Georgia's Own will be closed on Thursday, November 23rd and Friday, November 24th in observance of the Thanksgiving holiday.
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.
Back-to-school shopping: six tips to save big
It’s hard to believe, but it’s almost time to sharpen pencils, fill those backpacks, and send your student back to school! One of the most stressful parts of the back-to-school season is making sure your children get everything they need without breaking the bank…especially when each new school year often means a fresh set of supplies, clothes, or a new tech gadget—or maybe all three.
Amid soaring inflation, prices on all kinds of goods are up, and school supplies are no exception. According to the National Retail Federation, consumers are expected to spend record amounts for both back-to-school and back-to-college shopping this year. But inflation is not the only problem facing families this year—supply-chain shortages coupled with high consumer demand have been affecting online delivery speed and product availability in stores as well.
Despite these challenges, here are six easy ways to save money on back-to-school shopping this year:
1. Make a back-to-school budget
Before you start shopping, create a list of needs and put them in order from most important to least. You may not be able to cover everything right away—but creating this list will help you see what you need to tackle first. Once you have your list, create a budget for your back-to-school needs. Budgets are personal so you can set aside what amount you think is best for school supplies, create a category for clothes, and whatever else your student may need. As you set up your budget, you may want to take note of any monthly school-related expenses, like after-school care or club fees, so you can ensure they’re incorporated into your existing budget.
2. Shop online first
Some of the best deals on school items can be found online. Shopping online can also help you cut down those frivolous purchases that may result from wandering around the store. Another perk of online shopping are browser extensions that help you compare deals and potentially get additional savings. Extensions such as Honey and Rakuten track down the best deals. In addition to price comparisons, browser extensions often also automatically apply coupons at checkout or help you earn cash back while shopping online. Lastly, don’t forget to download mobile apps for your favorite stores. You can often find special offers, see store pickup options, and check out clearance items—all from the palm of your hand.
3. Use coupons while shopping in-store
If you can’t find what you need online and are heading to the malls, don’t forget to check for coupons to use in store. You can save money by finding coupons online or by checking those old-fashioned paper sales ads. It seems like a lot of work clipping or clicking and then keeping up with it all—but $0.50 here and $1.00 there really adds up. Some checking accounts, like Perks+ Checking, offer discounts and deals from both local and national retailers, which can help you save big, too!
4. Buy used when possible
Not everything can (or should!) be bought used, but the same goes for brand-new items. Sports gear is a great option to buy used, as well as electronics like refurbished computers or calculators. If your student is starting band, you may also be able to find used instruments. Consignment shops, garage sales, thrift stores, and Facebook Marketplace are all great options to find used items.
5. Shop with the right credit card
Whether you plan to shop online or in person, shop with a credit card that offers points or cash back. You’ll be able to earn rewards that may help defray the costs of heading back to school. Many cash-back credit cards offer an initial bonus for meeting a minimum spending requirement, but you may also earn rewards for each dollar you spend. Some credit cards earn you more rewards at places where you happen to purchase many of your school supplies, such as grocery stores or on Amazon. If you don’t already have one that offers these benefits, research and consider signing up before your next big shopping event.
6. Buy in bulk
For supplies that students need every year, like pens, pencils, or paper, considering buying them in bulk next time you stop by Sam’s Club or Costco. Purchasing these items in bulk as opposed to buying per unit is almost always cheaper, especially for large families. If you don’t have a lot of storage, consider splitting bulk packages with friends or neighbors so you can all take advantage of the savings.
Back-to-school spending is expected to reach an all-time high this year, with families of children in elementary through high school planning to spend an average of $890, while college students and their families are expected to spend an average of about $1,400 per person. Despite these high costs, following the above tips can help you save some cash while still setting your student up for success!
How to maintain your car without breaking the bank
When you purchase a car, new or pre-owned, you don’t necessarily factor in the cost of maintenance or repairs. Ensuring your car is in good, working condition helps keep you safe and extends the life of your ride. Routine maintenance keeps it running every time you step on the gas. So why do most people stall when caring for their vehicle?
