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Monthly Archives: November 2023
Do warehouse clubs save you money?
The allure of shopping at big warehouse stores like Costco or Sam’s Club is undeniably strong. It’s not only loved by money-conscious consumers who are trying to stretch their budget, but also shoppers who are simply obsessed with perusing the two-football-field-sized warehouses. In fact, more than one-third of Americans hold a membership with a warehouse club. It seems a little crazy, and a little counter-intuitive, for someone to spend money on a club membership for the privilege of saving money—or even just to walk in the door—but millions of people do it. Let’s take a look at exactly how it works and if it really does save you money.
How do warehouse clubs work?
In spite of the strategically designed, no-frills environment, warehouse clubs are retail stores. They offer a wide variety of items, from Waterford crystal to cell phones, and from flat screen TVs to paper plates, at discounted or wholesale pricing.
Aside from the plethora of products available, the main difference between warehouse clubs and traditional retail stores is that warehouse clubs don’t make most of their profits from marking up prices on products. Instead, customers pay a membership fee to access the store and these discounts. Plus, members have access to other deals and discounted services like travel, car buying, insurance, and financial services, to name a few.
Paying a reasonable annual membership fee that can, at the very least, be recouped in savings over the year doesn’t sound like a bad deal. But, there are some pitfalls that need to be considered, and they’re not quite as evident as the savings you see on your receipt.
Big boxes, large quantities
Another reason warehouse clubs can offer lower prices is that they buy in bulk, and then they pass the bulk discounts onto their customers. While you may eventually use the 45 rolls of toilet paper, the twin pack of ketchup will likely be expired before you’re halfway through the first bottle. The fresh produce has the same fate. Who can eat 24 apples before one decides to spoil the bunch? We all love the party-size bags of chips, candy, and cookies, but sadly, they don’t stand a chance of expiring, which leads us to a whole other problem. That said, if you’re stocking up on items for your office on a consistent basis, bulk buys may be a great option.
Limited quantity items
You’re pondering the purchase of a particular item, and then see that it’s marked “Limited Quantity.” Two words that set off the alarms in your head and kick your hoarding tendency into full gear. You’re not even sure if you need it, but the pressure of missing out, or the fact that this may be your last chance to bring it home has you tossing three or four of them into your cart.
Can warehouse clubs save you money?
Grocery stores are notorious for impulse buying. You’re waiting in line at the checkout, and the candy and magazines on the end rack start calling your name. But impulse buys aren’t limited to traditional retail stores. Take five steps into any warehouse club, and you’ll likely see a giant flat screen TV on sale. Need the new iPhone or maybe an Apple Watch? They’ll be there, too. If you make it through the entrance, you’ll also want to steer clear of the center aisles—that’s where all the impulse buys are waiting for just the slightest glance. Does your kid need a giant Squishmallow for only $20? While you’re at it, maybe you should treat yourself, too. I bet you didn’t know you wanted a Vitamix blender or a new set of mixing bowls. Oh look, a 120-pack of Kirkland K-cups!
The free samples at warehouse stores are the perfect snack while you’re wandering the aisles. Hit enough of them, and you can call it lunch. The samples are not necessarily there, however, to keep your belly full. We all know that tasting the product could encourage shoppers to purchase the item on the spot. But, interestingly enough, free samples also work on a customer’s psyche. Ever feel a little guilty just walking away? Yep, a lot of other people do, too. Out of a sense of obligation or the fear of looking like a freeloader, they head to the checkout with a monster-size box of Annie’s Cheddar Bunnies in their cart.
Be a smart shopper
These danger zones don’t necessarily have to spoil your next trip to the warehouse club. Free samples can be good. It’s nice to know that you need to stock up on an item if it won’t be restocked. And, sometimes you do need a new blender.
How to pick a wholesale club
Because every family shops differently, there’s no definitive answer as to whether a warehouse club membership is worth the money. But if you do want to pursue a membership, how do you decide which club to go with?
The first things you need to consider are your local options and what their prices are for membership. If one club is a little further but the membership is cheaper, it may not be worth the extra gas to get there and back. On the flip side, you may have two warehouse clubs across the street from each other, so the next thing you may want to look at are the return policies. Warehouse clubs typically offer great customer service but return policies vary by store—some clubs even offer refunds on your membership if you decide it’s not for you, so you’ll want to read the fine print.
