5 Ways to Save on Your Christmas Shopping

This post 5 Ways to Save on Your Christmas Shopping appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

With two of the biggest shopping days of the year behind us, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it might seem like there are no more deals to be had.

However, malls and retailers know this is just the beginning of the holiday shopping season.

According to Sensormatic Solutions, 8 out of the 10 busiest days for in-store foot traffic this year will take place in December:

  1. Black Friday, November 29
  2. December 21, the last Saturday before Christmas
  3. December 26, the day after Christmas
  4. December 14, two Saturdays before Christmas
  5. November 30, the Saturday after Black Friday
  6. December 22, the last Sunday before Christmas
  7. December 23, the Monday before Christmas
  8. December 28, the Saturday after Christmas
  9. December 27, the Friday after Christmas
  10. December 7, the first Saturday in December

Sensormatic based this list on stats collected from previous years showing peak in-store traffic periods.

Although mall and in-store foot traffic is declining overall in America, this is expected to be a big year for holiday spending.

The annual Deloitte holiday survey predicts spending will grow by 4.5% to 5%, and top $1.1trillion.

But with in-store shopping shifting to online, it’s more important than ever to know how to score the best deals wherever you shop.

To help you out, I compiled a short list of some of my favorite online and in-store shopping apps. I’ve mentioned a few of these before, in various issues, but with the Holidays rapidly approaching, I want you to have the best ones all in one place.

These are a mix of internet browser extensions (aka plug-ins or add-ons) and apps for your smartphone or tablet.

If you’ve never heard of browser extensions before, don’t worry. They’re easy to use. You simply go to the listed website, click “install” on the add-on, and it will automatically be added in your internet browser.

The next time you’re shopping online, the extension will pop up and work its magic. The best part is all these apps and extensions are free, and can save you a bundle.

Here are my top five shopping apps to save you money this holiday season:

Honey

Gone are the days of clipping coupons. The Honey browser extension literally automates couponing for you.

Once you add the Honey extension to your internet browser, whenever you check out at any online retailer, say Amazon.com or Walmart.com, Honey will scour the internet for digital coupons and automatically apply them to your order.

With the click of a button you can save yourself the hassle of searching coupon sites and having to type in confusing coupon codes. Honey also will send you alerts for price drops.

It can provide you with price histories on items in your digital shopping cart and tell you whether to buy now, or hold out for a better deal later.

Fakespot

The Wall Street Journal recently published a story exposing fake online reviews.

According to the story, more than one third of online reviews on major websites, including those on Amazon.com, Walmart, and Sephora, are fake, meaning they are generated by robots or people paid to write them.

If you’re worried about buying something with an overhyped review, Fakespot.com’s browser extension will help.

Fakespot flags both reviews and products it suspects are bogus and grades product reviews to help you avoid being duped by fake 4- and 5-star reviews.

The app also summarizes the most helpful reviews, which can save you a ton of time if you’ve waited until the last minute to get your Christmas shopping done.

PriceBlink

If you like to price shop online, then you’ll love PriceBlink. Instead of opening up multiple browser tabs with different retailers, you install PriceBlink and visit one major retail website.

For example, say you shop at Amazon.com, a yellow bar will pop up from PriceBlink, you click on “Compare Prices” and you’ll get a list of prices for that same item at other stores.

The browser extension checks prices at 11,000 stores. Because there’s no PriceBlink mobile app, if you want to quickly price shop in-store, you can use the app ShopSavvy. Or, use the Amazon and eBay apps.

When you tap the camera icon in any one of these apps then point your phone at an item’s barcode, the app will find competing prices.

Rakuten

Formerly known as eBates, Rakuten is an app and browser extension that allows you to earn cash back on your purchases.

How it works: once installed, you shop as you normally would online and you’ll earn cash back on qualifying purchases at more than 3,500 stores.

Once you’ve collected at least $5 in rewards, Rakuten will send you a check in the mail. You’ll receive a check quarterly with whatever cashback rewards you’ve earned.

If you choose to take your earnings as a gift card instead, you can earn more rewards faster. You can also link your credit card to the smartphone app and score cash back on certain in-store purchases, plus 5 percent cash back on meals at more than 10,000 participating restaurants.

RetailMeNot

Next time you head out shopping, add the RetailMeNot app to your phone. The app supports a wide selection of stores and food chains. The app supplies barcodes to be scanned at the register with your order.

Simply search for the retail store you’re shopping at and see if there are any coupons or sales. Similar to Rakuten, you can earn cash-back offers both in-store and online.

It doesn’t matter if it’s Black Friday or the last Saturday before Christmas, with these five apps and extensions installed, you can score the best deal no matter what time of year.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post 5 Ways to Save on Your Christmas Shopping appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Fall into Seasonal Savings

This post Fall into Seasonal Savings appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Fall is a beautiful and easily enjoyable time of year. With rising heating costs, the holidays on the horizon, and then tax season looming shortly thereafter, it can bring serious financial stress to some people, though.

The good news is there are plenty of ways to save money in the fall. With these frugal tips, not only can you survive fall, you can enjoy yourself and revel in the season, too!

