Shop and Save from the Comfort of Your Couch

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Dear Rich Lifer,

Some people love the hustle and bustle of the first big day of the holiday shopping season. They love to wake up early, pour a stiff cup of joe, grab their warmest jacket and head out before the crack of dawn to line up, camp out, and get the best deals and doorbusters on Black Friday.

Some people, though, are more inclined to sleep in, stay cozy, watch the big football game and enjoy the holiday weekend with their family. If that sounds like you, you might be worried that you’ll miss out on all the biggest sales, and that’s disappointing. After all, everyone wants to save money, right?

Not to worry, in the last few years, online shopping has skyrocketed… and retailers have noticed.

In fact, in 2018, online shopping alone brought in $6.8 Billion on Black Friday. Cyber Monday was no slouch either, bringing in a cool $7.8 Billion. These two days of online shopping showed an increase of 23% and 18% respectively over the prior year – and that’s not even counting any sales captured on the Saturday and Sunday in between!

With stats like these, it’s no wonder that retailers are paying attention. In an attempt to drive their Black Friday sales even higher, they’re following suit with fantastic deals online. After studying the trends of the past, I’ve compiled a list of the best ways for you to capitalize on those deals.

With these tips, you can save big from the comfort of your own home, read on!

Plan Ahead, Make A Budget, And Stick To It

Whether you’re shopping in-store or online, you need a plan if you want to stay in the black this holiday season. Write down who you’re shopping for, what they might like, how much you want to spend per person, and how much you intend to spend overall so you can stick close to your numbers. Believe or not, adhering to an Excel spreadsheet, or even a good old fashioned handwritten list can keep your expenditures in check. So figure out your numbers ahead of time, and the temptation to splurge will be much easier to avoid.

Know What You’re Looking For

If you’re still in the browsing and information gathering phase, start with the ads to see what items you can expect to see sale pricing on.

Check out sites like BFads.net or blackfriday.gottadeal.com to look at all the flyers in one place, and get on your favorite retailers’ email lists so you can get a general overview of what deals will be available come in the next few days.

Shop Safely

Not all websites are created equal, so listen to your intuition. If you’ve never heard of a site before, but they’re advertising an insanely good deal, make sure they’re legitimate with ResellerRatings.com before you hit the “Buy Now” button.

Another thing you can look for is “https” in the web address. This means the site has SSL encryption – sites with an SSL certificate are much more secure than those without one.

Consider The Unlisted Benefits

While some sites will show a low price, they’ll make up for it with hefty shipping and handling charges. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples by adding the item to cart and calculating all the costs before you commit.

Brush Up On Return Policies

Unfortunately, gifts don’t always go over the way you hope they will. Make sure you can get your money back for them after the fact if need be by researching the return policy ahead of time.

Luckily, many retailers now allow in-store returns for online purchases, so this part of the process is easier than ever before.

Use Credit Cards The Smart Way

If you’re using credit cards instead of your debit card this shopping season, why not double down on savings and use the cards with cash back? Just make sure you pay it off before interest charges hit to really take advantage of this benefit.

Want one more feature of shopping with credit cards? You can get points back, and if you shop through your card’s shopping portal (such as American Express’s Membership Rewards program), you can rake in even more bonuses. See what programs your credit card offers and map out how you can use them best.

Research With Online Tools

You don’t need to hit up site after site to find the best online deals. Instead, try the Google Shopping feature or services like Shopzilla, NexTag, and PriceGrabber to compare pricing quickly. This way, you’ll save time and money.

Collect Cash Back

When you’re shopping online, you can also get instant rebates with sites like Rakuten. During the majority of the year, Rakuten will give you rebates up to 10% at many retailers, but during special shopping periods, they give back even more. Best of all, there’s a Google Chrome browser extension for Rakuten that allows you to collect this cash back automatically every time you shop at one of the retailers in their program – no long process required!

Shop In Private Browser Windows

This is a next-level savings trick. When you’ve visited a site before, they know you’re already a fan. When you view the site in a private or incognito window, however, you’re more likely to get better coupons and first-time buyer specials.

Disabling your cookies has a similar effect, but that approach can cause inconveniences down the line, so pick the option that works better for you.

Sign Up On Social

Following your favorite retailers on Facebook, Twitter, and even Instagram is a good way to get special access coupon codes and limited time only offers. If you’re not into social media, you can always join their individual email lists instead – this is a great way to get coupons and special sales, too.

Give In To Instant Gratification

If you want to avoid the stress of shopping in-store, but you love the feeling of having your items right away, you’re in luck. Many retailers offer in-store pick up, so you can order online and then pick your items up same day – often with the same amazing deals you’d normally only get by waiting days to receive your purchases. Talk about win / win!

There you have it – 10+ ways you can stay home on Black Friday and still save big. With tips like these, you can have a happier, easier holiday season, so pick your favorites and have a good time shopping!

