YOU SAVED HOW MUCH?

Are ‘Black Friday’ deals really worth all the hassle?

you saved how much

In the USA, the day after Thanksgiving has been referred to as ‘Black Friday’ for over fifty years.  It marks the unofficial beginning of the Christmas Shopping season.  The shopping extravaganza grew out of a series of slightly connected events that fed off one another resulting in the shopping nightmare we deal with today. I don’t know about you, but I avoid the stores that entire weekend.

canada

Blame Canada!

In 1869, Timothy Eaton opened his first department store in Toronto Canada.  The T. Eaton & Company Importers  quickly prospered, ultimately billing itself as Canada’s Greatest Store and at one time was even considered the most successful department store in the world. What does this have to do with the USA and Black Friday?

On  December 2, 1905 Eaton’s held the first of its annual Christmas Parades. These holiday events grew increasingly both in scale and popularity. A couple of decades later, the parade captured the attention of the CEOs of BOTH Macy’s Department Store and Gimbles.   The first Thanksgiving Day parade in the USA  held in 1920 was sponsored by Gimbels department store in Philadelphia PA.  In NYC a few  years later on Thanksgiving Day 1924, the First Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade had an  audience of over 250,000 people.  The Parade ended with Santa Clause being welcomed to Herald Square and escorted to this throne at Macy’s.  The parade was such a success that Macy’s declared it would become an annual event.  Philly may have been the flagship location for Gimbles, but they ALSO had a location at Herald Square across from Macy’s and were not amused by the imitation. The competition for Christmas shopping between Macy’s and Gimbles Department stores  was legendary and became the back story of the 1947 Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street. (By the 1950’s the Eaton’s Christmas Parade was still the largest in North America, but now that honor rests solely with Macy’s.)

Other US cites also hold local parades, but none can match the scale of the NYC Macy’s Day Parade. The resulting foot traffic from these crowds meant extra business for any retailers lucky enough to be in the vicinity. In the 1950’s in Philadelphia PA, the police started referring to the Friday after Thanksgiving as A Black Friday, black meaning very bad. Between the crowds for the Thanksgiving Parade, and the Saturday Army vs. Navy football game, the crowds in the city were a nightmare, and police were working 12 hour shifts for crowd control. The holiday foot traffic kept growing and soon retailers began running special sales to entice shoppers to make impulse purchases.

By 1961, retailers regarded Black Friday as a good thing because the increased sales revenue meant their accounts were ‘in the black’. In traditional accounting, positive income is entered into a ledger with black ink, while negative debits are recorded in red. When you balance the books, you want the bottom total line to be black, showing a positive balance.  If it’s red, you’re in debt, and possibly in deep trouble.

It is estimated that Black Friday sales account for 50% of the Christmas sales, and that Christmas sales in general account for half of the total annual sales of retailers. This is now the reason for all the special Christmas  prices we tend to see at this time of year as merchants try to relieve us of our hard-earned cash.  This is why you also see seasonal ‘pop-up’ kiosk stores in malls selling all manner of gimmicky impulse items. Christmas and Black Friday are BIG BUSINESS!

cyber

Cyberman, Cyberman, does whatever a cyber can.

The term “Cyber Monday” was created by marketing companies to persuade people to shop online. The term was coined by Ellen Davis and Scott Silverman, and made its debut on November 28, 2005. The idea behind Cyber Monday was to convince people that better deals could be found online IF you were willing to wait a couple of days.  In the 21st century, the traditional retail model has been evolving. There has been a shift towards online purchases which has resulted in the death of many brick and mortar stores. 

Gimbles  went out of business in 1986. Stewardship of the Philly Parade transferred to ABC 6 and Boscov’s. Boscov’s Department Stores of Reading PA also briefly faced bankruptcy in 2011, and had to give up its share in the parade , which is now The Dunkin’ Donuts ABC6 Thanksgiving Day Parade. Eaton’s of Canada closed in 1999, was sold to SEARS of Canada,  which also folded. Local Canadian merchants banded together to save their parade.  SEARS USA is on the brink of going out of business, and Mary’s is starting to close low earning locations.  Long time king of toy stores TOY R US closed its doors forever this summer.   Jeff Bezos  started AMAZON.com in 1999. He is now the richest man in the world with a net worth estimated to be $87 Billion dollars. He’s only 54 but even he admits that no business last forever . “Amazon is not too big to fail … In fact, I predict one day Amazon will fail,” Bezos reportedly said when addressing a question about Sears recently going bankrupt. “Amazon will go bankrupt. If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years.”

