By: Natasha Etzel |
– First published on May 19, 2023
When you’re in the midst of a difficult financial situation, it may feel like there is no way out. The good news is that what you’re experiencing now doesn’t have to be forever. While you may feel discouraged about the current state of your finances, you can take small steps to improve your situation. Small habit changes can make a big difference in improving your financial future. Consider these changes if you want to improve your relationship with money.1. Learn to budgetIf you’re not following a budget or monitoring your spending, you likely don’t realize how much money you’re spending. Budgeting can help you be more aware of where your money is going. You can minimize overspending and find ways to reduce your spending to free up extra cash for other financial goals. Budgeting apps are an excellent tool, especially if you’re new to budgeting.2. Open a high-yield savings accountSaving up for future expenses is an excellent way to be financially prepared. But it’s essential to stash your extra cash in the right place. If you’re keeping your savings in a checking account, you’re missing out on interest. By opening a high-yield savings account, you can earn interest and get rewarded for savings. Don’t miss out on free money.3. Automate your savingsMany people want to save more but struggle to remember to do so before they spend their entire paycheck. If you struggle with saving, this technique may be for you. Automating your savings can take the manual work out of saving. You can set up automatic transfers to regularly send money from your checking account to your savings account. This habit change can save time and help you stay on top of your savings goals.4. Pay more than the minimum amount due on your credit cardCredit card debt is an expensive problem to have. You’ll be charged interest if you don’t pay your entire balance off each month. Many people accumulate credit card debt because they pay only the minimum amount due on their credit card bills and the debt and interest continue to grow. If you can afford to do so, paying your entire balance off every month is best. By getting in the habit of paying off your credit card balance in full, you can avoid credit card interest charges.5. Build an emergency fundYou never know when an unexpected expense will come your way. Paying a costly unplanned bill can be challenging if you live paycheck to paycheck and have minimal savings. An emergency fund can help you prepare for such situations. Having extra money available when you need it most can ease your stress. If it feels impossible to build your fund, start small. If you save $100 a month, you’ll have $1,200 saved in a year. That’s much better than $0 saved.6. Regularly review your financesMany people struggle to stay on top of their personal finance affairs because they ignore their situation. But ignoring your financial struggles won’t help you. It’s essential to check in on your financial accounts and bills regularly so you can make a plan and take action. Consider setting aside 20 to 30 minutes monthly to review your finances so you’re in the know.7. Wait 24 hours before checking out onlineOnline shopping is convenient but can lead to overspending if you’re not careful. Here’s what to do to reduce your online shopping trips. The next time you fill up your online shopping cart, step away from your computer or phone and wait 24 hours before checking out. Doing this gives you extra time to think through the decision and may help you reduce impulse purchases.It’s never too late to make changesDon’t give up if your current financial situation is less than ideal. You can set yourself up for success and improve your situation by committing to making small changes in your daily life. Over time, these changes will add up and improve your finances in a big way.
By: Natasha Etzel |
– First published on May 27, 2023
For some households, investing in a Costco membership is worthwhile. The famous warehouse club sells most of its grocery and household items in bulk, which can result in significant savings for shoppers on a budget. If you’ve never shopped at Costco, you may be surprised at the variety of available products. Some items sold here aren’t sold at other retailers, so make sure you don’t miss out on these winning finds at your local Costco club.1. $1.50 hot dog and soda comboIs there anything better than a satisfying snack after a busy afternoon filling your shopping cart? Costco is well-known for its affordable food court finds. One popular treat that makes for an easy and cheap lunch is Costco’s $1.50 hot dog and soda combo. You won’t find a deal this good at your local grocery store, but you can enjoy this cheap lunch at your local Costco.2. Kirkland Signature organic extra virgin olive oilWhile you can find olive oil at most grocery stores, not all olive oil available is high-quality or sold at a price that won’t drain your checking