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shopping

If you’re old enough to remember the 1980’s, then you’re probably old enough to remember a time when the Pepsi challenge was a prevalent marketing strategy. The idea behind the Pepsi challenge was that a Pepsi representative would set up at a shopping center or grocery store and provide samples of both Pepsi and its leading competitor, Coca Cola. A customer would sip each one and without knowing which one they were drinking, would comment on the beverage that tasted better. After years of running this campaign, it was determined that Pepsi was the clear favorite among American consumers and even till this day, Pepsi uses that information to their advantage.

Ultimately, Pepsi was offering you the option to buy what tasted the best, period. Not which bottle looks cooler, not which name sounds more recognizable and certainly not the one that gave you quantity over quality. These days, consumers don’t often buy the product that is simply the best for their needs. When it comes time to buy the Coca Cola or just “cola”, Kellogg’s or store-brand cereal, or even the BMW or the KIA, consumers put too much weight on the name of the product and not enough weight on the quality of the product.

It’s no secret that I like to save money at the grocery store, but even I fell into the trap of always buying name brand products in lieu of their generic counterparts. Strangely enough, my mind tells me that the products are well worth the extra cost, even though I have rarely ever tried the generic version. Because I am always looking for a good way to save a few bucks here and there, I decided that I would start buying generic products when the price was right and test them out myself. If the product tasted terrible or was unsatisfactory in any way, I would stick to the name brand version. However, if I couldn’t tell the difference, or hopefully it tasted better, I would stick with it and save pennies on the dollar every week, which would eventually add up to a nice chunk of change at the end of the year.

I started with cereals, then moved on to soups, canned vegetables, cookies and worked all the way up the frozen foods section. Why spend $4 per half gallon on Breyer’s ice cream when I could spend $3.29 on the Winn-Dixie version? After a few months of trying the generic version of almost every product I usually buy, I was pleasantly surprised at how many tasted just as good if not better. Sure there were a few that were downright uneatable, but the experiment had definitely worked in my favor. A few quick calculations showed that I saved around $7 per grocery store visit, which would save me hundreds of dollars each year. Pretty sweet.

But just as there were positives to this idea, there’s one glaring negative that really wasn’t that big of a deal to me but may be for some. Status and success in this world of ours is generally defined by our possessions, so in essence, the more cash, the more flash. The reason that the banker drives the Mercedes and not the Jeep has little to do with the overall performance and features of the car, as I’m sure you can find almost any feature in any model these days and more to do with the name brand itself. Let’s be real here people, if I were going to trust my money to an accountant, would I want him driving a low-end automobile, or a high-end automobile? Sounds a little conceited but it is what it is.

So when I would entertain friends and family and they wanted a Dr. Pepper, I would hand them a Dr. Chek. When they wanted Tostitos and Salsa, I would hand them a bag that said “Corn Chips” and the generic version of Salsa. Immediately the conclusion was drawn that I’m struggling to make ends meet and I can’t afford the good stuff and no matter how hard I tried to convince them that this, in fact, was the good stuff, it didn’t matter.

You won’t find me wearing designer jeans, shirts or shoes because I’m always the guy with the Target dress shirts for $9.99 and the discounted sneakers for $19.99 but I NEVER let price get in the way of quality or comfort. Buying generic at the grocery store, clothing store, furniture store, car dealership and plenty of other places can save you hundreds if not thousands every year. Give it a shot and I promise you won’t be disappointed.

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BestBuy-BlackFriday
I am all for people getting a good deal on things like LCD TV’s, BlueRay players and the like but this black Friday thing is a little insane to me. Every year my wife drags her self out of bed at 3am or earlier and preps for the impending war of the shoppers. Leaving the house she has been out in line for hours to get a hot deal on a TV. Personally I don’t like the hassle of the whole ordeal and would much rather sit at home and pay the extra $100 for whatever it was that got everyone so hot and bothered on the day after Thanksgiving.

