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Monthly Archives: April 2016

Safe while Online Shopping, Here Its Tips

# Use Familiar Websites
Start at a trusted site rather than shopping with a search engine. Search results can be rigged to lead you astray, especially when you drift past the first few pages of links. If you know the site, chances are it’s less likely to be a rip off. We all know Amazon.com and that it carries everything under the sun; likewise, just about every major retail outlet has an online store, from Target to Best Buy to Home Depot. Beware of misspellings or sites using a different top-level domain (.net instead of .com, for example)—those are the oldest tricks in the book. Yes, the sales on these sites might look enticing, but that’s how they trick you into giving up your info.

# Look for the Lock
Never ever, ever buy anything online using your credit card from a site that doesn’t have SSL (secure sockets layer) encryption installed—at the very least. You’ll know if the site has SSL because the URL for the site will start with HTTPS:// (instead of just HTTP://). An icon of a locked padlock will appear, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar. It depends on your browser.

Never, ever give anyone your credit card over email. Ever.

# Don’t Tell All
No online shopping store needs your social security number or your birthday to do business. However, if crooks get them, combined with your credit card number for purchases, they can do a lot of damage. The more they know, the easier it is to steal your identity. When possible, default to giving up the least amount of information.

# Check Statements
Don’t wait for your bill to come at the end of the month. Go online regularly during the holiday season and look at electronic statements for your credit card, debit card, and checking accounts. Make sure you don’t see any fraudulent charges, even originating from sites like PayPal. (After all, there’s more than one way to get to your money.)

If you do see something wrong, pick up the phone to address the matter quickly. In the case of credit cards, pay the bill only once you know all your charges are accurate. You have 30 days to notify the bank or card issuer of problems, however; after that, you might be liable for the charges anyway.

# Use Strong Passwords
We like to beat this dead horse about making sure to utilize uncrackable passwords, but it’s never more important than when banking and shopping online. Our tips for creating a unique password can come in handy during a time of year when shopping around probably means creating new accounts on all sorts of e-commerce sites.

# Think Mobile
The National Retail Federation says that 5.7 percent of adults will use their mobile devices to do comparison shopping before making a purchase. (And 32.1 percent will comparison shop online with a computer, as well.) There’s no real need to be any more nervous about shopping on a mobile device than online. The trick is to use apps provided directly by the retailers, like Amazon, Target, etc. Use the apps to find what you want and then make the purchase directly, without going to the store or the website.

# Avoid Public Terminals
Hopefully we don’t have to tell you it’s a bad idea to use a public computer to make purchases, but we still will. If you do, just remember to log out every time you use a public terminal, even if you were just checking email.

What about using your own laptop to shop while you’re out? It’s one thing to hand over a credit card to get swiped at the checkout, but when you must enter the number and expiration date on a website while sitting in a public cafe, you’re giving an over-the-shoulder snooper plenty of time to see the goods. At the very least, think like a gangster: Sit in the back, facing the door.

# Privatize Your Wi-Fi
If you do decide to go out with the laptop to shop, you’ll need a Wi-Fi connection. Only use the wireless if you access the Web over a virtual private network (VPN) connection. If you don’t get one from your employer, you can set up a free one with AnchorFree Hotspot Shield, if you’re willing to put up with the ads, or pay $4.99 a month or $44.99 a year to skip the ads. There’s even an iOS app version of Hotspot Shield, but that will cost you $.99 per month or $9.99 a year after the first seven days.

By the way, now is not a good time to try out a hotspot you’re unfamiliar with. Stick to known networks, even if they’re free, like those found at Starbucks or Barnes & Noble stores that is powered by AT&T. Look for the network named “attwifi,” then open a browser to click into the “walled garden” to get final access. You can also find free Wi-Fi at McDonalds, Panera Bread, and FedEx Office locations, not to mention libraries and local cafes.

Grocery Shopping Tips

# Always go with a list. If you go without a list, you may as well just throw your money away. Better yet, donate it to me — I probably need it more than you. 🙂 Seriously, though, you need to prepare a list of everything you need, pulling from your weekly menu (next tip) and checking to make sure you don’t have it in your pantry, fridge or freezer. Make sure you’re not forgetting anything. Now stick to that list.

