If You Like Eating Out: Read Me

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Dear Rich Lifer,

When it comes to saving money, a category many people cut out right away is dining out. This makes sense – restaurant meals can be pricey, and when you add on tax and tips, they can break the budget quickly.

Luckily, if you use a little forethought, there are lots of ways you can save money and still indulge in a meal out now and then.

Here are a few of our favorites:

BYOB

An easy money saving tip is to drink water instead of pricey soft drinks or alcohol, but sometimes you just want to enjoy a tasty beverage with your meal. Sodas can cost $4-5 apiece, though, and beer and wine is much more per serving. Instead of spending $8 each for a glass of house wine and a decent beer, look for local restaurants that will let you bring your own.

Yelp and Google reviews will usually mention if a restaurant allows you to bring your own, and while some places might charge a small corkage fee, it’s nominal compared to the price of buying a bottle from the restaurant – or worse, paying per glass prices.

Grab a Groupon

Sign up for Groupon emails for your area and scroll through the offers every few days. They often have coupons for great new restaurants as well as your old favorites, so buy them when you can and save them for when you want to enjoy a night out.

One word to the wise, though – look very carefully at the small print on your offer. Unlike gift cards, Groupon offers aren’t available at all times and they can expire, so be sure to play by the rules.

Eat Out at Happy Hour

I’m not saying you should sit at the bar and drink dollar beer and eat peanuts – that’s a fun experience in and of itself, but it’s not a meal.

Many nicer restaurants have a full Happy Hour menu with lots to choose from, and the pricing is a lot less than what you’d pay if you sat in the main portion of the restaurant. Because Happy Hour is usually so lively, you’re likely to get good service this way, too.

Double Dip Online

If you’re not totally set on a specific restaurant, go to Rakuten.com and look up Restaurant.com. If you shop through this portal, you can get a discounted gift card from Restaurant.com (like a $25 gift card for just $10!) AND you’ll get cash back on the purchase from Rakuten. You can enjoy many great local restaurants at a deep discount this way!

Shop in Advance

Next time you’re at Costco, look at the big kiosk of gift cards right in the middle of the store. You’ll probably find cards for some of your favorite restaurants – at an amazingly low price!

If you pick up a few discounted gift cards now, you can save them until you want to go out again – it will feel like you’re eating for free (and you’ll still be dining out on the cheap).

Go OUT to Eat

If you want to skip out on the restaurant experience, but still have the same delicious food, you can still save by ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant and eating it elsewhere.

Not only will you save by skipping on the drinks, appetizers, and desserts you might normally order, by taking food out, you’ll also save on the tip you’d normally pay. Even if you tip on to-go orders, it’s usually much less than the 20% you’d tip for the sit down experience.

Instead of going home to eat, though, you can make your takeout extra special by heading to a picnic table at a local park. This way, you can save while dining al fresco – and you still don’t have to cook anything!

Check Out the Senior Menu

While this might seem like an obvious option, many people overlook it because they assume there won’t be enough food or that the choices will be boring or bland. At many classic favorite eateries, the senior menu is a selection of the same exact items – they’re just at a lower price.

Take a look and see if what you want is there before looking at the standard-priced items.

Split a Meal

Let’s face it – at many restaurants, the dinner portions are out of control!

At On The Border, for example, their Dos Equis Fish Taco meal is over 2000 calories, and at The Cheesecake Factory, the Pasta Carbonara with Chicken clocks in at almost 2300 calories! Each of these dishes is your whole recommended daily allowance on just one plate!

Instead of overeating, or wasting half the food, split a bigger meal with your dinner companion. If you’re worried that you’ll still be hungry, add an inexpensive house salad to start. You’ll both be full and happy – for half the cost of two standard entrees.

Don’t Skip the Apps

I’m not talking about appetizers – I’m talking about savings apps on your smartphone. If you want fast food or to go to a fast casual restaurant, download the restaurant’s app before you go.

Many places will give you a free item just for downloading, and others will let you earn towards even more free food by placing your order through the app – this saves money and time, too.

If it’s a sit down restaurant you prefer, check out OpenTable or Seated. These apps give you monetary rewards for making your reservations via the app – and using the service is convenient, too.

Follow your Favorites and Get Rewards

If you have a favorite few restaurants, follow them all on social media and sign up for their rewards clubs via email. You’ll get money saving coupons and the inside scoop on when they’re having special events with discounts, too.

Sometimes, they’ll even reward their most loyal customers with free appetizers, and really, who doesn’t love free food?

So, even if you’re eating on a budget, there you have it, a ton of great ways you can save big while dining out. If you budget wisely, you can enjoy a meal out as often as you like without breaking the bank!

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post If You Like Eating Out: Read Me 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.