Thursday, April 16, 2009

Savings are always in season...

neighborhood cherry blossoms close upSaving money depends on timing, as the prices (and availability) of items varies like the seasons. For instance, late last week, the cheapest items at the grocery were, of course, food in season, so strawberries were three packages for $5, and were snapped up; I've never seen so many containers of fresh strawberries tossed into carts like so many rags! (I couldnt' resist playing the tossing game myself.) Naturally, eggs weren't left out of the festivities, as Easter was around the corner--at Giant, you could get two one-dozen cartons of eggs for the price of one dozen. Great for kids dyeing eggs for Easter, or for adults planning an Easter meal (ahem).

Meal planning around in-season food helps you shop more cheaply (because of supply and demand), more nutritiously (as the food is not trucked from half a world away), more deliciously (also because your food doesn't need to take the red-eye), with less stress (no wondering if you'll be able to find a particular food if you buy with an eye to what's available now). And who needs more stress!

It's easier to save precious funds if you anticipate when certain items may become more plentiful (supply and demand at work again), for when their production is ramped up, they're put on sale. For instance, because there's overlap between school/academic supplies and office supplies, August is an excellent time to stock up on office supplies. As I have an addiction to using the durable, unassuming product known as clear packing tape, I've found that a good time to buy it is in November, when people are preparing Christmas presents to be sent.

Yes, I clip the occasional coupon, which can come in handy (particularly because I carry a small coupon book organized into categories), but I find coupons to be hit or miss--some weeks you find all kinds of products, others none. Attempting to use Internet coupons is even more frustrating, plowing through multiple pages of items in order to see something that might interest me. Ick.

Internet strategies that work better for me include going to the websites of stores I often visit, or are likely to visit, as not all sales are advertised; Whole Foods never advertises sale items, but has them all the same, and I've dropped in on clearance sales at independent stores like Pangea (items that aren't even listed as being on sale on its site). It's also helpful to occasionally browse manufacturer websites to find coupons.

I've also had success with e-mail alerts from retailers; in this way, I'm notified of sales ahead of the general public. For instance, Borders sends coupons approximately twice a month, usually for 30 percent off (and not only for books--I've purchased items like solid perfume there and used a coupon). Around Christmas, their coupons are for 40 percent off! Filene's Basement and Comfort One Shoes also believe in the e-mail love. The latter's products are not inexpensive, but come from quality manufacturers, and with my shoe size and podiatric problems, I need to get durable, high-quality shoes that I can afford. (Ha!) Well, a few months ago, Comfort One had a clearance sale (and could have taught the now-defunct swindlers Circuit City what a REAL sale looks like), for the sale was for 85% off selected items, on top of previous reductions of 40% off. On the first day of the sale, there was plentiful, attractive merchandise, even in my size, so I pounced on a cute pair of comfortable pumps, which were affordable at last (at $50, down from the Olympian heights of $195). Woo hoo!

Many people make the mistake of assuming that a store's looks predicts how reasonable its prices are, and are thus convinced that Target is much more expensive than Walmart because it tends to be neater. Many folks in this area have long made the assumption that Giant is more expensive than Safeway because Giant's stores tend to be cleaner and more organized. The truth is, Giant's prices are often more reasonable than Safeway's, sale or no sale (why else would McCormick flavor extract cost a whole two dollars more at Safeway, when neither store was having a sale on baking products?), and are often comparable to those at Shoppers Food Warehouse, although Shoppers tends to be cheaper for most products.

Shoppers is cheaper for most things, but not everything. Although I'm not near a Super-Target, the Target that's closest does have some food, on shelves and a small refrigerated and freezer section. For some reason, it carries the best prices around on Silk soymilk, consistently selling it for 50 cents less than Shoppers! Even better, Silk is periodically on sale at Target for two for $5. Target also carries some frozen vegetarian items, for a good 50 cents less than Shoppers, and is a good place to buy name-brand grape and/or cranberry juice, as it's noticeably cheaper at there.

When it comes to saving money, it's like the saying, "don't assume, because when you assume, you make an a** out of you and me."


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Coming and Going said...

Thanks for the kind words...hope to keep things lighthearted (when possible), yet informative.

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