Let’s face it: the winter holidays are closing in on us at a furious pace, with holiday shopping starting in stores before we even reach Halloween. But it’s the end of October and we have about 8 weeks to plan, execute and deliver our 2014 festivities if we haven’t started yet…and many of us haven’t!
With finances always at the front of our minds, we sometimes forget that traditions, thoughts and memories are what the holidays are all about. The gifts, while always appreciated, should only be a part of the events, not the whole thing. That’s why I’ve come up with a few suggestions that can ease the pain on your finances and still mean a fulfilling family time for your holidays this year. Continue reading
Lots of people are looking for an easy way to make home-cooked meals that are healthier and save time and money…and slow cooker meals (aka crockpot meals) are a great answer. My wife and I have used our slow cooker for years, both at home and when bringing a dish to a party. Some of our tastiest meals came from the slow cooker, and we’re always trying new recipes.
A big part of savings that I write about each week, whether it’s in your supermarket savings or elsewhere, all contributes and shapes your financial destiny, and a budget is an important part of that.
If you wonder why I harp on budgeting, savings, and proper planning to insure you always have the ability to meet your expenses, I will admit there was a time when I didn’t plan well and save properly. I thought, “No problem, I always earn more each year, I’m young and healthy, and I have really good credit.” While that was true then, it’s not quite the same now. Today I have learned (the hard way, unfortunately) that earning potential is much more challenging. Age and health sneak up on you and planning your expenses and discretionary spending variables in detail (and yes, updating them) is truly essential.
Having been a store manager myself, and from talking to other store managers, I’ve learned what those experts view as the best “unkept” secrets to shop and save. When you save money on groceries, each savings may not be a significant amount, but they add up to money you could better spend elsewhere in your budget. Stores know your needs and have added on bonuses, earnings and rewards in an attempt to beat out their competition and keep you loyal. Their attempts can enable you to spend less on your groceries if you just “seek and save”.
Credit, in the form of credit cards, is something most of us want, need, and use almost every week of our adult lives. Learning how to use a credit card wisely helps us to save money in the long run and avoid the trap of ongoing debt. Many of us use credit cards for convenience, so that we can avoid carrying cash in our pockets for purchases like groceries, gas, and household items. This makes sense when done with responsibility, thought, and keeping your budget foremost in your mind. Many advisors say to pay cash for everything and avoid credit cards entirely. I disagree. Credit is important to have and protect, and to learn to use wisely.
It’s so important to check receipts every time you check out. Why? It’s shopping day and you’ve diligently planned your meals, scanned the weekly ads, carefully checked prices, crafted your shopping list, clipped and printed coupons, and checked your budget. You arrive at the store (not hungry, of course), efficiently navigate the aisles, avoid impulse buys, and check out. But when you get home and unpack, you look over the receipt and wham! all your diligence is undone by an error on your receipt. It’s so aggravating. Who wants to bother wasting the gas and time to go back to the store?
Fall is in the air and there are plenty of free things to do to enjoy the season. When I was a child, I loved trick-or-treating in my homemade ghost costume (really an old sheet with some holes cut out). As an adult, I love the pennant races and the World Series. Whatever you love to do, there are lots of ways to do fun things for less or for no money at all.
Looking for an alternative to your traditional supermarket?
Choosing where to grocery shop out of all the possible supermarkets and stores can a very personal decision. You need to balance many considerations such as price, quality, freshness, selection, and convenience. Whether you’re looking for a place to cherry pick the sales, find some special ingredients, or you’re ready to ditch your trusty old supermarket for something different, here are 9 alternatives to consider and 1 you should avoid. Continue reading
The easy way to make a delicious meat sauce
Who doesn’t love a plate of pasta covered in a beautiful homemade spaghetti sauce? Buying sauce in the jar at the supermarket typically means a lot of added salt and often added sugar as well. And homemade just tastes better. This past week, Laurie over at The Frugal Farmer posted How to Make and Can Spaghetti Sauce which gave step-by-step instructions on preparing a delicious-sounding homemade sauce from fresh tomatoes and preserving it in jars. She makes it sound easy but if you’re anything like me, you might be a little intimidated by a 3-day cooking process and dealing with canning supplies. For those of us who want to take baby steps, I thought I’d share with you this recipe for meat sauce using canned tomato products and dried herbs, plus the convenience of freezing portions.
Where’s the meat in the meat sauce?
Most meat sauces in a jar at the supermarket are really just “meat-flavored”. This basically means that the meat and the sauce shook hands and went their separate ways. But with this sauce recipe (originally from my wife’s Aunt Julie), the meat and the sauce have a passionate love affair. If there’s too much meat, you can reduce the amount to suit your family or your budget. Plus, there are other ways to alter the recipe to your taste, and I’ve made a few notes below to that effect.
When dealing with customer service, take a calm and friendly approach
When you’re a shopper, no matter what you’re shopping for, there will be times when you are dissatisfied and will need to know how to deal with customer service. Since I have had many years’ experience in the retail world, from department stores to specialty retail to grocery stores, I frequently am asked what to do when shopping and you’re not satisfied. There are practices that I advise, because remaining calm, honest, and professional will achieve results. Continue reading