# Have a budget. When I go to the store, I know exactly how much I can spend. Then I try my best to stick within that limit. If you don’t know how much you can spend, you’ll certainly spend too much.

# Plan out a weekly menu. This is the best way to ensure that your list is complete, and that you have enough to serve your family dinner for the week. I often plan a weekly menu and then duplicate it for the next week — this way I can shop for two weeks at once. Be sure to plan a leftovers night.

# Don’t go when you’re hungry. This is a common tip, but it’s true: when you’re hungry, you want to buy all kinds of junk. You’ll end up spending a lot more. Eat a good meal first, and you’ll be more likely to stick to your list.

# Do a rough running tally. Related to the above tip, if you want to stay within your budget, it’s best to know where you’re at. Then, when you can see you’re going to go above it, you can decide whether you really need that 10-lb. box of bon bons. I keep a running tally on my grocery list, just rounding off so I can do some quick math. An item costs $1.85? I say $2. Then I don’t need a calculator or all those complicated math skills.

# Keep things stocked for quick-n-easy meals. Easy meals for us might be spaghetti or mac-n-cheese or a quick stir-fry. We’ve always got the ingredients on hand, so we can whip something up fast when we’re feeling lazy.

# Buy in bulk when it makes sense. If you can save money, over the course of a month or two, by buying in bulk, plan to do so. But be sure that you’re going to use all of it before it gets bad — it isn’t cheaper to buy in bulk if you don’t use it.

# Buy frozen veggies. While fresh veggies are a little better, frozen veggies are almost as good, and much better than nothing. And since you can keep them in the freezer, they rarely go bad.

# Cut back on meat. Meat is expensive. We have vegetarian meals several times a week (think pasta or chili) and for other meals, you could just use a little meat as a kind of seasoning instead of the main ingredient — think Asian, Indian and other such cultural food. Actually, I eat vegetarian all the time, but the wife and kids do a little of each.

# Pack your own lunch snacks. Buying pre-made snacks is convenient, but a big waste of money. Buy little baggies and buy the snacks in bulk, then it will take just a few minutes to pack some snacks for lunch each day.

# Make leftovers for lunch. Plan to cook a bit extra for each dinner, so that you’ll have leftovers for your lunch and for the kids’ lunches. Pack it right away, after dinner, so you don’t have to worry about it in the morning.

# Cook a lot, then freeze. Alternatively, you can cook a whole mess of spaghetti (for example) and freeze it for multiple dinners. A great idea is to use one Sunday and cook a week’s (or even a month’s) worth of dinners. Plan 5-6 freezable dinners and cook them all at once.

# Always have batteries, toilet tissue and light bulbs. And other necessities that you always seem to run out of — buy a whole bunch when they’re on sale, or buy in bulk. Be sure to check to see if you have these items before you go to the store.

# Try crock pot dinners. We discovered these in the last year, and they are easy and cheap and tasty. Cut up a bunch of ingredients, throw them in the pot in the morning, and have dinner ready for you when you get home. Can anything be more perfect than that? I submit that it cannot.

# Clip coupons. I know, sometimes they seem like too much trouble. But it’s not really that hard to clip a few coupons and toss them in a coupon envelop to take on your grocery shopping trip. And you can save 10-20% of your bottom line with coupons. Check store entrances, newspaper and flyers for coupons.

# Only use coupons for items you were already planning to buy. Don’t let them trick you into buying something that’s not on your list, just to “save” money.

# Look for specials. Every store has specials. Be sure to look for them in the newspaper, or when you get to the store (they often have unadvertised specials — look on the higher and lower shelves for deals). Don’t buy them unless they’re things you always use.

# Try the store brands. Brand names are often no better than generic, and you’re paying for all the advertising they do to have a brand name. Give the store brand a try, and often you won’t notice a difference. Especially if it’s an ingredient in a dish where you can’t taste the quality of that individual ingredient.