Lastly, you’ll want to look at the prices and discounts available. This will take a little work to calculate unit prices, but can help you see how much money you would actually save. Additionally, depending on where in the country you’re shopping, discounts may not be as significant as they are elsewhere.
- Warehouse clubs are retail stores that charge a membership fee to access their discounted or wholesale pricing.
- Membership typically includes access to other deals on things like travel, car buying, insurance, and financial services.
- Be sure to consider location and drive time, return policies, and unit prices when deciding on a warehouse club membership.
Warehouse clubs can be a great place to shop and save money, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. You’ll definitely find some deals that will save you money, and balanced with your traditional grocery store shopping, your budget should stretch a little further each month. Regardless of where you shop, continue to compare prices, don’t buy what you don’t need, and be wary of impulse buys.
What are credit card late fees and how do they work?
The holiday season is here, which means lots of shopping—and swiping! But, it’s important to be mindful of your spending and avoid costly mistakes that could dampen your holiday cheer. Credit card late fees are a common financial stressor, especially with increased credit card spend during the holidays. Below, we discuss the consequences of late payments, late fees, and how to avoid them—and enjoy worry-free holiday shopping.
What is a late fee?
Credit card late fees are issued if the minimum payment isn’t paid on time. Your minimum payment is separate from your statement balance, which is the amount spent during your billing cycle. Minimum payments vary—if you owe a lot (say, over $1,000), it’s usually around 2% of your balance. If you owe some, it’s often a fixed amount of around $25 (but varies between cards).
Late fees typically cost between $15 to $35 and are usually reflected on the following billing statement. Check your card’s agreement to determine the late fee and when it’s applied.
What happens when you miss a payment or make it late?
You’re charged a late fee
Your credit card company will issue a late fee if you miss your minimum payment. $15 or $35 may not seem like a huge deal, but if you have a smaller balance, that could cost as much as a full year of interest.
Late fees can also increase with each missed payment. For example, you slip up and make one late payment. Your credit card company then charges you $30 for that missed payment. If you make a second late payment, your credit card company could charge another late fee that’s even higher than the first.
Your interest rate could increase
Credit cards already charge higher interest rates compared to personal loans. The average credit card interest rate right now is around 22%. They also have a penalty APR, which is the rate charged if you violate a card’s terms—like making a late payment.
Your interest rate could be raised to the penalty rate—as high as 29.99% APR—if you’re more than 60 days late. This rate can also last as little as six months—federal law requires your credit card issuer to review your account after you make six consecutive on-time payments.
Your credit could take a hit
Late payments are added to your credit history, which can affect your credit score. A late payment of more than 30 or 60 days is reported to the credit bureaus and reflected on your credit report. This can stay on your credit report and affect your score for up to seven years—which could keep you from getting a better interest rate or prevent you from buying a house or a car.
What to do if you miss a payment
As soon as you realize you missed your credit card payment, pay your bill immediately (at least the minimum due) so it won’t affect your credit. If it’s your first time, call the credit card company to see if they can waive the late fee. Explain why you paid late, refer to your payment history, and how long you’ve been a customer. Usually, credit card companies are willing to work with you if you’re in good standing (making on-time payments, not maxing out your credit limit, etc.).
After, think about why you missed your payment. Did time slip away and you simply forgot? Or did you blow your budget this month and avoid reviewing your statement altogether? (Which we don’t recommend.) Either way, evaluate what happened and take the steps to ensure you don’t make the same mistake again.
How to avoid late fees
Automatic payments are the easiest way to avoid late fees. You can set up automatic payments with your credit card issuer for the minimum payment, statement balance, or a fixed amount (at least the minimum due). Remember that your checking account needs enough funds to cover the autopay amount. Most credit card issuers will still deduct the automatic payment if you make extra payments.
If the idea of automatic payments makes you uneasy, there are other ways to ensure you don’t miss another credit card payment. Set up an alert on your calendar a few days before your payment is due. If you need an extra reminder, add another one for the day before.
Or, if you struggle to make payments because your due date falls at an inconvenient time (for example, before payday instead of after), consider changing your payment date. You can do this online or by calling your credit card company.
Late fees can be a major pain, but they’re avoidable if you use your credit card responsibly. By following the above tips, you can work to avoid late credit card payments (and fees!) and keep your finances in check during the holiday season and beyond.