account. But Costco’s Kirkland Signature organic extra virgin olive oil is a favorite among Costco shoppers. Celebrity chef Samin Nosrat, host of Netflix’s Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, recommends this essential kitchen staple. You can get a 2-liter bottle at your local Costco for less than $20.3. Pumpkin pieCostco is known for this favorite seasonal find: pumpkin pie. This tasty treat is available in the bakery section beginning in the fall and through the winter holidays. The ready-to-enjoy pie consists of more than three pounds of goodness for $5.99. In a fall 2022 post in the r/Costco subreddit, user ouchmytounge shared a photo of a line going out the door at their local club. The crowd of shoppers were waiting for this fan favorite! You won’t find this exact creation elsewhere, so it’s the perfect item to bring to this year’s Thanksgiving potluck.4. Rotisserie chickenAnother deal that Costco is known for is its rotisserie chicken. The warehouse club sells an entire rotisserie chicken for $4.99. Whether you plan to make chicken salad, shredded chicken tacos, or add the meat to soup for a more hearty, filling meal, this is a great price to pay for an easy meal. Finding a rotisserie chicken this cheap at your local grocery stores will be difficult.5. Kirkland Signature organic pure maple syrupCalling all breakfast lovers! Another Costco favorite you won’t find at other stores is the Kirkland Signature organic pure maple syrup. Whether you’re a fan of brunch, add maple syrup to your morning bowl of oatmeal, or use maple syrup as a sugar substitute, this high-quality, 100% pure maple syrup won’t break your budget. A 33.8-ounce bottle costs less than $15.A warehouse club membership could save you moneyIf you want to reduce your grocery spending, consider investing in a warehouse club membership. Joining a club like Costco may help you stay on budget as you shop. Plus, you can try some of the finds mentioned above. Costco membership prices range from $60 to $120 annually. For additional ways to save money, check out our personal finance resources.
By: Maurie Backman |
– First published on June 8, 2023
Shopping at Costco is a great way to save money on everything from groceries to apparel to household products. And if you upgrade to an executive membership at Costco, you may find you’re able to save even more.A Costco executive membership costs $120 a year, which is double the cost of a basic membership. In exchange, you get 2% cash back at Costco, which is a pretty sweet deal. In fact, your cash back could be enough to pay for your upgraded membership and then some.But if you’re thinking about upgrading your membership at Costco, it’s important to know how the program works. Here are a few things you may not have known about a Costco executive membership.1. You’re limited to a $1,000 reward each yearIf you shop at Costco frequently enough, you might manage to rack up a lot of cash back from your executive membership. But you should know that once you’ve accumulated $1,000 via executive membership cash back, you’re done for the year.That said, to even get to the point of being eligible for a $1,000 cash back reward from your executive membership, you’d need to spend $50,000 a year at Costco. That’s probably way more than you can imagine yourself spending, even if you have a year when you use Costco to do things like book travel and update your furniture.2. Online purchases countAlthough Costco carries an impressive selection of inventory in its warehouse club stores, you might find even more items to choose from online. The good news is that online purchases are generally eligible for 2% back if you have an executive membership, so don’t be concerned that those orders won’t count.3. Car purchases aren’t eligible for cash backIn some cases, it could pay to purchase your next vehicle via Costco. But unfortunately, your car purchase will not be eligible for the cash back rewards that are part of an executive membership. (If they were, then hitting that $1,000 limit would probably be easier.) However, there are still many perks to buying a car through Costco, such as saving money on your purchase price, so it pays to see what models are available through this program.Should you get a Costco executive membership?A Costco executive membership certainly isn’t right for everyone. If you don’t do a lot of shopping at Costco, then it may not be worth it to pay the extra $60 a year. But either way, read up on how the upgraded membership works and the benefits it offers before making your decision.Remember, too, that Costco wants you to be happy with your executive membership. If you do the upgrade and find that it isn’t worth it, you can always downgrade your membership to a basic one and ask for a refund. It’s not as though you’re stuck with the costlier membership once you decide to make that upgrade, so it’s really a pretty risk-free proposition if you want to give it a try.
