Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Packaging, Schmackaging

My biggest pet peeve when I go shopping is excess packaging. Boxed snacks with little individually wrapped portions inside, shrink-wrapped flats of plastic water bottles, tiny toys in huge clam shell packaging with cardboard inserts, they all drive me nuts.

Although I see some small signs of change lately from manufacturers, there is still a lot of room for improvement. What can we do to send a message to manufacturers that we don't want this waste to continue?

-Email the manufacturers of your favorite products and ask them to make packaging that can be reused for something. Once upon a time, jelly came in juice glasses with a disposable top. After eating the jelly, you could drink out of the glass. Flour came in cloth sacks that could be used as dish towels. Let's bring this practice back.

-Buy staples in bulk and store them in reusable containers. When companies sell fewer of their over packaged offerings, they will have to change their ways or risk losing sales.

-Purchase the new, concentrated versions of things like laundry detergents, which come in smaller containers. Manufacturers actually prefer these nowadays anyway, as they help them to save on shipping costs.

-Find ways to reuse containers that products come in. Cat litter buckets can be used as planters after drilling holes in them, for instance. Remove labels from jars and coffee cans and use for storage. Plastic food trays or small boxes can be used to organize drawers.

-Give locally made handcrafted toys rather than the over-packaged plastic junk made overseas whenever possible.

-Buy a filter and filter your own tap water. Stop buying those ridiculous bottles!

-Purchase a used item. Yard sales and thrift stores are good places to buy household items that are still in great shape, and they usually don't have any packaging!

The practice of over packaging is not going to change overnight. After all, packaging is designed not only to protect the products we buy from damage and theft, but also to entice us to buy the products. However, with a clear message from consumers, and the pressure of increased shipping and packaging costs, change will eventually happen. In the meantime, don't forget to recycle any excess packaging you can't avoid!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Take Me To Your Loss Leader

What is a loss leader? A loss leader is a product sold by the store below cost. This is meant to get you in the door in the hope that you will buy other more profitable products at the same time. It also gets you in to the store more often thereby increasing the likelihood that you'll buy more stuff each time you're there. For instance, I usually only grocery shop once a month, but if there are some cheap sale items I need that week, I'll go again. The store only has a few of these items in their flyer each week, because they want you to come in on a weekly basis. Typically, loss leaders are found on the first or last page of a store's flyer. The price will seem unusually low to you. Better than the typical sale price.

In order to benefit from these extremely low priced items, you need to do several things. First, you must avoid the temptation to buy other items that are not available for a good price. Second, if the loss leader is an item you use regularly, you should buy as many as the promotion will allow. When something is on sale for a great price, and I am the only one in the family who uses the product, I will ask other family members to buy some for me too. Lastly, don't drive all over town to pick up one or two items that are on sale. That will just eat up all your savings in wasted gas. Plan to stop at each store when you will already be in the area on another errand. Try to plan the most efficient route to hit all your stops.

Don't forget, you can still use a coupon on these heavily discounted items to maximize your savings. If you don't have one already, check the online coupon sites. I usually just do a web search "coupon kraft macaroni and cheese" or whatever the product is. Make sure you check the date of the resulting hits. You will find some outdated ones too.

Hopefully, this post has inspired you to check your sale flyers, head to your nearest grocery store, and fling open the door, shouting "take me to your loss leaders!"

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Birthday Booty

Ok, I got your attention, but that's not what I meant at all. Get your mind out of the gutter! I'm talking about all the free stuff you can get from companies on your birthday.

If you like Starbucks, just register a gift card with them, and you'll get a free drink on your birthday. If you keep reloading and using the same card, you will earn a star with each visit. When you reach 30 stars, you will get a free drink every 15 visits, as well as on your birthday. There are other benefits too, which you can read up on at the website.

I like to browse around at this cool store called Anthropologie. It's expensive, so I rarely buy anything there, but I signed up for their club. Last year on my birthday they sent me a cool little sewing kit. This year they sent me the cutest necklace made out of a birthday candle. If you live near an Anthropologie store, you should sign up.

Join the email lists of all the restaurants you regularly dine at. Many of them will send you a coupon for a free dinner or dessert on your birthday. Sometimes they require that another meal be purchased, but you're probably not eating out alone anyway.

Ice cream chains such as Baskin Robbins, Coldstone Creamery and Dairy Queen typically offer a free cone on your birthday. This year with the economy being bad I got a buy-one-get-one coupon from Dairy Queen, which I thought was a little cheap considering those type of coupons are often found in the local paper anyway.

Check with all of your local movie theaters, since many of them offer a free movie or snack bar item on your birthday. If you rent movies, many of the rental chains offer a free rental on your birthday with membership.

Ski resorts typically offer a free lift ticket on your birthday (or a free ride for summer birthdays) and many golf courses give you a free round of golf.

Local bowling alleys will usually give you a free game on your birthday. They may require you to rent shoes, though.

Speaking of shoes, I found a coupon in my email from Payless offering me a 20% discount on a pair of shoes during my birthday month. Not a bad discount if you needed a pair anyway.

Someone just told me Krispy Kreme offers a dozen free doughnuts on your birthday. I hope so, since mine's coming up soon! I know Dunkin' Doughnuts gives you a free medium drink on your special day.

Don't forget to use your junk email address when you sign up for all these freebies. Otherwise, your regular email will be full of ads all year! Register with all the stores and restaurants you normally visit, and I promise when your birthday rolls around, you will have all sorts of offers!

If you know of any birthday freebies not mentioned here, please leave a comment and let us all in on them!