Following my last post on saving in department stores, I thought I'd let you in on three more insider secrets you should know.
Take Advantage of Inventory Consolidation
Many people figure that if they didn't see anything they liked on the clearance last week, then the same will be true this week.
However, this is not necessarily true. Sometimes, new things appear on clearance racks that you've never seen before. This is true even if the store never actually carried it at full price.
Where does the new merchandise come from? Many large department stores take advantage of inventory consolidation, but never advertise it. Inventory consolidation is when the department stores gather everything that isn't selling well at other stores and send it to stores where they believe it will do better. Most often, inventory consolidation revolves around seasons; warm areas will get all swimsuits while stores located in cold places will receive all the jackets.
Take Advantage of a Defect
It's actually quite common in a department store to find a garment with a defect. It could have a missing button, a snag, or any number of minor problems. Many salesclerks are authorized to give you a defect discount between 5-10% without asking their manager for approval.
Like everything else, getting the defect discount is all luck, timing, and how you present it. No discount will be offered unless yours in the only item like it that is left in the store.
However, if it is the only item in that color or in your size, then the clerk might be willing to give you the discount because otherwise, they know they lose the sale.
The best way to get a defect discount is to say something like "I really like this, but there's only one and there's a button missing. Can something be done?"
Ask For the Coupon
At any given time in a typical department store, there is a coupon. Salesclerks usually have coupons for their customers to use. However, there is a catch; you have to ask for it. Salesclerks never mention coupons. This is particularly important if you are shopping a chain you know well, but are in a different town.
Department stores are great places to find reasonably high quality garments at more than reasonable prices. This is particularly true when they are having a sale. However, even without a sale, great deals are yours for the taking--if you know how to find them. Taking advantage of inventory consolidation, asking for coupons and knowing how to negotiate a lower price for a slightly imperfect item are shopping skills that will give you a deal so good, you can brag about it.
So you've rented your first apartment as a full-grown adult person. It's affordable, it's somewhat small, and it's yours--well, yours, and your three roommates'.
To give the new abode a personal touch and dash of decorating magic, look for key furniture pieces and splashes of graphics and color that fit your new-grad budget. Follow this step-by-step guide to assemble a home that's livable and is suitable for your cost of living.
The Basics: Furniture
While self-assembly furnishings from the likes of IKEA, Nebraska Furniture Mart, and Target can offer a more affordable option for a brand-new look, most recent grads will find outfitting an entire apartment in new pieces to be financially impossible.
For those with a budget that demands free or near-free furnishings, look to your local paper's classified section or your area's Craigslist for business closings or remodeling sales. Hotels occasionally clear the rooms of inventory before a remodel or a sale, offering up queen-size beds, nightstands, desks, chairs, TVs, and entertainment centers for zero dollars. Restaurants also clear outdated furniture, and may post ads for free dining room chairs, tables, or barware.
Look for these opportunities in the off-season for your city. In college towns, that means the early summer. In resort areas, that means any time of the year that being in a resort town is unpleasant. In larger cities, that means the dead of winter or other non tourist-friendly stretches.
The Gear: Kitchenware
If you've made the circuit of local garage sales without turning up any finds in the pots-and-pans department, consider low-cost options for purchasing new or lightly used cooking pieces.
New, brand-name kitchen gear such as pots, pans, serving platters, and gadgets comes cheap at overstock department stores such as TJ Maxx and Marshalls. As long as you don't have qualms with that coveted electric tea kettle being lime green, you can buy it for next to nothing.
Scan local antique stores for used, but extremely sturdy, pieces. A cast-iron skillet that was well-made decades ago is, if it was cared for, as useful now as ever. Many larger cities are able to support kitchen-specific antique stores that offer options for lightly used cooking hardware.
The Finishing Touches: Decor
Decorations might not make the top of the priority list for those outfitting an apartment on limited dollars, but a few investments in decor early on can ease the transition to full-blown adulthood.
Check local newspaper listings on Wednesday or Thursday for weekend estate sale listings. Unlike a standard garage sale, estate sales typically are curated by an outside company, and are an "everything must go" situation.
Estate sale furniture tends to be priced higher than it's worth to a younger buyer, but decorations can be packaged at a much lower rate. Many tagged estate sales allow buyers to submit bids--remember that everything has to sell and bid what you can afford to walk away with a deal.