Save Around the House

There are tons of things that you can do around your home in Autumn to save money, both now and also moving forward into the winter. Take advantage of these easy changes and keep your eyes on your bills to watch the savings mount.

Let Mother Nature Be Your Thermostat
The weather can be your AC bill’s very best friend in the fall.

Depending upon where you live, this may be the best time of year to turn off your AC unit and open your windows instead. Not only will you save on electricity, you’ll also get that fresh, aired-out feeling all through your home.

Weatherproof Now, Save Later
While the weather is still nice, take a walk around your home and make sure that your doors and windows still have nice, tight seals. If you find a leak, take the time to patch it.

This ten minute exercise will save you tons on future heating and keep you more comfortable, too.

Switch Your Fans
We all know that warm air rises, but many people don’t know you can change your ceiling fans to take advantage of that!

Simply by switching your fan blades, you can make your ceiling fan force the warm air back downward. Some fans even have a switch that will reverse the direction your fan spins so you don’t have to manually switch the blades yourself.

You’ll have that light breeze that you love, and a warmer, more energy efficient home because of it.

Break Out The Soft Stuff
When the temperature dips, it’s tempting to go straight to the thermostat and kick it up a few notches. You can easily resist this temptation if you’ve already washed and prepared your sweaters, blankets, and flannel sheets.

Get these things ready while it’s still balmy and you won’t miss a beat when the brisk winds kick in.

Stock Up For Summer
Yes, it may seem like next summer is far away, but it’ll be here again before you know it.

Stock up on summer essentials like sunscreen, towels, citronella candles, and even big-ticket items like new patio furniture. These goods will all be on clearance, so you’re not likely to score a better deal than this.

Budget Wisely

Budget is a word that gets a bad rap, but sticking to a budget is a really great way to save money. Figure out exactly how much you intend to spend this fall, and then stick to those numbers as closely as possible. I realize holiday shopping may make this a bit more difficult than at other times of year, so read on for tips on how to to stay in budget even when you’re feeling festive.

Gym Membership
Let’s face it – this pre-holiday season is a busy one, so your gym attendance may suffer a bit. Why not put your membership on hold until January?

You could save hundreds of dollars, and with decent temperatures, you can go for jogs, take hikes, or workout in your own backyard instead.

Use Shopping Programs Online
There are tons of sites and apps out there that will pay you money back for just about any purchase you could make.

Sites like Rakuten will show you all the coupons available and then give you an additional percentage back on the items that you buy. If saving on the front end is more your thing, apps like Honey will help you save money by scouring the internet for low prices and further discounts – all before you hit the “Buy Now” button.

With all the holiday shopping coming up, fall is the perfect time to get started with these services, so research them, install them, and use them sooner rather than later.

Black Friday
You know you’ll be shopping soon, so plan out your big purchases in advance, and wait for Black Friday if at all possible.

This year, retailers are making it easier than ever before – you don’t even have to go into the stores to score the really great deals. If you like instant gratification, don’t worry – for many major retailers, you can shop online and choose same-day in-store pick up.

This is truly the best of both worlds.

Farmers’ Markets
There’s so much great produce to be had at this time of year, and farmers’ markets are the ideal place to pick up a fresh, delicious harvest.

You’ll be able to save money by making great meals at home and you’ll be supporting your local economy, too. Bonus savings? The vegetables are so satisfying this time of year, you can make meatless meals and not even miss out on flavor.

Look for plant-based dinner recipes featuring hearty root vegetables like sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, and beets – these veggies will fill up even the hungriest diner.

Back to the Basics
With all the bounty of nature available, why not set yourself up for the future, too? In-season foods like apples and pumpkins can be frozen, canned, or turned into things like jam for future use, and elderberries (also in season) can be used to create an immunity-boosting syrup.

These chores may seem “old-fashioned”, but once you know what you’re doing, you can save up an abundance of goodies you’ll be happy to have later.

Get Crafty
With Christmas right around the corner, you may be tempted to throw in the towel and buy Amazon gift cards for everyone on your list. Don’t do that – it’s not memorable or special, and it certainly won’t save a dime.

Homemade gifts really show you care, and they can save a ton of Christmas cash, too. Look for a homemade gift to suit your expertise, and make them for anyone who might be interested. If you have a penchant for needlework, why not cross stitch something for members of your family? If you know how to crochet or knit, hats, or blankets always make for memorable gifts.

Maybe you’re into brewing, why not bottle a batch for everyone on your list? Wouldn’t you rather get a growler of homebrewed beer or a bottle of homemade Limoncello instead of the standard necktie or store bought sweater? I know I would!

Whatever your skill, there is something you can do that is not only cheaper, but also displays more thought and care than a gift card.

As you can see, there are tons of ways to make your fall season, happy, fun, and frugal. Take just a few of these tips, or apply them all and see just how much you can save – you might be happily surprised!

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post Fall into Seasonal Savings appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Memorial Day Weekend/ Your Shopping Dos and Don’ts

This post Memorial Day Weekend/ Your Shopping Dos and Don’ts appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Memorial Day is one of the biggest three-day-sale weekends of the year, and retailers will be slashing prices on almost everything, from mattresses to appliances, outdoor gear and more.

