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.

If You Like Eating Out: Read Me

This post If You Like Eating Out: Read Me appeared first on Daily Reckoning.

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.