Grandma’s Strategies for Saving Money So there is More to Spend on Grandchildren

SavingsThis Grandma is always looking to save money.  I want to have more money to spend on my grandchildren!  And, if I save money on what I buy for me and them, I can buy the grandchildren more!

o when I saw the article in the Miami Herald, September 14, 2013, “Spending Smart, Strategies for Paying Less,” by Gregory Karp, I was very interested.

There was one tip I did not know.  First, that I should pay attention to the last cent digit for markdowns.  Markdowns do not end in .99!  Here is what Mr. Karp said:

Decipher price tags. Sometimes retailers use secret price codes. A glance at a price tag will tell you whether an item is truly on sale or clearance. For example, Costco Wholesale prices ending in .97 instead of .99 indicates a markdown, says personal finance guru Clark Howard, whose new book is Clark Howard’s Living Large for the Long Haul.

 At Target, prices ending in 9 are at full retail price, while prices ending in 8 or 6 are discounted but might be cut again. Those ending in 4 are the lowest they will get. At Sam’s Club, a “C” means it’s on clearance, and prices ending in the digit 1 signal the item is marked down below cost, Howard said.

Similar systems are in effect for Home Depot, Gap, Old Navy, Sears and Office Depot, according to Lifehacker.com. As a general rule, a price ending in something other than 9 is a good sign.

The rest of Mr. Karp’s tips, this Grandma knew due to long (we never say old) age and many purchasing mistakes.  The tips are excellent. Here they are so you can avoid the same mistakes:

BEWARE OF THE ACCESSORY UP-SELL. Smart shoppers research big-ticket purchases, such as a cellphone or television, but they can be tripped up by unexpected pitches for add-ons.

Among the priciest are accessories. For example, computer printers usually don’t come with a cable to attach to a computer. A friendly salesperson can remind you of this and sell you a $25 printer cord. Instead, stop at a dollar store on the way home and pick up a perfectly usable cord for a buck. Similarly, today’s televisions are best used with an HDMI cord to hook to the cable or satellite box. Cables can cost $20 to $100 in-store. Skip that and go online to Monoprice.com or Amazon.com to find HDMI cables for about $5. Videophiles say there is no difference in picture and audio quality.

With cellphones, the aftermarket cases and chargers will usually be far cheaper somewhere other than the electronics or wireless phone store. And when buying a new car, beware of the F&I, or finance and insurance, room. That’s where they up-sell you on such items as fabric and paint protection and extended warranties.

 WARRANTIES WARRANTED? Extended warranties, more properly called service contracts, are another hard-sell up-sell, especially on electronics and appliances. Personal finance experts and consumer advocates generally are not fans of buying them. They’re almost pure profit for retailers.

Many purchases are covered by the manufacturer for a period of time. And if you made the purchase on a credit card, the card may extend that warranty.

For autos, service contracts are “a losing bet,” said Consumer Reports. Because vehicles are so reliable nowadays, “the chance of needing extended warranty coverage just isn’t as great as it used to be,” it said. If you really want a service contract, be clear on what it covers.

 For some products, such as electronics, you might investigate third-party providers such as SquareTrade.com. The third-party automotive service contract industry has had reputation problems. One new company, ForeverCar.com, claims it has designed a more consumer-friendly service contract, based on transparency and simplicity.

 KNOW A GOOD PRICE.. Walking the aisles of a department store, you might be tempted by a product, but is the price competitive? If you own a smart-phone, use it to check competitive prices at other retailers.

Many stores will “price match,” although policies differ widely and are loaded with fine-print exceptions.Cheapism.com reviewed the policies of eight major stores and rated those at Target, J.C. Penney and Lowe’s as best. Regardless of the written policy, it’s a good idea to ask whether a store will match a competitor’s price. Many stores also offer “price protection,” meaning if the

retailer reduces the price on an item within a certain time frame, such as 30 days after purchase, the retailer will refund you the difference.

 Some stores combine the concepts of price matching and price protection by matching other stores’ prices within a certain time after purchase.

 CHAT THEM UP. Talk to salespeople and ask what discounts are available. For example, many restaurants and retailers have discounts for seniors but might not mention them for fear of offending. At thrift stores, ask clerks when they get overstock donations from retailers and when dry cleaners donate unclaimed garments. People who use dry cleaners usually have high-quality clothes that are cared for. Or simply ask a department store salesperson if an item is likely to go on sale soon.