By: Dana George |
– First published on June 10, 2023
I will gladly try almost anything at Costco, at least once. You never know when you’re going to come across a product that’s absolutely perfect for you. However, there is no chance I will ever buy any of the following products at Costco. 1. 72-pound Cheese WheelI like cheese as much as the next person, but good gravy. Who needs a 72-pound wheel of parmigiano reggiano? The bad news? It’s only available through Costco.com.The good news? Shipping and handling are included in the $950 price. At over $13 a pound, it’s not like you’d be saving money. 2. 600 Bottle Classic LX Double Wine CellarI gotta be honest. If any of my wine-loving friends ever decide to spend $5,700 on a wine cooler for their home, I’m going to be the first one to stage an intervention. Unless a person owns a bar or restaurant, I cannot reconcile spending so much money on a single luxury item, designed to make drinking even more pleasurable. Does it look cool with its “VinoView Shelving?” Absolutely. It’s gorgeous. It may, however, be a cry for help.3. 28-pound Bucket of Mac N’ CheeseI recently told a friend that I would be the first to die in an apocalypse. Mainly because I need snacks. I get that people like gearing up for the end of the world, but really, the idea of 240 servings of mac n’ cheese makes me sad.The advertisement promises that this bucket full of carbs has a shelf life of up to 25 years, which immediately made me think it was made specifically for preppers. I stand corrected. Once I saw that there are 204 reviews online, I had to see what folks had to say.My favorite review came from a lady who says she purchased the bucket for her grandson, who was “pleasantly surprised” the day it arrived. But here’s the impressive part: Not only did the reviewer purchase the 240-serving bucket once, but she says she’s purchased it again.I can’t help but be impressed, although I don’t think I’m willing to shell out $120 for a massive bucket of mac n’ cheese anytime soon.4. The Mother’s Casket You know that nervous laughter that bubbles up when you’re supremely uncomfortable? That’s what I experienced the first time I saw The Mother’s Casket. My mind didn’t quite know what to focus on. Let’s face it: The name is both macabre and hysterical. Who thought that was a good idea?And please, even though I won’t ever buy one, allow me to describe this model to you. The first, and possibly most important feature, is that it’s pink with what’s called “a purple coral finish.” There is (of course) a pink velvet interior with the word “Mother” embroidered on the head panel, and an adjustable eternal rest bed. For the life of me, I can’t figure out why Mom needs to be able to adjust the head and footrest, but there you have it.Finally, there’s a matching pink pillow and throw. Overall, it’s delightful.I get why people would be attracted to a jazz-hands casket that costs $1,150. Funerals are ridiculously expensive. It’s why so many people hold on to enough life insurance to cover their funeral costs.Although I’d never buy one, I’d love to meet the family who would. They sound like fun.5. Bote Zeppelin 10″ Inflatable KayakMy husband and I once went on a whitewater rafting trip with about eight other couples, some of whom we barely knew. Between that trip and a kayaking experience we had in Puerto Rico a couple of months ago, I’ve learned one thing: Sharing a small water vessel with a partner tends to bring out the “real” you.Two of the couples on that long-ago whitewater rafting trip spent hours bickering — loudly. One couple would fall out of their kayak and be underwater long enough to provide a few moments of blessed quiet, but then the other couple would start picking at each other. Honestly, I just thought they were broken.Then, in Puerto Rico, kayaking in the ocean at night, I realized that I don’t always trust my husband. I’m pretty sure I let him know. The farther we paddled into the dark water, the more “honest” I became about my feelings. In truth, I was fairly certain he was going to get us killed. (I also realized that I’m terrified of manatees, but that’s another story).The idea of taking a $900 inflatable kayak out on any body of water is more than my heart can handle.6. Closeout Sushi TrayI often wonder about sushi here in the Midwest, especially the sushi sold at gas stations. Given the quality of other Costco food products, it’s hard to imagine that its sushi might be awful. But according to the folks on one super entertaining Reddit thread, Costco sushi is not always the greatest.Here are some of my favorite comments from that thread:According to Alternative-Skill167, “It’s like chewing soft plastic dipped in soy sauce.”TheEZG added this opinion, “Just be prepared for the clearance that will occur in your intestines.”And finally, my favorite. It’s from a Redditor with a user name that cannot be printed here. The poster inadvertently compared eating Costco sushi to preparing for a colonoscopy. “Go ahead and get some toilet paper, nausea meds, and Gatorade too.”So, it’s a no on the sushi. In my life, Costco is like a weird cousin. Once in a while he comes out with something that makes you wonder if he’s okay, but most of the time, there’s not a thing about him you’d change.