The question remains though, was it the computer or was it the crowds that killed brick and morter stores? The computer is a wonderful tool that can make our lives better when used properly. The internet allows us to reach stores and people in places we could never get to easily or cost effectively in the  past. By delaying instant gratification, and waiting for sales online, diligently searching for the best prices, we can save ourselves the hassle of fighting crowds for promised low prices on items which sell out in minutes at the store. It’s not worth your time or trouble when you factor in travel costs and your personal time. Time is the one commodity you can never replace. As always I wish you success and happiness.  

GOING CLUBBING?

Membership has its rewards.

goingclub

Last weekend, Wegman’s held a grand opening for its newest store in Lancaster PA. This would be the second largest supermarket in the county. (The largest is Shady Maple.) It was a rainy day, but I kid you not when I say it was standing room only. Everyone and their mother living in a twenty mile radius was there. People were lined-up ten deep in three different queues to sign-up for the store loyalty reward program. You could not move one foot in any direction in the store without encountering someone with a shopping cart, and state police were directing traffic into and out of the fully occupied parking lot as drivers circled the lot, jockeying for position. It was a total madhouse. I left after 15 minutes without buying a single item.

wegmans

Now there may only be ONE Wegman’s Supermarket in Lancaster county, but there are more than a hundred supermarkets owned by at least a half-dozen chains. Wegman’s has things that you cannot get anywhere else. It is the ONLY place I have ever seen that carried Oaxaca cheese! Oaxaca is a white, semihard cheese from Mexico, similar to unaged Monterey jack, but with a mozzarella-like string cheese texture.

oaxaca

Loyalty has its rewards.

It seems that every chain store in the world encourages people to join their loyalty rewards program. Signing-up is free, you save money on specials, and you get a wallet card and or a small fob for your keys that you have to scan at the checkout.  I have so many of these that I ordered a small loyalty-card holder for my key ring to protect and organize these flimsy, plastic-coated card-stock tags. 

loycard

Aside from the initial hassle of filling out the application, it’s a smart way to save money for the customer, often on products you already use.  On  National Coffee Day, I got a free cold brew coffee from Sheetz, after I downloaded their app to my smartphone and ordered online. A minor inconvenience for a free $2.99 drink.

sheetz

The downside is that you’re supplying personal info and shopping habits with that company. I know people who refuse to provide their contact info and insist on asking the checker at the register for ‘the store card’. Some chains used keep a card at each register for people who ‘forgot’ their card, which they would scan so you can still get the discount on the specials, but this is slowly being phased out.  As more and more people have smart phones, loyalty programs are switching over from cards and fobs to apps you download right to your phone.  Stores really want you to sign up for these reward programs.  It provides their company with vital market research as they track your purchase history. Knowing what brands and items you buy allows them to stock greater quantities.  Knowing where you live can help them determine the potential viability of opening new stores in your neighborhood. I used to shop at Wegman’s sporadically because prior to last week, the nearest store was over 35 miles away. The same goes for Trader Joe’s, I’d love to have a local store.          

Membership has its rewards too.

“I don’t want to belong to any club that would accept me as one of its members.” – Groucho Marx

There are several store chains such as Costco, BJ’s and Sam’s Club which require an annual membership fee for people wishing to shop there. This may sound crazy to some people.  Who would want to pay $60 a year for the ‘privilege’ of shopping at a wholesale ‘club’? Firstly, let’s go back to my harrowing tale of the Wegman’s grand opening.  You NEVER encounter crowds like that at a wholesale club. EVER. Every person with a cart paid their membership to shop there.  If you’re curious and want to look around just to determine if a wholesale club membership is for you, you can go to the customer service desk and they will allow it (and probably offer you literature and an application form). I used to belong to BJ’s years ago when I was in charge of supplying drinks and snacks for the employee break room, until the honor system broke down and the till dried up. I don’t understand people stealing snacks and sodas when we get paid as much as we do.