Saving money is a priority for virtually everyone these days. When you are looking to pick up a tool, the first place you might think of is a box retailer. While there is nothing wrong with buying a brand-new tool from a national retail-chain, shopping at a pawn shop or two can provide you with gently used tools that work just as well for much less money.
The first advantage pawnshops have is that they buy and sell virtually any type of consumer good. Therefore, when you go to your local pawnshop, you will be able to pick up a few different types of tools at once instead of going from retail store to retail store searching for the best deal.
The advantage here is that you can get gently used tools that work just as well as ones you can buy from your local retail store. The goods pawn shops sell are virtually all used but are usually in good working order. Since the pawn shop owner does not want to damage their reputation and lose customers, they make sure that all of their goods are in sellable condition. Pawn shops are required by law to make sure that goods are not fake or stolen because the items purchased by the pawn shop must be reported to law enforcement to ensure they are not illicit goods.
Most big box retail outlets leave little room for negotiation. However, pawn shops expect buyers to negotiate for a better price. If you know the true value of the product and understand the difference between the retail and purchase price, you have a good chance of paying less than the sticker price.
Pawn shop goods, according to ABC News, can be as much as 70% cheaper than those of retail stores, while other pawn shops say they have prices one-third to one-half cheaper than retail outlets. Based on these figures and the quality of gently used goods being close to that of new consumer goods, shopping at a pawn shop gives you a much better deal. Some pawnshops may even offer warranties for tools and other consumer goods sold at their shop. Plus, depending on how new the tool is when you bought it, the tool may still have its original manufacturer's warranty.
Whether you've landed your first interview since your summer job ended at the local burger joint or you're getting ready for a much-needed and well-deserved night out with you're friends, you are eager to shed your t-shirt and sweats for a fashionable grown-up wardrobe. If you don't have much money to splurge on the latest fashion trends or must-haves because you just shelled out some cash to pay for rent, car payment, and food, there are some alternative ways to score yourself a nice wardrobe that will help you put your best foot forward without making a dent in your already-strained wallet.
Some retailers have jumped on the Internet bandwagon to entice customers into buying clothes and accessories online. Often, retailers will throw in a deal to ship the items at a cheaper rate or even ship the items for free. With a few clicks on the keyboard, you have found the perfect outfit for your mom's birthday celebration and still have enough gas in your car to get you there. A popular website for trendy shoppers is eBay. eBay can take you on a shopping excursion while you wait for your coffee at Starbucks. From a pair of knock-off boots that can pass for a pair of Australian Uggs to an almost-Michael Kors pocketbook, online retailers are an shopping playground.
Investing In Quality Pieces
When you buy a few good pieces of clothing, loading up on accessories can enhance the look for your outfit. A pair of black pants or jeans, a casual or dressy shirt can be transformed into a great ensemble when paired with a sweater or a pull-over. Throw in a fun belt and don't forget your foot candy. This technique is great for both gals and guys that are looking to spice up their closet with some fashionable add-ons.
Catalogs Are Fun
Catalog shopping is in style and here to stay. Remember the good old days when fresh faced models graced the pages of catalogs that pedaled upcoming clothes, shoes, and accessories? Now, most of the catalogs are online instead of piling up in mailboxes or doctors' offices. The catalogs give you the ability to see what would look good for the job interview that you finally landed after sending out over 100 resumes. Sometimes, a late-night Internet search can yield coupons or coupon codes to knock down the cost of clothes or accessories.
Reuse and Recycle
Stores like Plato's Closet or other consignment shops are a great way to find high-end clothes and accessories that have been recycled by the folks that wanted to gain back some space in their closet or their taste in clothing has changed. Instead of spending a fortune on a name-brand shirt or bag, you can browse through mountains of clothing and accessories that need a dose of your fashion sense to become the outfit you are going to wear when you shake hands with your new boss. If you are cleaning out your closet as part of your seasonal clothing purge, consider taking those duds to a consignment shop. Not only will you be helping another job or potential date-seeker make a great first impression with the clothes you recycled, but you will have some extra cash to burn a hole in your wallet.