Car maintenance isn’t cheap, and it’s somewhat inconvenient—especially in our hectic lives. Think about it, though. If your car breaks down on the side of the road, it’ll likely be more expensive and ill-timed than the alternative.
It’s smart to add a line item to your monthly budget and start planning your car’s recommended maintenance schedule. All maintenance doesn’t need to be done at the dealership, unless you have a new car with a warranty—those services must be completed by your dealership at the required intervals to maintain coverage. If you’ve purchased a used vehicle, or your car is no longer under warranty, it’s time to make friends with your local mechanic or even test out your own skills.
Here’s how you can maintain your car without breaking the bank:
Change your oil
Changing your oil is one of the easiest care requirements to follow. Check your owner’s manual to see the manufacturer’s recommendation, but the majority suggest an oil and oil filter change every 3,000 to 7,000 miles.
Consider checking out local high schools or technical schools that offer free or discounted oil changes carried out by their students. While you could attempt to do it yourself, it requires certain initial expenses, such as an oil drain pan, a jack, a jack stand, a funnel, and towels. Although doing it yourself may save you money in the long run, it poses environmental concerns and can get messy. If you prefer not to engage in DIY projects, use a coupon or Groupon before visiting a drive-through oil change shop.
Replace your air filter
Your air filter keeps dirt and debris out of your engine and should be changed every 15,000 miles. A technician will almost always ask you if you want it done while changing your oil, but it’s much less expensive to do it yourself. YouTube offers quick tutorials, and it’s an easy 15-minute DIY project that’ll save you some cash.
Change your brake pads
Now, changing your brake pads sounds a lot harder than it is. It requires an initial investment to buy the necessary tools, plus the cost for replacement pads. It might take a few extra hours to determine the process, but after the first time, you’ll be an expert. In the future, one afternoon is all it will take. You’ll also save hundreds of dollars over the life of your car, and you can put the money you would save into a high-yield savings account, like a CD or Money Market.
Replace your windshield wipers
Worn-out windshield wipers are not only frustrating, but they’re also dangerous. The cost to replace your wipers will vary depending on the type, length, and number of blades—don’t forget your rear wiper blade if your car has one. If you prefer, you can replace them yourself or visit an auto parts store and a technician will install them for free rather than having them professionally replaced. While you’re there, you may also want to refill your windshield wiper fluid. It’s a simple process and is as easy as pumping gas. Open the hood, locate the windshield wiper reservoir, and fill it until it reaches the full or max line.
Most cars have an indicator informing you when you’re low on fluid—if you don’t have this feature, you’ll need to show extra caution. Avoid activating windshield wiper fluid when the reservoir is empty. If there’s no fluid, the pump could overheat and fail, resulting in a not-so-cheap repair.
Flush the radiator
Keeping your car’s radiator coolant fresh is essential to maintain optimal performance and prevent overheating. Regularly flushing the coolant prevents rust build-up and keeps the metal engine components in top condition. You can perform a DIY flush at home using a flushing agent, new coolant, and distilled water. This will save you a considerable amount of money compared to taking it to a mechanic. It’s a smart investment in the long run.
Repair your flat tire
If you have a spare and some elbow grease, you don’t need to run out to buy a replacement tire or even pay for a tire repair. If you have some tools and a patch kit, you can save yourself at least $20 and maybe the cost of a new tire. Better yet, if your tire is underinflated and leaking air or completely flat, take it to a tire shop that will fix your flat for free.
Ensure your tires are always inflated to the appropriate pressure and rotated as recommended by the manufacturer. You’ll get greater fuel efficiency, and the tires will wear more evenly and extend their useful life. Check the shop where you purchased them since many offer free tire rotations. If you have a jack, it’s an easy DIY, too.
Diagnose your car for free
Is your check engine light on? When it is, it’s critical to find out why, but paying $75 -$100 for a technician to hook it up to a computer and spit out a report will only add to your frustration. Head to AutoZone or Advanced Auto Parts, and they’ll happily diagnose it for free. If it’s a fix that you can handle, you’re already at the store, so pick up the parts you need and get to work. It’s an answer and a solution in a matter of minutes.
