Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Shoppers Be Wise

Last night's frost was not a good thing for the patches of wildflowers that we're seeing in the country landscape.  The first flowers of spring are dainty.  Mother Nature sends her little darlings out to announce that She's switching the seasons.  I sure hope the little sweethearts are tough and resilient to the blanket of ice crystals that were laid over them.

A friend stopped over yesterday for a visit.  He asked us if we had noticed the price of watermelons in the grocery store.  We hadn't, so he shocked us with a price tag of $11 for a medium watermelon and $6 for a smaller half melon.

Going to the grocery store is getting more and more challenging.  Beware of the sale ads that come to us in the mail.  They are loaded with new-fangled retail tricks that can be very confusing to those of us without mathematical brains.  One needs to keep the calculator close by to figure out which is the best deal for the customer and which is the best deal for the retailer.

With prices going up, money will get tighter and our budgets get more difficult to manage. For a fun experiment, for one month keep your grocery receipts.  Go through them and write down money spent on "essential buys" and on "impulse buys."  Milk and bread are essentials, but the bag of chips is not.  At the end of the month, tally up the two categories to reveal your family's shopping tendencies.  It's worth the effort to do this.

A few things to be mindful of when spending our hard-earned money......
  1.  Be careful of Going Out of Business bargains.  A close-out sale may look like a good deal, but the prices may be jockeyed around and actually marked up so the sale price is regular price or even higher.
  2. Have you noticed how the contents have been reduced?  The pound of bacon is now 12 ounces, coffee is no longer 36 ounces, and take a look at the jars of peanut butter.  Some jars are being made with a bigger dip in the bottom so the jar looks the same, price is the same, but the amount of peanut butter you're getting is less.  
  3. Retailers put an item on sale, but when you get to the store they're all sold out.  This is done deliberately.  Their main goal is to get us in their store.  Once we're there, more than likely we'll settle for another brand at full price.  Ask for a rain check.  
  4. Watch the check-out carefully.  If an item comes up on screen at a price other than what you intended to pay for it, call a halt and ask for a price check.  This happens routinely, and for heaven's sake don't feel embarrassed to do this.  Every 50-cent overcharge adds up after awhile and can blindly kick the family budget way off kilter.  
  5. Shopping carts are getting bigger.  Studies have proven that shoppers buy more with bigger carts than with smaller carts.
  6. Rebates are a good deal, but more than $500 million in rebates go unclaimed each year.  I'm guilty of this myself.  I put the receipt along with the rebate in my bill-paying tray, only to find it expired when I go to mail it in.  
  7. We consumers pay double the cost for pre-cut vegetables.  
  8. According to research, there's a 1,300% markup on a tub of buttered popcorn at the movies.  If we pay $5.50 for the bucket of popcorn, that makes an ounce of popcorn more expensive than a filet mignon.
  9. The general rule of thumb is that brand name over-the-counter medications cost 30-50% more than a generic brand.  Compare the active ingredients in both, and if they're the same, going with generic may save a few bucks.
  10. Organic produce comes at a 30-50% higher price.  Each consumer has to decide if organic is worth the price difference and go from there.
  11. Drinking one cup of coffee a day at home rather than buying it out can save $438 a year.
So far, we've not been able to find the packet of seeds that will grow a tree of dollar bills in our back yard.  Until we do, we're going to keep sharp eyes out for, and one step ahead of, the tricks and traps that are set in the merchandising arenas.  If prices keep going north, I'm stubborn enough to say to heck with an $11 watermelon.  Half the time the melons aren't as sweet and crispy delicious as they used to be anyway. Bottom line:  we all have to spend according to the family income.