But while Memorial Day sales cover almost all product categories, there are some deals that are better than others.

To make sure you get the best deals and skip the worst, I’ve compiled a list of what to buy and what not to buy this Memorial Day weekend.

What to Buy

Mattresses

Historically, Memorial Day is one of the best times of year to buy a new mattress, even eclipsing major shopping holidays like President’s Day and Fourth of July.

This year, Layla Sleep is offering $125 off their signature Layla mattress, plus you get two free pillows with purchase. Serta is offering up to $600 in savings on its iComfort mattress set and you can snag $50 off twin and twin XL mattresses and $100 off all full, queen, king, and California king at Purple mattresses.

Appliances

Memorial Day sales rarely disappoint when it comes to deals on appliances — especially refrigerators.

Big players in this category include Best Buy and Lowes, which have offered in the past fridges and other major appliances up to 40% off.

This year, online retailer Made In is offering 15% off all individual items from May 24 to May 27.

Home Goods

Home goods deals are everywhere during Memorial Day weekend. Kohl’s and Macy’s have in the past hosted giant sitewide sales, while Overstock.com has taken 20% off area rugs, home decor, bedding and bath.

This year Birchlane is offering discounts up to 70% off in categories including outdoor furniture, rugs, sofas and sectionals, beds and headboards, dining tables, chairs, and lighting. Jet.com and Wayfair.com are also offering major deals starting May 20 through May 28.

Tools

Some of the best Memorial Day sales you’ll find are at home improvement stores, it’s a good time to stock up on tools right before summer and Father’s Day.

In the past, Home Depot has offered Memorial Day specials, including up to 50% off tools and hardware. This year Lowe’s has sales ranging anywhere from 10-25% off most tools.

Spring Apparel

With summer around the bend, stores are wanting to get rid of spring merchandise and make way for summer styles. Last year, high-end clothing retailer Lord & Taylor offered an extra 25%-60% off clearance styles.

Express.com has sales of up to 40% off, and department stores like Macy’s, JCPenney and Dillard’s all join in on Memorial Day weekend with deep discounts of their own.

Some stores will even throw in a free gift with purchase to entice shoppers.

Travel

If you have big summer travel plans, Memorial Day weekend is one of the best times to book travel deals.

You’ll find better-than-average prices on flights, hotels, and more from sites like Travelocity, Expedia, and CheapOAir. As the summer nears, travel deals will become sparse so consider booking your travel this Memorial Day weekend if you haven’t already.

What Not to Buy

Summer Apparel

Watch out for enticing displays with bathing suits, sandals, and beach towels this Memorial Day weekend. Several stores will run promotions on summer styles, but even bigger savings can be had at the end of the season.

If you can wait until August and September, you’ll see discounts up to 90% in some stores. That said, if you need to buy summer clothes, look for basic tees, tank tops, and flip flops.

Retailers like to offer big discounts on these staple items to hook shoppers into stores and online.

Grills, Patio Furniture and Outdoor Gear

You’ll see lots of patio furniture and barbecue grills on sale during Memorial Day weekend. You might be able to snag 20% on some of these items but if you wait until the end of the season, after Labor Day, you’ll save 50-80% off.

TVs and Electronics

Steer clear of most electronics deals during Memorial Day sales. You’ll have better luck during Amazon’s Prime Day and Black Friday in July sales.

In the past, retailers have run Black Friday in July sales with deals on laptops up to $200 off and TVs $700 off. On Prime Day, Amazon shoppers were offered a 75-inch Samsung 4K Ultra HD Smart TV for $2,000 ($800 off what was then the current price). If you can wait until Thanksgiving weekend to buy your tech, do it.

You’ll find the best deals over Cyber Monday.

Apple Products

Every June, Apple hosts its Worldwide Developer Conference where they unveil the latest new Apple products.

If you’re in need of a new Macbook or iPad, wait until after the conference ends because retailers will begin discounting older models. Black Friday and Cyber Monday are also good times to buy Apple products.

Memorial Day sales are always something to look forward to.

Make sure you don’t spend what you don’t have to, and enjoy the time off with friends and family.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post Memorial Day Weekend/ Your Shopping Dos and Don’ts appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

8 Ways to Save on This Summer’s Road Trip

This post 8 Ways to Save on This Summer’s Road Trip appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Summer is approaching. That means vacations for many families. AAA estimates that 100 million Americans are planning a getaway, more than half opting for a road trip.

But with gasoline prices inching higher, traveling could cost more than you may have expected. And for anyone on a tight budget, that could mean cutbacks on other parts of your trip.

As of mid-May, the national average price for a gallon of gasoline was $2.86… 3 cents higher than the same time last month.

Here in California we’ve been hit the hardest… passing a whopping $4. That’s up about 30 cents from a year ago.

For an estimate on how much gas will cost on your road trip, AAA has a handy calculator that’s based on where you’re traveling and the car you’re driving.