HAGGLE. Part of talking to salespeople is to simply ask for a price break. Be nice and maintain your walk-away leverage. “When you ask for a discount, ask confidently like there is no reason in the world why your wish should not be granted,” said Mark Di Vincenzo, author of the books Buy Shoes on Wednesday and Tweet at 4:00 and Buy Ketchup in May and Fly at Noon.

 You have more negotiating power if you’re considering several purchases or can find flawed items or floor models for sale. Use phrases such as, “Is there any wiggle room in that price?” and “Gee, that’s more than I wanted to spend.” If you can’t bargain down the price, ask for free throw-ins, such as home delivery of an appliance, clothing alterations and no-interest financing.

 At smaller retailers, offering to pay cash – allowing the merchant to avoid credit card transaction fees – might yield a discount, Di Vincenzo said.

 MAKE A LIST. This isn’t the most exciting advice, but making a list and sticking to it might be a tip that saves the most money. Retail stores are geared toward enticing customers to make impulse purchases, with in-store sights, sounds and even smells. It’s why supermarkets place impulse-purchase items near the checkout to entice you, put high-profit items at eye level and store the milk in the back of the store, so you have to walk by tempting items.

 One reason to stray from a list is when you pick up the supermarket weekly sales flier, often in a rack at the entrance. Items on the front and back pages are often “loss leaders” selling at a great price and worth stocking up on if it’s a product you’ll use.

SHOP LATE. Shop after 6 on the evening before an advertised sale begins. Some retailers program checkout registers the night before, so the sale price might come up at the register even if they have not put signs on the selling floor yet, according to a tip from the National Retail Federation.

Also shop in the afternoon or later when buying shoes. Your feet will be more swollen that time of the day, and you won’t waste money buying shoes that are too small.

This Grandma loves the Dollar Store as an outing for grandchildren.  It provides instant gratification for the grandchildren and an inexpensive bill for grandma.  Of course, on the way home, stop at one of the new yogurt stores and splurge on letting the grandchildren have three toppings each.

This Grandma has used all of Mr. Karp’s tips and more.  This Grandma PRIDES herself on being an outstanding shopper.  Here are this Grandma’s five additional tips:

PRE-SHOP AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON.  Very early, this Grandma reads about what is going to be fashionable or the trend or the must have for the new season.  I clip items and keep pages from magazines of what catches my eye in a folder.  I evaluate my wardrobe and decide where I can fill a few items in this season.  I never want to buy an expensive trendy (only one season) item and shop accordingly.  However, with a long life of shopping behind me, the list is not long to refresh my existing wardrobe as my closet is full, so I also justify some splurging as a result! This Grandma then goes shopping just when the new merchandise is coming in.  I try to go shopping on a Monday night (very slow for stores), not only because if a store is going to give a senior discount it will be on one of their slow nights.  I can try on to my heart’s content and have all the help and assistance I need.  I do not have to wait for a dressing room on a slow night.

Okay, I admit I make several trips to several malls.  After all, there are a lot of stores to cover and new merchandise does not come in at once.  I bring my clippings folder, separated by store (yes, you already know that I am compulsive).  If I have made a find, I take a picture of the item and the tag, and put it in my smart phone with the details, and the name and telephone number of the salesperson who has helped me (I always look for a salesperson who is already a friend.  Long shopping means many friends.  It freaks Grandpa out when we go to a random mall far from home and I am warmly greeted, many times by name!).  I tell the salesperson the truth.  I do not need this item.  It is a luxury.  Therefore, I will only buy it on sale.  I ask the salesperson to mark in their books (they all have customer books) the item, price, my name, telephone number and email address.  I ask them to contact me when it is a certain percent off and it is a sale they can count on.  I determine how much I will pay by how much I covet the item.  I have never had a salesperson not call me.  Yes, sometimes I have said I will only buy the item at 50% off and have gotten the item!  The best thing about cultivating salespersons as friends is that they then call you in advance of all sales!  Be sure to tell the new salesperson friend to text, call and email you for any sales or special events.

In the meantime, I sign up on the website of the store where I found the item, if I have not already done so, so I get noticed for specials and discounts.  I click on the coveted item several times while I am on line. If it is a first time visit to the website, I automatically get a return email offering me a 10% discount for my first purchase.  Invariably, within days, I keep getting emails with a further discount on the item I viewed repeatedly, discount getting bigger as time goes by.  When the discount gets to what I want to pay, I buy it on line.  When the salesperson calls when the item has reached the designated purchase price, I explain it went on sale on line first and I got it.

As an aside, it is somewhat scary that there is a computer out there programmed in such a fashion to keep sending me discounts until I buy.  They do stop for a while and then start again, so do not be surprised to get a follow up email weeks later.