10 safety tips for online gaming
Whether you’re an eSports pro, killing a few spare minutes on your phone, or enjoying an endless fantasy realm for hours, online gaming is a quickly growing hobby with more than one billion gamers worldwide—and more potential for hackers and cybercriminals to access your information. That said, it’s important to remain vigilant about protecting your online safety. You shouldn’t lower your cybersecurity defenses just because you’re racking up points! Here are 10 tips for staying safe while online gaming:
1. Remember to use strong passwords
Winners use long, complex, and unique passwords. The strongest passwords are at least 12 characters long and include letters, numbers, and symbols. Ideally, your password is not recognizable as a word or phrase. And yes, you should have a unique password for each online account. Sounds hard to remember? Using a password manager has never been easier—many smartphones and web browsers include password managers. The best password managers will even suggest strong passwords!
2. Research your games
Mobile gaming makes up almost half of the global games market. However, just because a game is available on a trusted app store doesn’t guarantee it’s safe to download. Before installing any new gaming apps on your device, make sure it’s legitimate. Check out the reviews or research the internet before downloading.
3. Use multi-factor authentication
Multi-factor authentication (MFA), sometimes called two-factor authentication, adds another level of security to your accounts, and now some games and gaming systems allow for MFA. MFA includes biometrics (think face ID scans or fingerprint access), security keys, or apps that send you unique, one-time codes when you want to log on to an account. We recommend you use MFA whenever offered. It’s like building a castle around your loot crate!
4. Turn on automatic updates
We recommend keeping your gaming hardware and software as updated as possible. You don’t have to check your settings tab every morning, either. You can usually set up automatic updates so that updates are downloaded and installed as soon as they’re available from the device, software, or app creator. Note that you might have to restart your device for the updates to fully install. It’s best to do this immediately, but you can often schedule this to happen when you aren’t gaming, like the middle of the night (or perhaps the early afternoon).
5. Look out for phishing attempts
Cybercriminals often entice gamers into clicking bad links or downloading malicious files by offering cheats or hacks—this is known as phishing. Be wary of clicking on links or downloading from a stranger or that you weren’t expecting. If the offer seems too good to be true, chances are it is. Verify the link before clicking it by hovering over it with your cursor to see the link’s true destination.
6. Use a credit card for payments
If a gaming system requires you to tie a specific payment method to your account, choose a credit card over a debit card. Credit cards come with more consumer protections than debit cards, and you have a better chance of getting your money back in case of fraud.
7. Share with care
The more information you post, the easier it may be for a criminal to use that information to steal your identity, access your data, or commit other crimes, such as stalking. Think about how much personal information you provide on gaming account profiles. Err on the side of sharing less online. And if a stranger asks you to share this information, say no.
8. Game in disguise
Are you suiting up and playing with people you don’t know? They don’t need to know your real name or any other personal information—they just need to find out how awesome you are at the game. Use a safe username that doesn’t reveal any personal information, such as where you live or your name. In addition, use an avatar instead of your actual photo. If a stranger asks you to share a photo or to turn on your webcam, refuse. They don’t need to see you to play you!
9. Block anyone who makes you uncomfortable
If another player makes you uncomfortable, block them and tell a trusted adult. Remember that you can always kick a player out of the game if they’re being negative or otherwise making you uneasy. Every platform has a way to block and report users. For example, it’s simple to block users on Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch systems—you can do this by searching for the player’s profile and then selecting “Block”.
10. Review your settings
As soon as you get a new gaming console or try a new game, review the privacy and security settings and set them to your comfort level. Remember, many game makers default to the least secure settings, and you shouldn’t assume those default settings are configured to what you would like. Your game might default to sharing your behavior and location data with the manufacturer, for example. Think about what sort of data you’re comfortable with sharing.
Online gaming can be a fun way to spend your time, but it’s important to be aware of the potential risks involved. By following these 10 tips, you can help protect yourself from hackers and cybercriminals and safely enjoy your gaming experience.
Remember, always be cautious about what information you share online and be wary of any suspicious links or attachments. If you ever feel uncomfortable or unsafe while gaming, be sure to report it to a trusted adult. Following these precautions will help ensure your online gaming experience is a safe and positive one!