Now if you’re like me, you hate paying too much at the pump. So here are eight things you can do to make any upcoming road trip, and even your everyday commutes, a bit more affordable…

#1—Tap Your Smartphone

Use apps such as AAA’s Triptik or GasBuddy to find the lowest prices when you’re traveling. You can search by city, state, or brand. 

#2—Find a Fuel Rewards Program

Most gas stations offer a rewards program that can save you money…

For instance, BP’s Driver Rewards will knock off 10 cents per gallon (up to 20 gal.) for every $100 you spend on their fuel.

Shell has one, too. You can save 30 cents per gallon on your first five fill ups and 10 cents thereafter.

Exxon Mobil Rewards+ program gives you 3 points per gallon. For every 100 points accumulated, you get $1 off your fuel purchase. So 500 points = $5 in savings.

The obvious downside to these programs is that you have to buy at participating stations, which can be a nuisance when on a road trip.

If that’s a concern, you might consider Pay with GasBuddy. It works as a debit card at most every station nationwide taking the purchase amount right out of your checking account.

The service has three membership levels. One is free; the other two have monthly fees. You’ll save 5 cents to 20 cents per gallon depending on which membership you join.

#3—Cash Is King

Some gas stations will charge you as much as 10 cents or so a gallon when you pay with a credit card. That’s to offset the processing fees that credit card companies charge them.

So if you’re willing to pay with cash, look for stations that’ll give you a discount. Paying with a debit card often earns similar savings. 

#4—Discounted Gas Cards

GiftCardGranny.com and CardCash.com sell discounted gas gift cards that give you another way to save…

A recent listing was for a Sunoco card. Face value: $200. Your cost: $195.

Another was for a Shell card. Face value: $100. Your cost: $98.

#5—Timing Matters

Findings vary on which is exactly the best day to fill up. Yet there is agreement that prices are lower early in the week, which makes total sense to me.

After all, come Thursday folks are anticipating a weekend of travel. So unless it’s an emergency or you’re already on the road, don’t buy gas on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

#6—Do You Really Need Premium?

Years ago, drivers would occasionally buy a tank of premium to clean their car’s engine. But experts say that’s no longer necessary because today’s gasoline has additives to protect engines and cut pollution.

So it’s like throwing money in the trash when filling up at the premium pump can cost you 20 to 40+ cents per gallon more than regular grade.

However, some auto manufacturers specify premium fuel for certain models. If you’re not sure what can be used in your car, Edmunds has two lists for you: Premium Required and Premium Recommended.

#7—Before You Hit the Road…

Get your car ready with a tune-up. Replace the air filter, too.

You may realize a 7% increase in fuel mileage, saving as much as 12 cents a gallon, according to the Department of Energy. 

While you’re at it, check the tires. Properly inflating them could improve gas mileage by up to 3.3%, saving about 2 cents a gallon.

Having the oil changed and using the right grade of oil is good for another 3 to 6 cents in gasoline savings. 

#8—Practice Good Driving Habits

Avoid jackrabbit starts and sudden stops. Testing showed that accelerating slowly from a green light and gradually stopping for a red light cut fuel consumption by 27-35%.

And when on the open highway, switch on the cruise control. Cars monitored got 4.5-14% better fuel mileage using cruise control set a 70 mph compared to driving at 65-75 mph.

To Sum It Up

A final note that will make your road trip more comfortable…

Some people believe that their car’s a/c increases fuel usage. Not so according to test data from Edmunds.com.

The online resource information company found that using the a/c at highway speeds had no appreciable effect on fuel economy compared to rolling down the windows. 

So before you hit the road this summer, keep the above in mind as some easy ways to reduce expenses.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post 8 Ways to Save on This Summer’s Road Trip appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Are You Really Happier with More Money?

This post Are You Really Happier with More Money? appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

The optimal income for life satisfaction in North America is $105,000 per year.

That’s according to a 2018 study conducted by researchers at Purdue University on more than 1.7 million people, in every region of the world.

Whatever you make beyond that level is not associated with greater life satisfaction. In fact, it reduces life satisfaction.

This $105,000 income cutoff is deemed the “satiation point.” Someone pulling in $250K is no happier or satisfied with his or her life than someone making $110,000.

The research concluded that people with higher incomes are in fact happier. What wasn’t mentioned in the study, however, were spending habits. More specifically, how to spend your money to make you happy.

The saying, money can’t buy happiness is misleading. Elizabeth Dunn, co-author of Happy Money, associate professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, knows this all too well.

Dunn’s been studying money and its relationship with happiness for a long time and says, money can buy happiness if you follow the five core principles of happier spending.

Principle #1 – Buy Time

“Before you reach for your wallet, try just stopping and ask yourself, ‘How will this purchase affect the way I spend my time?'” says Dunn. “And if the purchase isn’t going to have much of an impact on how you spend your time, your money might be better spent somewhere else.”

“What matters for your wellbeing is what you’re doing with the minutes and days of your life,” says Dunn. “If you have a lot of money and a lot of nice stuff, but you’re spending your time doing things you dislike, then your minute-to-minute happiness and overall happiness is likely to be pretty low.”