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post Shop and Save from the Comfort of Your Couch appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Your Must-Read Black Friday Shopping Guide

This post Your Must-Read Black Friday Shopping Guide appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

With the first few days of fall past us, chances are good you’re thinking ahead to the holiday season. Whether you love the joy the season brings, or mostly just dread the looming credit card bills that come after the fact, it’s coming up fast.

Fortunately, if you like to save big when you’re shopping for thoughtful presents for everyone on your list, Black Friday is coming up, too.

I know, I know – Black Friday used to be too crazy to bear. In the past, news stories about fistfights breaking out over the last doll at Toys R Us or people getting trampled on their way to grab discounted TVs is enough to make all but the most deal-conscious shopper decide to stay home.

The good news, though, is that Black Friday doesn’t have to be a horrible, stressful experience anymore. With a few tips and tricks, you can even have a fun time shopping – and saving – this Black Friday.

Black Friday by the Numbers.

Black Friday is by far the most popular, highest-grossing retail sales day of the year. It falls on the day after Thanksgiving every year, and it’s become universally accepted as the beginning of the holiday shopping season. Since it falls on a Friday, many employers even give their staff the day off. The concept of Black Friday has even extended beyond the shores of the US. As many as 20 countries had big Black Friday sales last year.

Last year, over 174 million shoppers visited retail stores on Black Friday, and the average consumer spent $1,007. Collectively, Black Friday sales totals added up to $717.5 billion.

These numbers are only expected to increase in 2019, so it’s more important than ever to plan ahead if you want to get the best deals offered on Black Friday.

Of course there will be lots of deep discounts offered online, (don’t worry I’ll cover that tomorrow) but part of the Black Friday experience is shopping in-store. So, if you are the type that likes to get down in the trenches, I’ve compiled a list of tips for you so you can make the most of your hands on shopping experience.

Set A Budget & Make A List

This is an important tip no matter how you decide to shop this holiday season. After all, 57% of shoppers overspend when they don’t have a budget in place. Also, make a list of who you intend to give gifts to so you’ll be able to plan properly.

Look At Historical Trends

Trends on Black Fridays past are a pretty good indicator of how this year’s sales will go. In the past few years, the deepest discounts have been on televisions, laptops, PCs, gaming platforms, and Apple devices. Big box retailers know these items will be some of the most desireable, so they mark these down to attract shoppers in-store. In addition to electronics, you can also find good deals on soft goods like clothing, makeup, and housewares at department stores, like Macy’s.

Research Prices Beforehand

Some retailers get a little sneaky this time of year and slowly raise pricing so they can slash it back down to normal again on Black Friday. This gives the appearance of a deep discount, but it’s really not. Use price tracker tools (such as Camelcamelcamel.com for Amazon pricing) to research the price history of an item before you commit.

Search For Doorbuster Deals

The best part about shopping in-store for Black Friday is doorbuster deals! Again, retailers want you to come in and fill your carts, so they offer big sales on specific items for a limited time. Sometimes, they’ll also offer pop-up sales through the day, too. These deals are usually the best price you can possibly get for an item, so if you want something specific, make sure you’re at the right place at the right time!

On Time Is Too Late, So Be Early

If you decide to shop in-store, set your alarm and prep the coffee maker – the early bird really does get the worm on Black Friday. Stores are opening even earlier than in years past – some are even opening on Thanksgiving night to catch the most shoppers. Look for the time your favorite store will open and then make a plan to show up as early as possible.

Go Shopping Earlier In The Week

In the recent past, some retailers have expanded their Black Friday sales even earlier than Thanksgiving Day. This year, you can expect to find good deals all throughout Thanksgiving week. Do your research and prepare to get started as early as Monday.

Use Discounted Gift Cards To Shop

When it comes to savings, some is good, but more is better, right? To make your purchasing dollar stretch even further, buy discounted gift cards ahead of time at sites like Raise.com or at stores like Costco, and shop with those instead of your debit card.

Look For Bundles & Gifts With Purchase

When shopping, keep an eye out for bundles and gifts with purchase. Many retailers will give away full sized products like perfume, housewares, clothing, and more to sweeten an already good detail. Those freebies make great gifts, too, so you can essentially knock out two birds with one stone!

Download The Best Apps

Even when shopping in-store, you can get the digital edge with the latest shopping apps. For example, Shopular is a location-sensitive app that will tell you all the current deals when you walk into your favorite stores. It also comes with a built in rebate feature that helps you save even more. The Coupons App is a coupon aggregator – it has customizable alerts that let you know when a new coupon pops up or when a new Black Friday flyer is released. And finally, The Black Friday App gives you all the information you could possibly want – from flyers to shoppable deals right inside the app, this one can help you save big with just a few keystrokes on your phone.

Use these tips to plan your purchases, research the best deals ahead of time, and get big discounts on the gifts your family members want the most. With this list, you can have a stress free Black Friday shopping experience and lighter credit card bills come January.