Wholesale clubs eliminate the cost of shipping and distribution of items from the warehouse to the retail store, because the warehouse IS the store. Also because these items are special packed in larger quantities, the per-item cost is much lower for the consumer. So if you have a large family, buying in bulk at a wholesale club will save you a significant amount of money, and allow you to recoup the initial investment you made when you brought your membership. 

But what’s a single person going to do with a hundred-roll case of Charmin?

Fortunately there IS an online alternative to the warehouse wholesale club. There are two members-only online shopping clubs that I know of. Like the warehouse clubs, you pay an annual fee. BUT you get free shipping IF you buy a certain amount. You are also buying only their unique brand, so don’t expect to order Pepsi or Doritos. Now there are store brands that meet or exceed the quality offered by national chains. The organic specialty health food chain Trader Joe’s sells almost exclusively their own unique brand with very few exceptions. I LOVE Trader Joe’s. They really have the best groceries, but they are pricey. Again, many  of these items are organic, free of artificial preservatives and chemicals, and are much healthier so they are better for you. (Isn’t your health worth the cost?) Costco sells KIRKLAND brand exclusively, GNC sells its own brand, I could go on.

So back to the two members-only, online shopping clubs which offer only their own brand. Both launched in past two years.  Their mission is to provide the customer with a high quality product at the lowest cost possible.   

They offer factory direct non-branded products with simple black and white no-frills labels with just the company , product name, ingredients, and nutritional info. You won’t see a photo of a tomato on the tomato sauce. It will say TOMATO PASTE. From the few examples I’ve seen online, the labeling is ONLY in English, which I consider to be a plus because it always irks me when foreign language is forced upon me in my native country by social justice warriors in the name of diversity and inclusiveness. I would never think of living in any country where I didn’t have a firm grasp of the local language. It may be true that the USA has no official national language, but since the country was founded it has been the consensus that it is English.  

The ONLY two possible drawbacks I see are that the new companies might fold, as new business have a high failure rate, and that you can’t sample the goods before you buy them, so you really have to rely upon customer feedback. Most of the reviews I’ve read have been favorable, and I do plan on trying out both companies in the very near future. I always believe in supporting small businesses and  the independent operators. Without customer support, these companies cannot last. Their prices do seem fair, and a smart consumer should be able to seamlessly work these goods into their personal budget plans to both recoup the cost of membership and save money in the process.       

The two companies  are: BRANDLESS and PUBLIC GOODS.

BRANDLESS https://brandless.com/

Only $36/year after your free trial.

BRANDLESS Their mission is to provide better everything, and sell it at a fixed price of just $3. Since every item is $3, be sure to check the size. You’re not going to get a pound of organic coffee anywhere, even at BRADLESS, but ounce per ounce it will be a better deal than Starbucks.

PUBLIC GOODS https://www.publicgoods.com/

Public Goods. They too are attempting to provide healthier alternatives to commercially available products at cost, making as little on the item as possible. It’s a counter-intuitive business strategy that relies upon the sales of the memberships to cover costs. I think it’s an interesting social experiment, but only time will tell if it’s economically viable for a company to operate long term under that business model. I am intrigued enough that I’m willing to gamble on a LIFETIME membership deal, offered through KICKSTARTER  until November 8th 2018.   

Only $59/year after your free trial.

If you want to gamble on the LIFETIME Membership deal like I did yesterday here’s the link for that ‘possible’ money saving offer: 

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/494595922/public-goods-healthy-wholesome-food-affordable-to

Hopefully, these suggestions will provide money-saving opportunities that you can take advantage of. Always remember that every dollar you can save, and every cost-cutting measure you can find will get you closer to attaining wealth and achieving your dreams. Good luck! As always, I wish you success and happiness!

BIGGER IS BETTER!

More bang for your buck!

bigger is better

Life Is a Journey, Not a Destination – Anon.

Benjamin Franklin is quoted to have said: “Early to bed and early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise”.  As part of my journey to ‘a better me’, I’ve been paying a lot of attention to not only my wealth and knowledge base, but also my health.  After all what’s the point of being wealthy if you’re too sickly to enjoy the fruits of your labor. All of the major self-help gurus stress the importance of a healthy mind and body as being key elements of being a successful person.