Dunn surveyed more than 6,000 people in four countries and also ran an experiment in which she gave people $40 for two weeks.

One week, participants had to buy something material and the following week, they used the money to buy themselves time, like hiring someone to mow their lawn or clean their house, or deliver them food.

People reported feeling happier when they used their money for time-saving services than on material things.

“Buying time is not only for rich people,” says Dunn. The average amount of money people in the study spent on time-saving costs was between $80 to $100 a month, but even the $40 they were given in the experiment created a notable difference in their happiness.

Principle #2 – Buy Experiences

“People actually get more happiness from buying experiences like trips and special meals than from buying material things like gadgets, clothes, or shoes,” says Dunn.

Dunn also said buying experiences as gifts for others (tickets to a baseball game or spa day) versus material things also delivers more happiness for those receiving the gift.

Which is something to consider when buying gifts for loved ones for birthdays and special occasions.

There’s one caveat though: Dunn says, “If somebody has told you they really want a new pair of shoes and you say, ‘No-no, I am going to buy you an experience, that’s probably a bad call. Because it turns out people really like getting the things they have asked for. If somebody has told you what they want… for the love of God, just get them that.”

Principle #3 – Pay Now, Consumer Later

“Almost everything about modern society pushes us to consume right away, and often pay for it much later,” says Dunn. “What we find is people are better off doing just the opposite. So, you’re more likely to get happiness from your spending if you can pay upfront, and actually delay consumption.”

For example, if you’re planning a trip and you can either pay for it a month in advance or put it on your credit card and pay after the trip. By paying in advance, you get the pain of paying out of the way, and you get to enjoy the pleasure of anticipation. “It is good to separate payment from the experience itself,” says Dunn.

Principle #4 – Make It a Treat

What if you could have all your favorite things all the time? You’d probably be unhappy. “The idea here is that having our favorite things a little less often can actually enhance our ability to enjoy them,” says Dunn.

One of the fundamental lessons of happiness research is that the more we have of something the more we tend to get used to it and lose the same sort of intense pleasure we got when we first experienced it.

Dunn gives this example:

In Vancouver, where she lives, kale is popular, and she started drinking a $7 kale smoothie from Whole Foods. “At first it was kind of like a treat – I really enjoyed it, but pretty soon it just became the drink I would suck down on any kind of afternoon,” said Dunn. “And while it is perfectly healthy, it is not the cheapest way to consume kale, so my kale budget was kind of spinning out of control with these smoothies.”

Dunn took a break from kale smoothies and switched to only having them once in a while. By doing that, Dunn says, she “actually renewed my capacity to appreciate them again, and that’s what we see in our research lab as well.”

Her advice: Taking a break from the things you enjoy can renew your capacity for pleasure. Plus, it could save you some money.

Another example Dunn gives is driving a nice car. “Purchases such as cars that we drive everyday don’t seem to make much of a difference for our happiness as we might assume,” says Dunn. “People actually get no more enjoyment from driving a BMW than from driving an economy car, because it is something they do so habitually every day. The pleasure of the extra features kind of fade into the background.”

So, again investing your money in purchases that you constantly use constantly may not actually deliver happiness. It’s better to be more strategic with your spending.

Principle #5 – Invest in Others

“When people spend money on others, they actually get more happiness than from spending it on themselves,” says Dunn.

Donating to a charity can especially lead to happiness. “People who donate to charity are happier than those who don’t, even after taking into account things like their level of wealth,” says Dunn.

The recent social media trend where people are asking someone to donate to a favorite cause on their birthday is a good thing, says Dunn. “There is actually research showing, even older research predating social media, that the most common reason people say they gave to charity is because someone they know asked them to make a donation.”

But there’s one caveat to donating to charity: “Auto giving,” where you automatically contribute monthly or yearly to a charity, may not lead to increased happiness. “That whole set-it-and-forget it sort of thing also means you are probably not getting much of a burst of happiness when that $100 disappears from your bank account every month,” says Dunn.

So, it’s best to make giving to charity memorable. One way Dunn is trying to make spending money a more conscientious habit is through her new app, Joy.

“The idea is that it enables people to reflect on their purchases and decide whether each purchase for them was happy money or sad money,” she says. “So, each time people make a purchase they are prompted to… either hit a happy face or a sad face.”

And over time, the app accumulates enough data to deliver personalized insight about your spending and happiness.

Bottom line? While money can play a role in happiness, remember to consider what you’re buying and what you’ll actually get out of the purchase.

Remember the longer term benefits and not just the immediate gratification the next time you open your wallet.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post Are You Really Happier with More Money? appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Saving Your Wardrobe with Vinegar, a Hairdryer… and More!

This post Saving Your Wardrobe with Vinegar, a Hairdryer… and More! appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Although baseball is America’s favorite pastime, a close second could be shopping.

The average American spends around $161 per month on clothes and accessories, according to CreditDonkey.com. Women spend nearly 76% more than men do per year, and the average family of four spends around $1,800 per year on clothes, with $388 spent on shoes.