# Cut back on your “one-item” trips. They waste gas, and almost inevitably, you buy more than that one item. If you plan ahead, make a weekly menu, and shop with a list, this should drastically reduce the number of trips you make for a small number of items. But if you still find yourself running out for a few items, analyze the reason — are you not making a good list, are you forgetting some items from your list? Stock up on the things you frequently go out for.

# Sugar cereals are a bad buy. Lots of money for no nutrition. Look for whole grain cereals with low sugar. Add fruit for better flavor.

# Be watchful at the register. Keep an eye on the scanner — you’ll keep the cashier on his toes, and catch any mis-priced items.

# When there’s a sale, stock up. Sale items can be a great deal. If it’s an item you normally use, buy a bunch of them.

# Comparison shop. Look at the different brands for a certain type of product, including store brands. Sometimes there will be a significant difference. Be sure you’re comparing apples to apples — you need to divide the price by the amount (ounces, pounds, etc.) in order to get the comparable unit price.

# Go during slow times. One of my favorite times to shop is late at night. But during working hours or other non-peak times is good too. Avoid right after 5 p.m., on paydays and near major holidays.

# Know when the store stocks its fresh fruits and veggies. In my area, that makes a big difference. Fruits and veggies can go bad quickly, because they have to be shipped. So I know that the store re-stocks on Thursdays, and so I usually go on Thursdays or Fridays, otherwise I’ll be getting old items.

# Plan one big trip a month for bulk staples. You can get fresh items at another store on other weeks, but doing a big bulk trip will cut back on the expense and amount you have to carry for the other three weeks. Avoid buying on impulse at the bulk store too — just because they sell a lot of it doesn’t mean you’re saving, if you weren’t planning on buying it in the first place.

# Avoid trips to the corner store. Or the gas station! These are some of the most expensive stores. (Ranking right up there with airport stores.)

# Try co-ops. You can often save a lot of money at these types of places for staples.

# Consider shopping at two stores. There’s no store with a monopoly on savings. Each has savings on different items on different weeks. You might switch between two stores on alternate weeks.

# Think deep freeze. If you really want to save, you’ll need a big freezer. Ask around — someone you know might have a relatively new model they don’t need anymore. You can use freezers to stock up on meat, frozen veggies, and similar staples, and to freeze big batches of pasta, casseroles, and other dinners you prepare ahead of time.

# Use everything possible. Got a bunch of leftover ingredients (half an onion, a bit of tomato, some pasta, a few other veggies?) … combine them for a quick meal, so that these don’t go to waste before your next grocery trip. The more you can stretch the food, and the less you waste, the less you’ll spend in the long run.

# Don’t waste leftovers. Have a list on your fridge of what leftovers are in there, so you don’t forget about them. Plan a leftover night or two, so you’re sure to eat them all. Pack them immediately for lunch, so they’re ready to take the next morning.

# Don’t buy junk food (or buy as little as possible). Junk food not only costs a lot of money for about zero nutrition, but it makes you and your family fat and kills you. Talk about a bad deal! Opt for fruits and veggies instead.

# Rain check. If an item is on sale but the store has run out of stock, ask for a rain check.

# Go when the kids are in school. When you bring kids, they will pester you and pester you until you buy some kind of junk food. Even if you’re able to stick to your guns, it’s not pleasant saying no 10 million times. In most cases, you’ll save money shopping without the kids.

# Go for whole foods. The processed kind is lacking in nutrition and will make you fat. Look for things in their least processed form — whole grain instead of white or wheat bread, fresh fruit instead of canned or juice, whole grain cereal or oatmeal instead of all other kinds of cereal. You get the idea.

# Read labels. Look for trans fat, hydrogenated oils, high amounts of sugar, saturated fat, lots of sodium, cholesterol. Then avoid them like the plague. Look instead for fiber, good fats, protein, vitamins, calcium.

# Clean out your fridge. You’ve got stuff growing in there and turning from solids to liquids. The leftovers have begun to organize their own political party. Toss em out and make room for the new.

# Stick to your list. Avoid impulse buys. They are almost always bad, and even if it’s just a couple dollars, they will add up to $50-100 for a trip. Over the course of a year, that can mean thousands. Tell yourself you will not buy anything that’s not on your list unless it’s an absolute necessity (why isn’t toilet paper on my darn list?).

