May 03

If you don’t know it, I am a Costco fan. As with anything, people love it, hate it, or don’t happen to have one nearby, and therefore, don’t care. Countless articles on what you save at Costco vs what you’d be better off buying elsewhere. Hint – know your unit pricing. That said, my daughter asked me to print and pick up a few pictures for her to give as a gift. A bit short notice to me, she found picture frames over the weekend, and sent me the pictures to print with a day’s notice. I like CVS, and pass the local CVS pretty often, so I sent the digital pictures to CVS for printing. 19 cents each, not too bad. Until the fine print – “Orders under $5 subject to $1.49 surcharge fee.” So, the choice was to pony up $1.49 or go elsewhere. Here’s the thing. I am 10 miles away and a 45 minute round trip to Costco. So spending $3.50 in gas makes no sense, and CVS it was. It would have taken 27 pictures to hit the $5 minimum. Do people print that many pictures at once? In the old days, it was $12 or so to print a roll of film, 36 pictures, and pick out the two good shots for the photo album. Today, with digital pictures, we no longer print bad shots.

That said, let’s look at the photo cost of CVS and Costco. First, Costco –

costcopix

The 4×6 pictures are a bit cheaper, 6 cents, in fact. No big deal there. Let’s look at CVS and compare the rest –

cvspix

If you have a collection of 5×7 frames in your house, it’s 39 cents vs $1.69. Over 4 times the price at CVS. Plus the surcharge if we only need a few pictures. I also included the next sizes to compare 8×10 and the poster sized prints. I had a function last year, and wanted to print a 20 x 30 poster. Not being an artist or having any aesthetic skills, it took a few tries to get it right. So my Costco tab for 5 posters was $45 compared to the $100 it would have cost at CVS.

For those who are into photography, these price difference add up fast. I don’t spend that much in an average year on photos, but the savings still adds to my list of reasons I like Costco and find the membership worth it.

Do you have a Costco or other warehouse club membership? Are you happy with your saving?

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Jun 12

Some weeks there seems to be a common theme, whether it’s kids, mortgages, spending, retirement etc. This week no one topic seemed to dominate my reading. So let’s start with Free From Broke’s Extreme Couponing: Do You Really Save or is it a Waste of Time? – I have my thought on this, in any process, there’s often the “low hanging fruit,” the easy thing that pays off. So it goes with couponing. You might rifle through the Sunday fliers and in 5 minutes find $20 in savings. But the next units of time will probably yield less and less, to the point where it makes little sense. The point of diminishing return.

At boomer and echo, a nice piece on Why I Love Shopping At Costco, as he points out some of the pros and cons of warehouse store shopping. As Echo says, some love it, some hate it. Ok, I’ll ask – for those who hate it, why not just get your membership fee back and quit? No one should go to Costco who hates it. I’d rather be in a store where people are all happy to be there. As far as the limited selection goes, I wrote a review of The Paradox of Choice that discussed how too many choices of anything is actually a bit unsettling, and itself a time waster.

Jim Yih writes at retire happy blog, and this week he asked his readers Do you BELIEVE you can become wealthy? He explains why your answer either positive or negative is likely to be correct. A good read, to be sure, but a necessary one if you are a nay-sayer.

Guest Posting at Million Dollar Journey, Frugal Trader asked Can One Save Too Much Money? Given the sad state of the average retirement accounts in this country, I’ll say that such things are possible, but rare, and only known in hindsight. In the struggle to avoid running out of money during retirement there are those who leave millions on their death. It’s not like any of know when we’ll meet our maker. Tough to plan.

On the topic of mortgages and more to the point, those that are underwater (this means that the homeowner owes more that the value of the house, which is now getting more and more common in the states) Len Penzo suggests If It Feels Good Do It: Maybe Strategic Defaults Aren’t So Bad After All and explains why, which if you know Len, is a bit sarcastic and makes the opposite point. I have my own opinions on the topic, my own post soon to be published.

10 Ways to Stay Poor Forever is a guest post at Budgets are Sexy. One of those posts that tells you just what not to do, a personal sharing of Elise Adams and her husbands bad money moves over the years.

And last, Khaleef Crumbley of KNS Financial guest posted 3 Common Mistakes To Avoid When Planning Your Retirement at Bible Money Matters.The one that really caught my eye was to not rely on Social Security. The numbers may have changed slightly, but when I wrote an article Social Security Benefits last year, a $50K/yr worker (The US median) will see a full benefit of $21,000, 42% of his income replaced by Social Security. If the target is to replace about 80% of one’s income, this is more than half of that. Part of me agrees that it’s dangerous to count on this money being there, yet, if it’s not, I can see some serious consequences to the economy and the credibility of our government.

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Jul 24

In the past weeks, I’ve talked about tracking. Tracking your expenses every day to understand where you’re spending, down to the cent. And tracking individual items so over time you can understand the unit cost of the item, both the regular price as well as the best sale price you can discover.

One tool I’ve discovered to help me in this process is Evernote, an application that “allows you to easily capture information in any environment using whatever device or platform you find most convenient, and makes this information accessible and searchable at any time, from anywhere.” What exactly does this mean? When I am at Costco, I snapped this shot with my Blackberry:

capecodchip

It immediately loads into Evernote, into my Costco Folder. With Evernote’s character recognition, a search for “chips” will pull this right up. I can also access this information from my Mac, PC, or from any web browser. The saved data is synced up on all systems running the application as well as on the Evernote server. If you wish to jot notes (or don’t have a picture-taking phone) you can do that, either right into the app or via email. Evernote offers an email access so you can send a note using a subject and text, and the note will go to your account. This can be a great system for a family to use to maintain shopping lists or “to do” lists that won’t get lost on bits of paper.

Another way to use Evernote is to clip web sites or blog postings you wish to save. This can be an ongoing way to comparison shop or just to save items of interest for later viewing. Instead of saving the whole web page, you are able to highlight the text of interest and save just that. It then can be read pretty easily at a later time on your computer or iPod/Blackberry. Lastly, web clips saves in Evernote maintain their embedded links, and those links remain embedded when the “print to PDF” is chosen. This to me is one of the coolest, yet underrated features of this application.

The application is free, as is up to 40MB of upload per month. A paid version allows 500MB of monthly transfer for $5 per month. You can burn through the 40MB with pictures (the one above started out as 560K) but notes and web clips tend to be pretty small so long as your web clips choose text only.

Take a look and let me know how Evernote helps you in your frugal efforts.
Joe

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