Remember – it’s never too early to start planning when it comes to savings!

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

The post Your Must-Read Black Friday Shopping Guide appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Pirates Abound in Unwatched Waters

This post Pirates Abound in Unwatched Waters appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

Dear Rich Lifer,

As the weather gets colder here in the US, and the dulcet tones of Christmas music permeate the air in every store, you might start to get in the holiday mood…

You might even start shopping or planning your gifts a little early…

But if you’re thinking about buying online and having items delivered to your home, you might want to think again…

Because package theft (also known as “porch piracy”) is on the rise – big time.

In a recent report featuring data from 2017, the makers of the Ring doorbell tell us that 39% of people have had a package stolen over the course of a year. No small number, and not a cheap one either. The average value of these packages is $140!

This year, ecommerce and home delivery are expected to rise as much as 16%, so it’s likely that instances of package theft won’t slow down any time soon.

And this isn’t just limited to urban areas, either. It’s true that cities like San Francisco, CA, and Austin, TX have some of the worst instances of package theft, but according to CNBC, the mainly rural state of North Dakota reports more theft than any other state!

These thefts occur at night sometimes, but they mostly happen during the day – some even just minutes after your package is delivered.

Perhaps worst of all? The offenders almost never get caught. City-Journal reports that less than 10% of reported cases of package theft will end in an arrest – and of that group, only a small minority will ever get prosecuted or punished for their crimes.

The good news is there are a couple of easy things you can do to defend against porch pirates…

And instead of losing time and money, I’ll even tell you how you can save a little cash while doing it.

Defending Against Pirates

First, stay aware. Join an app like NextDoor so you can keep an ear on what’s going on in your neighborhood. If there’s an uptick in mail thefts or porch piracy, you’ll know you need to be on high alert.

Next, consider sending your items to a parcel locker instead of your home. Yes, it’s more convenient to have Amazon bring just about everything to your door, but with every package comes the risk of theft. If your items are sent to a parcel locker, you can arrange to pick them up every few days and have the peace of mind to know nothing is being stolen.

If you have to have something sent to your home, make sure you keep an eye on the delivery updates. Some companies will even text when an item is at your door, so you can go get your package before a thief can scoop it up.

Sometimes, you may be expecting a package at a time you have to head out. Ask a close neighbor to keep an eye out for you, and then return the favor when they’re away, too. The fewer times a thief is successful, the less chance they’re likely to return to your neighborhood.

Ask carriers to leave your package somewhere other than the front porch. Of course, this method isn’t foolproof, but it takes a much gutsier thief to sneak into your backyard than it does to just grab an item from the front door and walk away.

Finally, you should also consider investing in home surveillance equipment. With some of the new systems, you can catch thieves in the act and even confront them from afar as your surveillance system will alert you when someone comes to your door.

Here are a few ways to save when it comes to installing home surveillance equipment.

Know Your Needs

The mega-systems available at many big box retailers look great, but they’re truly overkill for properties that are on the small side. Why pay for cameras you don’t need and can’t use, right? In order to observe what goes on outside your home, you’ll need cameras for front door, back door, side and back windows, and backyard or side gate. This will help you keep an eye on the whole property – even beyond just the threat of porch pirates.

Buy Right

Big box stores have great pricing on sets of surveillance cameras, but they’re notoriously unhelpful when it comes to installation or troubleshooting. If you’re very comfortable with DIY, then go ahead and buy from somewhere like Amazon, Best Buy, or Costco, but if you want more assistance with the process, look for a smaller company that specializes in surveillance equipment only.

Understand the Available Features

If you’re not worried about package theft, you might not care if you can speak to people at your door remotely, but if it’s a big concern for you, make sure the system you pick has speakers, for example. There are tons of surveillance set ups out there, so do research to make sure you’re choosing the right one for you. You can use sites like Cnet.com to validate your ideas.

Pick the Right Brands

You probably don’t want to go cheap on this. Some low-end surveillance kits will offer everything they think you need, but you might need to add additional cameras or upgrade components in the future. If you pick a quality brand with a wide variety of equipment available, you’ll have the flexibility you need and durable equipment that will save you money in the long run.

Wait for Sales

Once you know what brands and components you’re looking for, you can start scanning for upcoming deals. With Black Friday coming up, you can expect to see deals galore, but if you decide to shop for your equipment later in the year, you can still find great prices by using sites like SlickDeals.net to scour for savings.

Call Your Insurance Company

Once you’ve got your home surveillance system installed, contact your homeowners insurance company and ask for a discount on your policy. Most of the biggest insurance providers will give you a break for having this extra equipment.

You may not be able to stop every bad thing that might occur, but with the right precautions and surveillance, you can deter package thieves and other would-be criminals from doing harm. Put the work in now – before the packages start getting delivered in droves. You won’t regret it.

To a richer life,

Nilus Mattive

Nilus Mattive

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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.