Buying clothes is a necessary evil but an expensive hobby. If you want to learn how to spend less of your paycheck on clothes and still be able to enjoy what you have in your closet, let me share a few tips on how to extend the life of your clothes.

Tip 1: Rotate Your Wardrobe

I don’t mean switch out clothes based on the seasons. In order to keep the clothes you love longer, you need to wear it less.

Yes, I said less. Rotating your closet reduces wear and tear on your favorite duds by spacing out how often you wear and wash them. How do you do it?

Think about how grocery stores rotate product on their shelves. The new stuff goes to the back so the older stuff sells first. It reduces waste and moves product in an organized fashion.

You can apply this same principle to your closet.  First, hang up clothes with hangers all facing the same way. Then whenever you have freshly washed clothes, make sure it goes to the back and pushes the older stuff to the front and center, where you’re more likely to see and grab them.

The reason you make sure all the hangers are facing the same way is so when you replace items, you can switch the hangers to the opposite way. After a month, you’ll know which items you wear most frequently and which ones you should consider selling or donating so you can buy clothes you’ll actually wear.

Tip 2: Keep New Jeans from Fading

A new pair of dark-wash jeans look crisp and classy but how can you keep that new look after a few washes? Most people don’t think twice about how they wash their denim – this leads to early color fading and unnecessary wear.

When you buy a new pair of dark-wash jeans and you don’t want the color to fade, wash them inside out and with half a cup of vinegar. The vinegar will lock in the dye and keep your denim looking brand new for longer.

Bonus tip: always zip up or button up jeans before washing. The teeth of zippers will wreak havoc on the other clothes in your wash.

Tip 3: Break in Tight Shoes with a Hairdryer and Socks

The best time of day to buy new shoes is always at the end of the day. Why? Because your feet are their most swollen from standing and walking. What if you own a pair of shoes that are just a little too tight? Maybe you’ve gained some weight or bought a half-size too small.

Here’s what you do: put on a pair of socks – they don’t need to be very thick. Then take a hairdryer and turn on the heat full blast and warm up your shoes while on your feet. After about a minute, turn off the hairdryer and keep the shoes on until they’re cooled, about 5 minutes.

The heat makes the shoe material stretch, and cooling them on your enlarged feet holds the new, stretched shape. When you take the shoes off, they should permanently be about a half-size bigger than they were before.

Tip 4: Always Iron Shirts Inside Out

I wish I learned this tip sooner. Whenever you iron a dress shirt, turn it inside out. The iron will glide over buttons easier and you’ll be done in half the time.

If your wife is getting ready with you and her hair straightener is on, use the hair straightener to crease the perfect collar. Clamp down on your collar with the flat iron and you’ll save time by not having to flip your shirt.

Tip 5: Fix Scuffed Leather with Hand Moisturizer

If you scuff up a new pair of leather shoes, you can fix them on the fly with a bit of unscented hand moisturizer. Place a small dab directly on the scuff, and use a clean cloth to buff it until the moisturizer absorbs.

The scratch should disappear. If you scuff up a pair of suede shoes or boots, you can use a nail file to buff away the jagged edges and make the scratch less noticeable.

Tip 6: Two Ways to Fix Annoying Zippers

There’s nothing worse than a pair of jeans with a zipper that doesn’t stay up. Zippers that get stuck or don’t stay up properly are annoying but easy to fix. Here’s what you do:

If your zipper is stuck: Apply a lubricant to the stuck part of the zipper to gently ease the pull-down. Lip balm rubbed on the inside of the zipper can usually do the trick. Or a graphite pencil will work too.

If your zipper won’t stay up: Spray some hairspray on the open zipper, wait about 30 seconds, and zip up. The stickiness of the hairspray keeps the teeth in place. If you still can’t get the zipper to stay up, thread an empty keyring onto the zipper pull. You can then zip up and hang the keyring on your pants button for a sneaky way to make sure your zipper doesn’t move.

Tip 7: Cuff Clothes for Free

If you’re looking for a cheap way to give your clothes a preppy look, try cuffing your shirts and pants. You can do this without having to buy clothes with pre-sewn cuffs. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Start with a straight un-cuffed sleeve or pant leg.
  2. Fold up the hem to double the width of your desired cuff. For instance, if you want a three-inch ankle cuff on your pants, fold up six inches of the pants.
  3. Then, make another fold, this time starting at the bottom of the hem you’ve created, and bringing it to the top of your first fold.

This technique works on shirts and pants, and keeps cuffs stationary, so they’re less likely to loosen. What’s more, it reduces wrinkling, so when you want to wear your pants or shirts without a cuff, you don’t show those telltale signs that simply rolling or scrunching your shirt can leave behind.

Tip 8: Dry Hand-Washed Delicates Faster

Hand-washing a piece of clothes isn’t as hard as it used to be. New washing machines have all kinds of delicate settings that take the manual work out of the equation.

What’s annoying though is waiting for delicates to dry. Since wringing out delicates can damage the fabric and laying them flat takes forever to dry, try this instead: Take a clean salad spinner and take your delicates one-by-one and spin them through.

