertainment

  17. I agree with everyone else that Aldi is a nice place to shop.

    You should look into chain grocery stores that have gas stations connected to them. If you play your cards right and sign up for their loyalty program you could potentially get gallons of gas based off of the amount you actually spend. If you shop the sales and get the minimum needed for the gas it could be potentially a win-win situation. Just something for you to think about.

    • One chain that has gas stations really doesn’t tie rewards to their pump prices, unfortunately. The other is Kroger, and while they do, their grocery prices are high, and with the exception of when we go camping, we don’t buy enough gas to make up for their higher gorcery price point.

  18. Also get all of our groceries at Aldi’s except what they don’t carry or specialty things. We like everything they get htere and the organic line of products, the light and fit products and the desserts in the freezer! ($8.00 for an ice cream cake!) The shrink wrapped steaks were the best we’ve every eaten! Also, the cashiers are super fast because Aldi’s put the bar codes on moe than one side of the items! Clever!

  19. We have local store called Market Basket in the Northeast. According to its website, it has stores in a couple of states. I checked its prices against ALDI for this week and the prices came out lower in Market Basket. It very seldom has sales on sale. Its regular prices beat ALDI sale prices. Our family has been shopping at Market Basket for over 30 years and so far none of the stores has beaten its prices.

    In our area, we have Super Shaw’s (recently bout by Super Value), Stop and Shop, Hannaford. Compare to Market Basket, their prices are almost double in each category.

    • Sounds like a pretty big selection of stores to choose from which probably means even better pricing.

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