It's never fun to lose your big-ticket items to a leaky pipe, a burglar, or a house fire, and even less joy in learning your insurance won't pay for it. Insurance is supposed to protect your stuff, but when stuff costs a lot, your insurance may not do the trick.
- Rental and homeowner insurance policies usually limit what they'll pay for one item or for a set of collectibles. If your antique necklace is worth $5,000 and there's a $2,500 per-item jewelry cut-off, you get half what your necklace is worth, no more.
- If you buy a high-powered computer for business, your check will be a token payment at best. Home and rental coverage doesn't offer much reimbursement for home-business losses. If you run a home business, ask about buying business coverage. You can buy basic coverage for $50, or more expansive insurance for $500. As it's a business expense, you can probably write the premiums off on your taxes.
- Your policy may only pay cash value--what your property is worth after you depreciate it for wear, tear and age--instead of what it costs to replace it. Even if your homeowners' policy pays replacement value for the building, everything inside may be cash-value only. Renter's insurance can go the cash-value route too.
- If your policy doesn't provide enough coverage, pay for changes. Replacement-value coverage is the ideal, although the monthly premiums reflect the higher coverage value. If your expensive toys are worth more than the single-item coverage, you can take out extra protection for them.
- Make a home insurance review every year. Your policy may cover everything you have now, but after you buy a few pieces of antique furniture and a top-of-the-line TV, you may need more coverage.
- Keep records of expensive purchases. Your insurer won't just take your word that you lost a first-edition Hemingway in the big fire. Sales receipts or photo or video evidence that it's sitting on your shelf will go a long way to proving your valuables existed. For collectibles, having it professionally appraised can prove you're not exaggerating the value.
Don't wait until your TV goes missing to find out the limits on your coverage. Read your policy and find out just what coverage you're paying for. If you can't translate legalese, call your agent and ask. You're entitled to answers.
It's great to have a 401(k), but not everyone knows that you don't have to wait until you're old before they become useful. There are a number of reasons you can take cash from your retirement account. It's basically taking out a loan from yourself. Funds from 401(k)s can be used to pay for a myriad of things, from medical expenses to financing a business to buying a home--although there should be a smart reason to take a loan. No vacations or big-screen TVs.
Among the benefits of borrowing from a 401(k) is that you can set the length of the loan. Via Forbes.com, Investopedia recommends a short term, such as a year or less. In addition, the interest rate (which is repaid to the account) can be much lower than the rate of other consumer loans, especially for those with little or no credit history. Also, there is no credit check and the loan isn't taxed. Hardship distributions, on the other hand, should only be taken when a heavy financial need arises. This money is not paid back to your retirement account. In addition, there is usually a period of six months or longer where no contributions to a 401(k) can be made after a withdrawal, so there is a little extra cash in your paycheck.
A major drawback to borrowing from 401(k)s is that money is not growing, so you miss out on money. Bankrate offers a retirement loan calculator to see how much could be lost. Also, make sure your job is secure before taking out the loan. It must be paid off immediately if employment with the company ends or upon retirement. If you don't repay before retirement, you could be slapped with a 10% federal tax penalty.
Hardship withdrawals are another financing option. They are funds taken out of your 401(k) that do not need to be repaid. These are best used for pressing financial needs or when you have exhausted other money sources. There are restrictions on what the money can be used for. These reasons can vary by employer; some plans don't allow using the funds to buy a home or repay tuition, while other plans allow those uses.
For hardship distributions, the major consequence is that the money may be subject to additional taxation. It helps, though, that the money to repay those taxes can be included in the hardship distribution. You must also go through the process of demostrating a financial need for the withdrawal to be approved. Also, you miss out on more account growth.
Both loans and withdrawals have limits on the amount that can be taken. The IRS offers specific guidance on what those limits are for loans. Check the employer's 401(k) plan information to find out the limits on how much can be withdrawn. Usually there is a percentage that can be taken out based on how much you have contributed to the plan, and sometimes you can take out only enough to cover the exact amount of the bill or expense you are trying to pay.
I spent the first 6 years of my life after college working for a department store. It was a typical department store and had many stores in many states. During that time, I saw some fantastic deals, learned great marketing techniques, and discovered how to save money in a department store.
