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Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Save Money and Be Social

In my household growing up, being frugal was expected not requested. Until I was 10, I thought "generic" was an actual brand name. Whenever we would have people over and my mom would pull out the gigantic black and white (generic) package of napkins or paper towels (or any number of things), it would completely and totally embarrass me.

Now of course, I just don't care about such things. In fact, I'm grateful to have learned so much about saving money. It is a good skill to know overall, but in this economy, it's downright essential.

I've found that saving money is much like this parenting class I'm attending. Listening and learning new ways to combat a problem is the first step. The real challenge is actually taking what you've learned and applying it to your life.

Don't get me wrong -- I'm no expert. I try and learn new tricks all the time. I've been in line with people at the grocery store and have literally been in awe with the amount of money they've saved. If I can, I ask them how they do it. I've never met a person yet that hasn't been willing to share their knowledge.

So, the bottom line is this -- I am going to periodically offer money-saving tips that I've learned over the years. And if you have any special tricks that you use, please let me know. I think we could all use a little help in that area.

By the way, that's my first tip:

ASK

If you see someone in line at the store walking out with a ton of food and paying very little... ask how they did it. (I don't mean shoplifters!) It's a compliment to people when you notice these things -trust me. Of course, you need to pick your moments -if a woman has a couple of screaming kids in her buggy, you might want to let her go. Just use your judgment.

Also, ask in store. If you want to try a new meat or cheese, ask for a taste first. They'll give it to you. You don't want to buy something you're not going to like and end up throwing out. What a waste! Try it in the produce department, too.

A few weeks ago, my husband asked the produce manager in Publix about starfuit. We've never had it, so we didn't know if we would like it. The manager took one, cut it up, and we were able to try it on the spot. (Found out it was delicious, by the way, and we bought several.)

Don't be afraid to ask outside the grocery store. Want a new tv? Walk into an electronics store and ask if you can get a better deal than what they're offering. Right now, stores just want to make a sale, and will be more willing to negotiate. If you offer to pay in cash at a discounted price, you might just get it.

Do some research. Have your eye on a new vacuum cleaner? Walk into a store with an ad from their competition, and ask the manager if they will beat this price. Chance are good that they'll want to accommodate you.

Is the store out of their sale item? Talk to the manager. I was in Publix trying to take advantage of their special on diapers and an in-store coupon that I had. The sale item had run out. I was going to give up and move on, but a manager working in the aisle had noticed that I couldn't find what I needed. After he discovered the store was completely out of the product, he promptly took my coupons (which were expiring that day) and initialed them to be used without an expiration date. Days later, when I checked again and found the diapers, the cashier took the coupons without a problem.

Sometimes a store will have a "no rain check" policy, so when the item is gone... well... it's gone. You can still ask, but be prepared to be turned down.

Don't be afraid to ask if you find a mistake in the ad. CVS was running a special on paper towels. I entered the store with only the coupons I needed (not my entire collection) and discovered the wrong brand of paper towels had been advertised. When I asked the manager about it, he apologized and explained there was a mix-up in the flyer. He actually took my coupons that were for one set of paper towels and used them for the other. So, I still got my great deal.

One thing to remember: Please don't go into any store and demand something. Be nice. Smile. Hold your temper if the answer is "no". Asking doesn't guarantee anything, but you will never know what you can get if you don't try.

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