# Use store savings cards. These can add up to big savings over the long run.

# Cut back on your restaurant eating. It’s never cheaper or more nutritious than eating at home. Plan your dinners (see above tip) and bring your lunches to work and save a ton of money.

# Avoid frozen dinners or prepared entrees. Again, these cost way more and are usually much less nutritious.

# Drink water. If you regularly drink iced tea, Tang, sodas or other types of drinks, cut those out completely and just drink water. It’s much better for you, and much cheaper.

# Prepare your grocery list by aisle. If you regularly shop at the same stores, organize your list so that you can easily find and check off items as you walk down the aisle. We always shop from right to left, so we’re not constantly running back and forth in the store.

# Get cloth grocery bags. You’ll save tons of plastic over time, and help the environment tremendously.

Pack healthy snacks for the kids. Whole wheat crackers, popcorn, cut-up fruit, raisins, and other kid-friendly snacks are much better than the junk you often see in kids’ lunches. And cheaper.

Shopping Tips for Back to School

To your kids, shopping for new clothes, gear, and school supplies may be the only good thing about going back to school, but that doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune every year. Here are 10 great ideas for how to get everything they need and save a few bucks doing it.

# Stick to the list

The teacher’s supply list at the start of a new school year is daunting enough so don’t waste time and money on unlisted items. Extra supplies, while they may be cute, will probably never get used and just leave your pockets empty.

# Head to the supermarket for basic supplies

Check weekly circulars for great deals on pens and loose-leaf paper, and get your weekly grocery shopping done at the same time. Bonus: buying everything in one place will save time and gas money!

# Hold off buying trendier gear

Kids may love a certain lunch box or pencil case they find , but once they start school and see that their friends are all using another kind, they’ll beg you to upgrade them, and that only results in wasted cash.

# Shop end-of-summer sales

You know as well as we do that kids wear short sleeve polo shirts all year long, so hit the big summer sales and snap up discounted duds that can be worn well into fall.

# Let the kids raid your cabinets

The kids can select home-office supplies and then personalize them in unique ways. For example, decorate inexpensive plain, white binders with digital photos by creating a collage and inserting the page into the plastic outer cover.

# Host a back-to-school swap

Round up a couple of other moms with kids the same gender as yours but different ages, and host an annual clothes swap. Trade toys and books, too! You’ll save a bundle.

# Plan lunch

When you’re in charge of what your child eats, you’ll save yourself money. Check the weekly circulars at your local supermarkets for sales. If turkey isn’t on sale one week and ham is, go for the ham!

# Buy bright

Lost school supplies may be a given, but gear that’s hard to miss can stave off the inevitable. Pack all their pencils, erasers, and other goodies into a bright backpack or pencil pouch to keep them from disappearing.

#Shop the big three

Old Navy, Gap Kids, and The Children’s Place rotate merchandise often. Ask when they do their markdowns so you can grab the deals. Also, if you see an item you bought in the past 14 days on sale later, you can get the difference refunded, you don’t need the clothing, just the receipt.

Save Money on Shopping?, Here Its Tips

For a considerable lot of us, shopping takes up an expansive lump of the month to month spending plan. Whether you’re hoping to spare cash on sustenance shopping, or attempting to cut the expense of your web purchasing, we’ve pulled together a couple tips to help you keep costs low.

# Work out what you spend your money on. Make a list of everything you buy in a typical month. This will make it easier to work out where you can make cuts.

# Don’t impulse buy. Think carefully before making a purchase – especially if it’s expensive. At the very least sleep on it, it might seem less appealing in the morning.

# Shop around. Check out the competition and compare prices. For example, it might be cheaper to go to a different supermarket, or buy your electronics from a different website.

# Beware of special offers.Vouchers, special offers and cashback deals were invented to make you spend more, not less. Never buy something you don’t need just because it’s on offer.

# Check reviews. If you’re not sure about a product, check online to see if there are any reviews. Just type its name into a search engine, followed by ‘review’.