Department stores are famous for their sales, their inventory, their often-commissioned sales associates, and, most of all, they are known for getting you to spend more than you planned. Of course, people have been known to get some great deals in department stores. However, advice such as not turning right or shopping the sales racks is pretty much standard for any article talking about how to save money in a department store. That's not how you save real money. Real money is saved by shopping smart, timing, and knowing these secrets:
Buy Off The Manniquins
In most department stores, the manniquins are wearing either the newest clothes or the oldest. They all start out by wearing the newest fashions. However, as the season progresses and the store gets busier and more crowded, no one thinks about changing them. Many times they will still be wearing something long after all the other clothes like it were sold. When these clothes finally do come off the manniquins, they are usually marked down 50-75% for a quick sale.
So if you see the manniquins wearing the same outfit over several weeks, chances are, it's wearing the best bargain in the store. Buying an entire outfit off a manniquin has the advantage of also being perfectly put together.
Don't Be Fooled By Tax-Free Day
Many states are adopting tax-free days for back-to-school shopping. People love them and they are hailed as boons to the local economy. However, there's one problem: you're not actually saving anything. In most areas, sales tax isn't more than 10%.
However, department stores will often stop running their best sales right before tax-free day. In other words, the shirt that was 50% yesterday might only be 35% off today, with an additional 10% discount. That's nowhere near the 50% off you could have had yesterday, even with tax. It's not just tax-free day--this can happen with just about any sale.
The best way to determine if the savings will be better today or tomorrow is to use the circular. Visit the store the day before, with your circular in hand and compare the prices on the items you plan to buy. They might be on a better sale today than tomorrow.
Know When Inventory Is
This is a little known secret of department stores. Most department stores lose money when they do inventory. They not only have to close the store, they have to pay the people who do it. If the store is paying these people by the hour, then the longer inventory takes, the more money they lose.
Many department stores have unadvertised sales the entire week leading up to inventory, in an attempt to have an empty store. After inventory is over, check the sales racks again. Oftentimes, inventory discovers a leftover item when all the others are gone. This forgotten item is heavily discounted for a quick sale.
Timing is very important when it comes to saving money shopping in department stores. Shopping during a sale is good, but knowing timing it right for the hidden sales is even better. Buying off the manniquins, paying attention to when the sales change, and knowing when inventory is will help you find the deal so good you brag about it.
If something is free, chances are accomplishing it will take up most of your day. When you're so busy that your schedule is constantly at odds with your to-do list, something will have to give. And often, the only way to save time is to spend your hard-earned cash. Examine your priorities to figure out when to suck it up and save and when is best to shell it out.
Lifestyle. Some budgeting tips sound like common sense--eating at home is cheaper than restaurants and take-out--but this advice isn't one-size-fits-all. Be honest about your habits so you don't end up falling short. Grocery shopping doesn't save money if the food goes bad before you have time to cook it. Dinners out can add up, but bringing leftovers home can mean an extra meal free of charge and cleanup. Consider how your usual behavior affects your spending and be realistic about what changes you can stick to.
Time. Tasks like laundry and routine housekeeping may be simple, but they can seem neverending. If the laundromat is blocks away or the in-laws decide to visit unexpectedly, a wash-and-fold and a housekeeper may be just what you need. If you're in a hurry, consider how valuable your time is and how much stress can be eliminated by delegating these chores. Sometimes the trade-off is worth it, but you have to make that call.
Convenience. Take advantage of community services whenever possible. Alternatives such as public transportation and libraries are inexpensive ways to indulge without emptying your wallet. But in some situations, it may be smart to spend a bit more. Just don't try to justify unreasonable purchases. Relying solely on taxis to get around is frivolous, but the occasional late-night ride home is an investment in your safety rather than a waste of funds.
Skills. It's great to learn new things, but be wary of taking on a job you don't know how to do. Leave home repairs and renovations to the pros in order to avoid spending twice as much fixing your mistakes. Could you give up an ongoing beauty routine in favor of at-home treatments? Successfully replicating salon services at home can save time and money without putting yourself at risk.
Quality. Don't skimp too much. It can be easy enough to dye your own hair or clean your own house, but the right products make all the difference. High-quality supplies may look expensive, but a one-time investment can maximize your long-term savings. Even the most expensive drugstore hair dye costs less than going to a stylist, and cheap cleansers will only force you to wash the floors twice.