You’ll remove some of the excess water and notice your hand-washed clothes dry a lot faster. If you find you have a lot of delicates, it’s not a bad idea to invest in a salad spinner for your laundry room, you’re looking at spending about $10.

Tip 9: When to Not Dry Clean Cashmere

This may shock you, especially if you’ve spent years dry-cleaning your favorite cashmere sweaters. But it’s not necessary, most cashmere sweaters say they’re dry clean only, to ensure the item doesn’t shrink.

But, if you hand wash your cashmere using mild detergent, the garment will actually remain softer over time.

If you follow these 9 tips, you’ll spend less time replacing items and more time enjoying the clothes you love.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post Saving Your Wardrobe with Vinegar, a Hairdryer… and More! appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

7 Secret Tricks Retailers Use Against You

This post 7 Secret Tricks Retailers Use Against You appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

When was the last time you went shopping and came home with only what you set out to buy?

It’s rare.

More likely, you went shopping and ended up with a few other things not on your list or you ended up spending a little more than you budgeted. How does this happen so regularly?

A retailer’s job is to squeeze every penny out of you once you walk through the door. It sounds cutthroat, but really some are just better at it than others.

From the way stores are laid out, to price tags, to even how staff talk to you, good retailers are well oiled money-making machines.

If you want to keep your shirt next time you walk into a department store, pay attention to these common tactics.

Once you see these, you won’t be able to unsee them.

Tactic 1 – Count Syllables in Price Tags

Consumer behavior research finds that when you remove commas from large price tags, consumers perceive the price as being less expensive.

For example, a TV priced at $2999 is perceived as less expensive than a TV priced at $2,999. Huh? The only difference is $2,999 sounds longer:

Two-thou-sand-nine-hun-dred-and-nine-ty-nine (10 syllables)

Vs.

Twen-ty-nine-nine-ty-nine (6 syllables).

To override this natural impulse to misperceive that actual cost, make it a habit of calculating the final price (with commas) after tax. Pull out your phone and add the tax.

Look at that number, commas included, and you’ll see the real damage.

Tactic 2 – Stay Ahead in Conversations if You’re Talking to a Salesman

What does “stay ahead” mean? On-floor sales staff are trained to pace and lead you. They want you to admit to them what you want and then control your responses thereafter.

How this plays out:

You go into a store intending to buy speakers. You decide you’re not going to spend more than $300. After some smooth talking, the salesman has you nodding your head, agreeing that $500 is better value for the speakers originally marked for $1,100 – notice the comma – at this point he has you beat. Most people can’t recover and end up paying the sales upgrade.

To avoid this, you need to take the lead and keep it throughout the entire interaction.

When you start leading by asking questions the salesman is now on his heels constantly trying to regain position.

Tactic 3 – Don’t Mind Snobby Staff

Have you ever walked into a high-end retailer and felt like the staff were being rude?

A study out of Canada revealed that shoppers looking at high-end items might actually be more likely to buy when staff play hard to get.

Marketing Professor Darren Dahl found that rude or “snobby” salespeople made people want to share in their exclusivity by purchasing luxury goods.

The flip side of this coin is befriending sales staff. “Clienteling” is industry speak for getting the VIP treatment. If you become friends with sales staff at high-end stores, often you’ll be invited to come to pre-sales up to 30-40% off the week before the actual sale starts.

Most sales staff work on commission in higher-end shops so it’s win-win for everyone if you shop more regularly.

Tactic 4 – Pay Attention to Colors

Good in-store marketing engages all five senses.

And your sight is probably the easiest to hijack.

When you see a sales sign that’s red it wasn’t by accident. The color red is typically associated with a sense of urgency – buy now!

The color blue is associated with more reasonable prices.

Where you typically find blue signs are beside “New Arrivals.” This lulls you into thinking you can afford what’s new when really if you just waited a few weeks, the new arrivals would be marked down.

Black signs make you think of luxury.

You won’t make quick decisions choosing items with black signs but the perception that the product is more luxurious will build in your mind and help you justify paying the expensive price tag.

Tactic 5 – Don’t Feel Bad About Touching Clothes

Stores need you to make a mess: Touching items is a key component of making the move from contemplation to purchase.

Research out of Colorado finds that consumers need to touch items to connect with a brand. This is also why so many clothing stores display shirts and sweaters on flat tables: It makes it easier for you to set stuff down so you have two hands to touch the clothes.

Tactic 6 – Watch Out for Carnival Mirrors

This one sounds pretty unethical but I promise you it happens. Some retailers use mirrors that distort your appearance, making you look longer and thinner.

If this sounds far fetched, think about fitting room lighting. Most fitting rooms use dim lighting to make you look tanner and thus more defined.

It’s the same reason why dim lighting in the bedroom makes your partner look sexier.

To avoid these tricks, shop with a friend or step outside the fitting room into brighter light.

Tactic 7 – Always Assume the Store Can Price Match

Price matching used to be a unique selling proposition for only a few select retailers.

Today, price matching is more common than not. When in doubt, Google whether a store has price matching, but it’s fair to assume they do.