Black Friday is notorious for bringing out the crazy’s. You may remember last year there was a stampede at a New York Walmart that left one man dead and a pregnant lady injured. These types of things just further solidfy my stance against this madness that is black friday. The only reason I don’t like black friday is because of the hassle and the crowds. I hate nothing in the world more than crowds of people packed together tightly. It makes me nervous.

There are definitely some good deals out there on this the not so largest shopping day of the year. That is right folks, black friday is not the biggest shopping day of the year. It is hard to believe with the long lines and crazy anticts but the largest shopping day of the year seems to fall  much later than the day after Thanksgiving. The myth busting site Snopes.com has a great table showing the actual largest shopping days from 1993-2002. In each of those years the actual busiest shopping day was around December 20.

If you are planning to brave the masses there are plenty of sites out there now that have posted “leaked” black friday ads. Most notably I tend to check out bfads.net, my wife recently informed me of tgiblackfriday.com which also lists the upcoming deals. Don’t count solely on these ads as things can change before they make it to print. The only way you can be certain of what is on sale is to go out and pick up that 200 lb newspaper on Thursday and browse through the ads.

Are you planning on hitting the sales on Friday? If you are what is the one thing you are hoping to grab at the best deal? I am going to be hanging christmas lights all day so pray I don’t fall off the ladder.

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When I wrote my post on Five Ways to Save on Groceries, I briefly touched on the fact that Wal-Mart provides you the opportunity to do all of your of your shopping in one place and still utilize sales from other stores.

As many of you may know Wal-Mart does not always have the lowest price on the things you buy every day. The great thing about Wal-Mart though is that they will honor the sale prices at any stores in the immediate surrounding area. That is the first catch, you can’t try to match the price to a piggly wiggly in Alabama when you live in Tennessee.

They will match the advertised price from any competitor provided it is the same item in both places, you can’t match Tyson chicken to Sanderson Farms. I find it works great for things like chicken breasts, and pork chops. It really helps because generally each of the different stores will run their sales different weeks. That way you can get the same sale price, at the same store, two weeks in a row. The key to this is timing the sales and purchasing enough of the sale product to last until the next sale date.

The more you track the prices you are paying for groceries, including sale items, the more you will notice a cyclical nature in the pricing of products. Once you have this cycle figured out you can easily plan your meals and amounts of products you will need.

An added advantage to Wal-Marts low price guarantee is you can use it on items other than groceries. If you see a killer sale for your favorite video game at Best Buy but know that it is going to be crazy packed you could just swing over to Wal-Mart, toting your trusty ad, and price match to get the same price as all those people waiting in line.

There is an art to pulling off the price match so that you can cause as little disruption in the check out process as possible. You aren’t going to be able to price match every item in your cart so set the items you do wish to price match off to one side. When you have placed everything else onto the belt put your price match items on the belt and put your ad on top of the items.  This makes makes your intentions clear to the checker and ensure you don’t confuse them by trying to throw the items in in the middle of the madness. When they reach your items politely advise them you would like to do a price match for the items and show them the advertised amount on the ad. In my experience this usually results in a blank stare and silence. After they ask one or two people they will find someone who actually knows how to do it and they will come over and ring up your items.

Things they won’t match

Other Store’s Store brand items

Milk

Beer/alcohol

Other than those three things I have never had a problem price matching, and yes I really did try to price match a 12 pack of Miller Lite. Do you have you own experience with Price matching? Leave a comment and let us know.

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Comparison Shopping – A Real Life Example

April 28, 2009

You always hear people tell you to make sure you shop around before you buy anything. Most people equate this experience to things like buying a car or a new TV. If you are anything like me then you probably don’t do it as much as you should. Comparison shopping works just as well for […]

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My First Experience Shopping at Aldi

April 20, 2009

After writing my post on Store Brand vs. Name Brand I have been dying to get into the Aldi that opened just down the road from us in March. Yesterday  I had my first opportunity to visit and here is a little bit about Aldi and an explanation of my experience there. About Aldi Aldi […]

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