At the end of the day, it’s important to keep up with scheduled maintenance and make the necessary repairs to your car as soon as they’re needed. An inexpensive repair can grow into hundreds or thousands of dollars when not addressed. With tons of information and DIY tutorials, there are many things you can do to save money, but don’t sacrifice the safety or the quality of your ride.
Wedding saving tips: what to do, what not to do, and how to budget
Wedding season is here, and for those couples on a budget, you may be wondering how to have a big day without spending in a big way. We have some tips on how you can create the perfect moment of matrimonial bliss without going over your budget (and maybe even while staying under it).
Consult the experts
By experts, we mean bridal magazines and websites. There is no shortage of resources available to you by professionals whose job it is to plan beautiful weddings for a small amount of money. Look for these tips and make a list of your own— compare and contrast ideas, see which suggestions pop up most often, and keep an open mind about solutions you might not have otherwise considered. A lot of the work is already done for you, courtesy of these publications, so get to Googling for the best tips.
Talk to your friends
The odds are high that you know of someone who has gotten married within the last year or two. This is the perfect chance for you to ask for their help. Neither of you has to share your budget if you’re not comfortable doing so, but they can give a better idea of current flower prices and which bridal salon is offering the best deals. They can also give you insider tips on locations and what they did to save their pennies beforehand. Everyone’s wedding has a budget—some of them may be large; others are small, but even the grandest wedding can be scaled down to fit your needs.
We don’t want to step on any toes but do take the time to consider your wedding day versus the rest of your life. While weddings are wonderful events, they are also the start to something much more wonderful: your marriage. Keep this perspective in mind as you make financial decisions for your big day. In ten years, will you still remember going with the less expensive catering service? If so, that’s okay—everyone has different priorities. But at the end of the day, the highlight for most couples is that they finally get to begin their lives together.
Choose a less popular day
Fun fact: Saturday evening weddings are by far the most expensive weddings. This is because Saturday evening is the most highly-desired ceremony time for many couples, and venues charge a premium for reserving these dates. Look for other options, like a Friday evening or a Sunday afternoon—this could save you nearly 20-50%. You can even take it a step further and get married in the middle of the week if you’re feeling really crazy. Be sure to avoid holiday weekends, as these also tend to drive up venue prices. Choosing a less popular day means choosing a less expensive day—and it all goes back to your budget!
Location, location, location
There are many gorgeous wedding venues in the area, but there are also a lot of equally beautiful options that don’t cost money to use. For instance, if some local friends have a large backyard, you might consider using it for either your ceremony or your reception. Do some research on how you could use your favorite park for your ceremony to keep the outdoor feel without the price tag. You can make any venue beautiful with some simple decorations, so look for the potential in each place you visit.
Don’t use so many fresh flowers
Flowers are wonderful and picking them out for your wedding is especially fun. Unfortunately, flowers are often expensive, too. Talk to your florist about adding a few fresh flowers to your bouquets and make the rest of them yourself out of silk flowers from your local craft shop. This combination will allow you to have a stunning look in your décor that keeps you well within your budget needs. Bonus: those silk flowers will last forever, which means you will get to keep your bouquet for as long as you want it. Or, if you don’t want to skip the fresh blooms, consider buying in bulk from a warehouse club and doing florals yourself.
If you have crafty friends, now is the time to call on them. Work together with your friends and wedding party to do some DIY projects as a group. You might be able to create your own invitations, make your own cake, and do your own makeup instead of paying a professional, which can add up to big savings. We know it’s a special day, so we aren’t asking you to break out a Betty Crocker box mix for your wedding cake—but you should consider looking for a local friend who could give you a break on the price of the cake if you choose a simple design.
Skip the limo ride
For many brides and grooms, it’s tradition to leave the reception in a big way. This might mean a ride in a limousine, or, if you’re super fancy, maybe a horse and buggy. Either way, consider skipping this step altogether to save a few hundred dollars. If you’re really set on not driving yourself to your post-reception destination, ask a friend to drive you, or look for a car service that offers options within your budget. Leaving in style is fun but having the extra cash to spend on your honeymoon is even better.