There are sites that offer updated lists of stores with price-match guarantees or you can use Amazon to find the lowest price. Amazon automatically price matches all other .com retailers selling the same item. So the price you see on Amazon is typically the lowest price for that item.

Bonus: Use This “Magic” Question to Secure a Better Price

“Under what circumstances could I secure a discount for this item?”

This one powerful question has saved me a lot of money.

Why it works: It’s open-ended and can’t be dismissed with a yes or no, and it’s a hypothetical which comes off less assuming.

So, the next time you find yourself shopping, keep my tactics in mind.

Hopefully, they’ll give you a better (cheaper) shopping experience.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post 7 Secret Tricks Retailers Use Against You appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

7 Easy Ways to Save WITHOUT Coupons

This post 7 Easy Ways to Save WITHOUT Coupons appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Next to housing and transportation, food is one of the biggest household expenses in the U.S. 

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ 2016 Consumer Expenditure Survey, the average household spends $7,203 annually on food. The survey breaks this number down even further to include food at home, $4,049, and food away from home, $3,154. 

Notice the numbers are relatively close, despite the fact most people tend to eat at home most of the time. If you want an easy way to save money every month, eat out less! This means buying more groceries. 

The good news is there are some simple ways you can save on groceries that don’t require extreme couponing. Here are 7 ways to save on your next grocery trip without clipping any coupons: 

Choose the Right Store

Unless you live somewhere with very limited options, you likely can choose where you buy your groceries. Figure out which stores offer up the best bang for your buck. 

This might take some trial and error but you should quickly be able to tell which store or stores offer the best deals on certain items. Set aside time once to do this price comparison, and your efforts will pay off at the checkout over and over again. 

Know the Sales Cycles

Once you choose your store or stores, learn the sales cycles. Most supermarkets place items on sale every 12 weeks or so. When you’re shopping and see a really good deal, try to stock up for at least 3 months worth of supply. 

This way you will be finishing your supply come the next sale cycle. Some stores also offer deals on certain days. Mark those days in your calendar or set reminders on your phone so you know when it’s a good time to shop. 

Circle Expensive Items on Your Receipts

The next time you go to the supermarket, hang on to your receipt and circle the most expensive items. Then, consider lower-cost alternatives for those items on future shopping trips.

Take red meat, for instance.

 The average price per pound for sirloin steak is $8.52, according to recent figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Spend less than half of that amount on your protein purchase by going with boneless chicken breasts instead ($3.21 per pound).

Another expensive category is organics. If you prefer buying organic produce, opt for cheaper alternative brands versus brand names. 

Whole Foods’ 365 brand or Walmart’s Great Value brand are significantly less than premium organic brands. Also learn what the dirty dozen and clean fifteen are by searching them online.

Skip Meat Altogether (Sometimes)

I’m not saying you have to become vegetarian. But going meatless once or twice a week has its benefits. First, you’ll save money in the long run. 

Second, you’re not just subtracting from your diet, you’re adding whole grains, lentils, beans, and more vegetables, which all provide health benefits. You’d be surprised how good meatless meals can be if you learn some tasty recipes.

Check Unit Prices

What’s the better buy, the smaller package or the larger one? An easy way to check is to compare the unit prices displayed by most grocery stores, either on a shelf sticker or on the product packaging. 

Unit prices break down the cost by a specific measurement. Meats and seafood are typically by the pound. Liquids are measured in ounces, quarts or gallons. And for non-food items, like say a package of diapers, the unit price is per diaper. 

But, unit prices aren’t uniform — and they’re only mandatory in a few states — so pay close attention to the actual “unit” being measured in the price. As a general rule of thumb, the larger the quantity, the less you pay per unit. But always double check.

Buy Seasonal, Including Frozen 

Fruits and vegetables taste better when they’re in season. So buy fresh seasonal produce when you can. But when produce isn’t in season, it can get expensive. That’s when you look at frozen fruits and vegetables instead.

The good thing about frozen produce is it’s usually harvested at peak ripeness, so you’re getting maximum nutrients. It can also be way cheaper than fresh produce, up to 75% sometimes . So if you have a large family, you can feed them on frozen fruits and veggies for a fraction of the cost. 

Have A Menu Plan

Never go to the grocery store without a plan. You should know what items you’re buying and in what quantities before you walk through the doors. 

Reducing food waste is one of the best ways to save money on food each month. To ensure you don’t waste, write out a menu plan for the week. Do this on Sunday or any day before you go to the supermarket. 

It doesn’t have to be more complicated than this:

Monday – Mexican food (tacos, burrito bowls, enchiladas)

Tuesday – Meatless meal (spaghetti, lentil sloppy joes, etc)

Wednesday – Crockpot meal

Thursday – Leftovers

Friday – Pizza night

Saturday – Surf or turf (steak, salmon, veggies, potatoes, etc)

Sunday – Leftovers

Themes are an easy way to keep things organized but allow room for creativity in your menu. Write out your own menu plan for the week and shop based on the themes.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

— Nilus Mattive
Editor, The Rich Life Roadmap

The post 7 Easy Ways to Save WITHOUT Coupons appeared first on Daily Reckoning.