Proper nutrition is essential to good health. The problem is good food is expensive. As I previously in last week’s blog, you can grow your own fruits and vegetables at home and preserve them yourself. You’ll have the comfort of knowing that your produce is organic and that you canned them free of artificial chemicals, additives, and preservatives.   But there are just some things that you can’t grow at home. Take bananas for example. More than likely you aren’t going to be growing those in your back yard. I do know of some people who have their own free range chickens producing eggs for them, but that’s out of the question for most of us as well. And who wants to milk a cow to get milk for their coffee? Some things just have to be purchased commercially but  there are ways to trim the fat from your expenses at the same time as you trim it from your waste.

This past year, I went on a very aggressive diet and exercise program. It’s self developed, but the main elements are that I eat healthier and exercise. I’ve been eating a lot of organic foods, cooking healthier dinners from a meal kit service called Hello Fresh. I go to the gym when possible, and I’m a lot more physically active during the summer. Kayaking, and riding my mountain bike are quite fun. I’ve managed to lose 40 lbs. and I’m back to where I was before the bout of depression hit me when the ex-girlfriend left.  Another 30lbs more, and I’ll be back to what I weighed in college.

Fad diets come and go, but every person is different, and every BODY is different.  I found something that works for me, and if it works, don’t fix it! It irks me when people tell me I should be doing something other than what I’m doing because they read something somewhere that said (FILL IN THE BLANK) is better than whatever it is I’m doing.  If they want to try whatever it is they read about, good for them. I’ve my own results to show that what I’m doing is working, and I feel wonderful.

There are a lot of dietary supplements that I take during the course of a day. Many of them are quite pricey, but just as you have to spend money to make money, you need to spend money on better nutrition.  The good news is, many of these items do have long shelf lives, so you can take advantage of sales, economy packs, bogos, and clearance specials each of which will stretch your hard earned dollars and give you more bang for your buck.  Stocking up and buying in bulk will drastically reduce the cost per serving, save on shipping, and prevent the accidental impulse buy when you go to the store for one item and leave with a dozen.

Economy Size

If you know for a fact that you will definitely use a product, often buying the larger size will save you money on the cost per servings.  A  single 60 serving  can will always cost less than two 30 serving cans, UNLESS the smaller size is on sale. Always pay attention to the cost per unit.

ecconomy

BOGO

The infamous BOGO or ‘Buy One, Get One’ sales will allow you to double the amount purchased and reduce the cost per unit. Taking advantage of these will allow you stock up. You can also try a different flavor, but if you buy it, use it. Waste not, want not.

bogo

Clearance

If you see an item you use (or something similar that’s equal in quality) on clearance, buy it! Always check the ‘best by’ date to be certain that you can use the item before the expiry date. Certain supplements lose their potency with age, so if it’s been sitting on a shelf for months, the bargain might not be much of a bargain. Every item is different, some will be just fine, so do your homework. It’s very easy to check, just whip out your smart phone and  Google information on the products and how long they’ll keep.

clearence

Brand X

Brand loyalty means that sometimes you’re paying for the name on the box, and not what’s in it. There are many generic or store brands that are every bit as good as national brand names. Often, these items will be sitting side by side on the self with the competing product. They will have similar packaging, and will probably have some statement on the label telling you to compare the ingredients. Some of these products are just as good if not better than the name brand, and will save you pennies on the dollar.

Automatic shipments and free shipping

Many of the health places like GNC and The Vitamin Shoppe have automatic subscription services you can sign up for which will offer a discount on the supplements, and offer free shipping if you order a certain amount. The beauty of these automatic subscriptions is that you never run out accidentally of your favorite vitamin, or go to the store and discover they’re temporarily out of stock. Also, these services occasionally include bonus trial sample items for free, so you can try new products that you might also enjoy.

free

Of course there are always sales going on, so it always pays to shop around at competitor sites. I was at GNC and the sales associate told me that they’ll price match an identical item offered on AMAZON which they happened to stock as well. Some of these brick-and-mortar stores are really having to fight for your business because online retailers are stealing their customers, so they are occasionally willing to make a deal.      

Following these all of these tips might mean you’ll eventually need to buy both a smaller belt, and a larger wallet. As always, I wish you success and happiness!