There are so many ways to make a wedding great without breaking the bank, so put on your thinking hat and look for creative ways to stay within your financial needs. Make a budget, decide which priorities are the highest for your big day, and plan to have an amazing, finances-friendly wedding that you will remember for years to come. But what should you do with all those savings? If you don’t already, consider opening a savings or Money Market account together, so you can get a head start on your financial goals.
5 money tips for new college graduates
So, you’re a college grad. Now what? Stepping into the real world can be scary, especially when you’re on your own financially. The mere thought of adulting is daunting enough—but don’t stress. Below are five tips for managing your money as a new college graduate:
1. Know the 50/30/20 budget rule
The thought of budgeting can be intimidating, and it’s hard to know where to begin. The 50/30/20 method is an excellent starting point, as the rules are pretty self-explanatory. If you’re unfamiliar with this method, you’ll start by dividing your after-tax income into three categories: needs, wants, and savings.
50% of your budget will be allocated for needs, like rent, groceries, transportation, utilities, and insurance. 30% of your budget will go towards wants, like shopping, gym memberships, dining out, or entertainment. Lastly, 20% will be set aside for savings, like an emergency fund or (eventually) a down payment on a house.
2. Practice small but good financial habits
Experts say it takes an average of 59 days to form a habit. So, for the next two months, start implementing small but good financial habits. Some examples:
- Monitor your accounts regularly. Set an alarm at the same time daily to review your accounts and ensure you know what money is coming in and what’s going out.
- Know (and monitor) your credit score. You’re entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the three credit bureaus. Georgia residents are entitled to two additional free reports each year. Many credit card companies also offer the ability to check your score for free on a more frequent basis (without impacting your score). These scores give a basic level of insight to your score, so it can vary between the models other lenders use. It’s still worth monitoring, though, because it can alert you to any significant changes.
- Pay off your credit card as often as possible (and for the highest amount possible). Credit cards have higher interest rates compared to other loans, so it’s best to keep your balance low and pay as much as you can.
3. Start saving for retirement ASAP
You’re never too young to start saving for retirement. Does your job offer a 401(k) with employer matching? If so, you want to take advantage of that, or else you’re leaving free money on the table. When an employer matches your contributions, they add a certain amount in addition to what you contribute (often up to a certain limit).
For example, your company may elect to match 100% of your contributions up to a percentage of your compensation. Let’s say your organization offers a 100% match up to 6% of your annual income. If you earn $60,000 per year, the maximum amount your employer will contribute is $3,600. To maximize this, you must also contribute $3,600 annually. If you contribute more than 6% of your salary, the additional contributions are unmatched.
This varies by organization, so it’s best to refer to your employee handbook for your company’s policy.
If your company does not offer retirement benefits, you can also invest in a Roth or traditional IRA. A Roth IRA allows you to contribute after-tax dollars to a retirement account, so your account grows tax free. With a traditional IRA, you contribute pre- or after-tax dollars, but your money grows tax deferred. You would then pay taxes upon withdrawal. If you’re unsure about which account works best for you, consider speaking with a financial advisor. Georgia’s Own offers consultations with a financial advisor at no cost and with no obligation.
4. Build your credit score
Having a good credit score is essential for many tasks you’ll tackle as a recent graduate, like renting an apartment or opening a credit card. Your credit score is determined by the following factors:
- Payment history: Whether you’ve paid past accounts on time
- Amount owed: How much you owe across all accounts (this is also referred to as utilization, which you want to keep below 30%)
- Length of credit history
- New credit: How often you apply for new accounts
- Credit mix: The variety of credit products you have (credit cards, auto loans, student loans, etc.)
If you don’t have a good credit score, there are a few ways you can build your credit. You should pay your bills on time and lower your debt. You should also leave any old credit cards open, especially if they don’t have an annual fee. Closing credit cards can ding your credit score. You may need to make a purchase every six months or a year—some lenders will close credit cards if they have been inactive for a period of time, with or without notice. However, if you’re paying a large annual fee to keep the card open, it may be worth risking a slightly lower score instead of paying tons of money for a card you don’t use.