Ease the pain of unpleasant tasks by using your money strategically. Spending a lot on luxuries may feel irresponsible, but eliminating mental stress and improving your quality of life is priceless. Which parts of your routine cause the most hassle? Don't get wrapped up in high-stress decisions that'll give you headaches when you can kick back and relax by spending a bit more.
When graduates leave the hallowed halls of academia, they are in search of a dream job that will pay for transportation, food, and nice place to live. Unfortunately, a rollercoaster financial economy has given birth to a bleak job market and daily increasing cost-of-living expenses. Faced with a tireless search for a decent-paying job as well as trying to keep the creditors from calling every hour of the day, many young adults have had to make the decision to return back to their childhood bedroom.
According to a Pew Research Report from 2012, 29% of graduates are back t the four walls that still have teeny bopper posters and a funky-colored comforter on the bed. Besides screening your cell phone calls from your friends who have been able to move past sharing AM coffee-making duties with their parents, there are ways to make your living situation more bearable and brighter:
- Appreciate the fact you have a place to go. Instead of feeling sorry for yourself about your current living conditions, be grateful that you have a family that wants to have you back in the nest again. Don't be ashamed to let friends know what is happening with you. They may be going through the same situation as you.
- Have a room makeover to breathe new life into an old space. Take down the teeny bopper posters and update the curtains and the bedding with accent pieces that highlight your current style and tastes. If you have furniture from your dorm room or apartment, get it out of storage or out of your parents' garage.
- Offer to pitch in with household responsibilities. You might be too old to have a chore chart, but you are old enough to do laundry and the dishes. Remember, you did not have maid service when you were in college, so don't expect it since you are back at home.
- Set boundaries that both you and parents can follow. Some parents and young adults have put together an agreement that outlines what is expected from everyone. This can help alleviate problems with privacy, staying out all night, and other issues that can come up.
Finally, enjoy the time you have to spend with them. They may be family, but they're your family.
Coupons carry all kinds of stigmas, branding users as dorks and misers. Guess what? Unless you're high up in the ranks of a successful company, the recession is still very much 'on.' It's a new era, and it's an era in which saving money is anything but miserly. It's smart.
Saving on Groceries and Drugstore Items
- Each week, get three copies of the Sunday newspaper. You'll triple your coupon savings. This is also where you'll find store advertisements. Regularly pick up store-specific coupon and savings books (usually displayed by front entrances). RedPlum and SmartSource are two major sources.
- Once a week, go through it all. Clip the coupons and take note of what's on sale. Your first few weeks, you may not have a coupon for sale items, but be patient. Soon you'll begin putting sales and coupons together for stellar savings. By combining sales and coupons, you can easily save 50% or more.
- Consider your supermarket ads your shopping list for the week. With certain exceptions (we all have our little addictions), base your weeks' meals around what's on sale. You'll save money, and end up trying delicious new stuff in the process.
- Prepare a list at home and stick with it. There's a reason you've heard this before--it works.
- When you come across a massive discount on something you use routinely--pasta, shampoo--stock up.
- If possible, shop at a store which offers a double- or even triple-coupon day. This information is on store websites.
- If you need a little help getting started, check out CouponMom. This ingenious site does the hard work for you, organizing every store, every coupon, noting where they can be found and pointing out freebie opportunities.
Eating Out and Having Fun
Thanks(?) to the recession, the number of companies offering discounts has exploded in recent years. For you, this translates into great food, fun, pampering, and a few splurges without breaking the bank.
Sign up for email lists from restaurants and stores you frequent to get exclusive sale notifications and coupons. When eating out, take advantage of the two-for deals offered by chains like Applebee's, Olive Garden and Outback Steakhouse.
Sites like Groupon, Time Out New York (other cities available), Living Social, Thrillist and FatWallet offer up deep, deep discount coupons for limited periods of time. You'll be amazed at the selection, from trendy grub to vacation deals to lingerie.
Your Bottom Line
If all this sounds like too much work, relax. Once you make saving a routine, it actually becomes fun. After all, what could be bad about saving tons on everyday items, slipping into a ninety-percent-off designer frock and treating your pals to an insanely discounted dinner at the city's hottest new pub?