The only exception to this tip is anything in the color black.  It seems that anything black jumps out of stores and you cannot find your size.  Since most of my wardrobe is black, this Grandma does shop full price and looks for the senior discount early!  Buy coveted black early.

When this Grandma shops sales, I always shop sales early.  I would like to think I thought of Mr. Karp’s tip to shop the night before a sale more years than his probable age.  I learned, though, that the sales price may not be available until close to closing time.  I have made many great purchases by going to a store an hour before it closes the night before a sale.  I had my list and knew which departments to target.  Grandpa said that I know my way around a mall anywhere in the world!  Would you have expected less?

For grandchildren, this Grandma checks the pre-holiday season on the Oppenheimer Toy Award website www.toyportfolio.com for the newest and trendiest best toys and keeps a list of these and does the same signing up on websites and looking for discounts.

This Grandma preshops for the holiday season personally with her grandchildren if she can.  This year we did it in September with our two older grandchildren when we were in New York City together.  Most years our holiday list for grandchildren is done by October.  We send their “wish list” to other family members if it is too long for us to fill.  One of our daughters puts the grandchildren’s “wish list” on her Amazon account so we can buy what they want for our visit gifts too!

KEEP RETAIL ME NOT AT YOUR FINGERTIPS.  This Grandma has found that this is the best comparison pricing shopping site for promotional codes.  This Grandma checks this first if in a store before purchase and also before purchase on line.  I agree with Mr. Karp that you might get an immediate discount at a store when you show the salesperson you can get it cheaper elsewhere and you are ready to buy right now.  Also, ask to speak to a supervisor in a store or call the on line number and speak to a real person who can give you a bigger discount.  Be careful on the last “click purchase” page on line as there may be a hidden handling fee that did not show up on a previous screen that makes the purchase more expensive than you thought.

Remember that consumer reports  is wonderful to join and have as a resource, but their product reviews may be on last year’s model.  That is not a bad thing when you need something and can find a special price on last years’ model.  Using Consumer Reports, we once bought a floor model Peg Perego last year model stroller for one quarter of retail to keep at our house.  Yes, we haggled some as it was the floor model and could show it was an old model and had been around a while.  Of course, our daughter took it home her next visit!

SHOP ON LINE TO SAVE YOURSELF TIME AND GRIEF.  Do not get me wrong, this Grandma is “old school” and loves to walk a mall.  For many, many years, this was the only exercise this Grandma did!  But, after long years, and trying to get grandchildren what they want when they want it, this Grandma has found that the newest and best sells out fast.  This Grandma has found that the “brick and mortar” stores are not stocking as they have in the past and you might travel across town to find out the store does not have the size or color or model in stock.  Even if you call, they may fib so they can bait and switch after they have you there!  Buying on line, if you know size and color and model, saves you time and grief.  This Grandma loves Amazon Prime.  Check it out at Amazon.  It is instant gratification for grandchildren!  A grandchild wants something and has it in 48 hours even if you live far away.

BUY AT THE END OF THE SEASON FOR NEXT YEAR.  Yes, grandchildren grow.  The end of season sales are amazing at great retailers for children such as Gap or Pottery Barn.  This grandma got Gap fleece pants that retailed for $20 for $7 each in the size appropriate for the next winter!  This Grandma always justifies her grandchildren purchases that we are amortizing the cost over many children.  I have three grandsons.  The clothes I bought for the first, and we always go overboard with the first, have been worn by three grandchildren, and the baby clothes are now on their way to a great nephew-in-law.  Of course, not all are in condition to pass along, but Grandma has bought more for each along the anyway. Pay it forward!

This Grandma plans for end of season sales as well and discusses it with the parents of the grandchildren.  For example, such planning enables this Grandma to not feel bad when buying overpriced Juicy Couture sweat suits at a reasonable price for our beloved granddaughter.  When I locate a great find, I immediately contact the parents of the grandchildren, text first, then call and email, and ask if it is something I should buy.  No, I still do not understand twitter.

SIGN UP ON WEBSITES YOU FREQUENT FOR NOTICE OF SPECIALS AND SALES.  I have said this before, but it is worth repeating.  This Grandma got free shipping on Halloween costumes on www.chasing-fireflies.com and saved a bundle.  Also, remember, even for a one-time purchase on a website, if you sign up, you most often than now will receive an email with 10% off your first purchase.  So, in your surfing, if you are buying something and find it on a new website, it becomes a real win-win!

If you do not already know, this Grandma wrote this post with a smile on her face.  Shopping and grandchildren bring such

 

Joy,

Mema

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