By: Dana George |
– First published on June 13, 2023
It’s easy to go wild while shopping at Sam’s Club. After all, there are new things to see and buy every time you walk into the warehouse store. And while many purchases are spot-on, some only make sense if you go in with a plan. Here are five things it rarely makes sense to buy at Sam’s Club. 1. Huge containers of anythingIf you’re excited by the idea of purchasing a one-gallon container of mayonnaise, you’re my kind of person. However, it may not be the best idea, particularly if you’re unsure how long it will take to consume a container of mayonnaise as large as a newborn baby.While there are dueling expert opinions on the matter, Dr. Karen Latimer is quoted in EatDelights as saying that a jar of mayonnaise can last for months if left unopened and stored away from sunlight. However, once that jar is opened and refrigerated, you have between two and three months to ensure it’s consumed. And if you accidentally leave it out for eight hours? Prepare to toss it. In short, unless you’re running a school cafeteria, a massive quantity of mayo may not be a good buy. It’s easier to save money on groceries if you’re willing to give up mega-sized products. 2. Fresh produceEvery time I walk into a warehouse store, I rack my brain to figure out who would benefit from purchasing the fresh produce. It’s colorful and looks supremely healthy, but you can’t just pick up two or three tomatoes or apples. So, unless you’re throwing a huge party and need enough avocados to put a bowl of guacamole on every table, or you’re a summer camp director and know the kids will tear through 10 pounds of onions with their burgers, you’ll probably save money by picking up the actual quantity of produce you need at your local farmer’s market or grocery store. Given that an estimated 20% of the food we buy goes to waste, making an extra stop could be worth the money. 3. SunscreenSummer is upon us, and we all know better than to allow our skin to burn in the midday sun. Sunscreen is essential, but unfortunately, it does expire. According to Mayo Clinic, we have 36 months to use sunscreen from the time it’s manufactured. The active ingredients will break down faster if exposed to excessive heat or direct sun. Picking up a three-pack of sunscreen as you browse your local Sam’s Club may seem like you’re saving money.. However, if you still find yourself squeezing sunscreen from one of those bottles three years later, you’re essentially putting lotion on your body and expecting it to protect you from the elements. 4. Vitamins and over-the-counter medicines One of the things that make vitamins and over-the-counter medicines so attractive at Sam’s Club is how much less you have to pay per unit. After all, the less you spend, the more money you’ll have to put away in a savings account, right? It’s not quite that simple.Let’s say you need to pick up Bayer Low Dose Aspirin. At Target, you’ll pay between $0.05 and $0.06 per tablet. But at Sam’s Club, you’ll pay only $0.03 per tablet. In this situation, there’s no doubt that Sam’s offers the best bargain. According to Bayer, aspirin remains 100% effective for up to four years, and you’ll probably use an entire bottle of aspirin in that time. However, it can be tough to determine when other products in the pharmacy department are due to expire. The Food & Drug Administration does not require vitamin manufacturers to put expiration dates on their products. While some manufacturers do so willingly, it’s not something you can count on. For example, if you were to pick up a 400 count bottle of Vitamin C + Zinc 500 mg at Sam’s Club today, you’d pay $0.04 per capsule. Here’s the problem: A Brazilian Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences study found that 92% of vitamin C supplements lose efficacy after 12 months of storage. But unless you know that in advance, you don’t know if you’re getting an actual bargain. 5. Diapers and toilet paperGoing out of your way to purchase either diapers or toilet paper at Sam’s Club may cost you more than it’s worth. We all use toilet paper. Retailers know that, so they frequently discount toilet paper to lure shoppers into their stores. Chances are, you’ll score a deeper discount by purchasing TP when it’s on sale at your local market. You can compound the savings by using a coupon. The same is true of diapers. Today, the cost of Member’s Mark Newborn Diapers comes out to $0.16 per diaper. At the same time, Target’s Up & Up Newborn Diapers sell for a little less than $0.14 per diaper. It’s not a huge difference, but the savings add up when you consider how many of those things you go through while a child is young. By determining what constitutes a good buy and which products you want to avoid before walking into a Sam’s Club, you can spend less and keep more in your bank account.