5. Don’t rent outside your means
Social media makes it easy to keep up with friends—but it also makes it easy to compare ourselves to others. You may see your friends showing off their fancy new apartments or condos and think you need to do the same, too. But, housing is an enormous expense and could derail your budget if you live above your means. Let’s face it, you want to have the option to go to dinner with friends or see your favorite band in concert, rather than throwing most of your paycheck towards rent to keep up with the Joneses!
Typically, you should spend no more than 30% of your gross (pre-tax) monthly income on housing. That said, housing costs vary regionally. Evaluate your budget and income to determine how much you can comfortably afford.
Graduating college is an exciting time, but navigating the real world can be challenging, especially with new added financial responsibility. The decisions you make now will shape your financial future—but with the above tips, you can take charge of your money and be confident in your adulting abilities in no time.
5 ways to spring clean your finances
Spring is the time when many people start thinking about purging clutter—that sounds good to us. We suggest expanding that purge to reducing your paperwork, trimming your expenses, and boosting your savings. Sound overwhelming? Don’t worry, we’re here to help. Below are five tips to help you get a head start on spring cleaning your finances.
1. Cut spending
If it wasn’t one of your New Year’s resolutions, now is a great time to review your budget and see where you can tidy up your spending. Even if managing your budget was one of your resolutions, take the time to see how you’re doing so far. Are there other areas where you can cut spending?
Cutting the cord – The movement to replace cable or satellite service and opting for streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, is gaining momentum. If you already subscribe to a multitude of streaming services, evaluate your subscriptions and see which platforms you use the least.
Gym membership – If you have a gym membership, are you getting your money’s worth? If not, cancel it. There are other ways to burn those calories that don’t require a membership.
Cell phone – Consider changing your plan or even going pre-paid to free up some cash.
Dining out – Cook more meals at home, and pack lunches for work or school. Even though the cost of groceries has risen because of inflation, if you shop smart, you’ll still save money by prepping your meals at home instead of hitting the drive-thru.
2. Automate your savings
Saving is easy to forget, and money has a way of vanishing when it isn’t designated for a specific function. You have to be deliberate about saving to achieve your goals. By automating the process, you can put a plan in motion and let it take care of itself.
Round-up savings apps – Some apps will round up the change from each debit card transaction and deposit it into a savings or investment account. For example, swipe your card for $4.65, and $0.35 automatically gets transferred into a savings or investment account, depending on the app.
3. Set up automatic payments
Setting up automatic payments either through online bill pay or your service provider’s website (i.e., cell phone, credit cards, utilities, etc.) makes your finances more efficient and reduces the stress of remembering due dates or paying a late fee because you missed a payment. Keep an eye on your account to ensure you have sufficient funds to cover the automatic payments.
4. Organize or shred old documents
Reducing the clutter of old documents and paperwork can be refreshing—as long as you trash responsibly. The tips below can help you do it the right way:
Shred, don’t toss – Throwing old documents in the trash increases your risk of identity theft. Shred them in a shredder. If you don’t own a shredder, Georgia’s Own hosts shred day events for members to securely get rid of paperwork.
Tax documents – Don’t get too carried away with purging your documents. Remember, the IRS has up to six years to audit you. Hang on to tax returns and supporting documents for at least that long.
Scan or snap – If you’re unsure whether you’ll need a document, you can scan a copy to your computer or snap a photo of it with your phone.
5. Cut down on junk mail
One of the best ways to reduce paperwork is to keep it from ever showing up. You can opt out of pre-screened offers for credit cards and insurance at optoutprescreen.com. Less junk mail means less paperwork to shred.
Spam and subscription emails can also clog your inbox quickly. If you’re working on saving money, getting emails from your favorite stores advertising sales doesn’t help, either. A cluttered mailbox can be overwhelming, but unroll.me is a free tool that allows you to manage your inbox in one place.
- Manage your budget and cut spending where you can, like subscription services or gym memberships.
- Automate your savings to reach your goals and set up automatic payments to ensure you don’t miss bill due dates.
- Shred and organize old documents, and cut down on junk mail or clean your email inbox so you’re not tempted to spend when you should save.