5 Things You Should Buy at Costco

About 1 in 5 products sold at Costco are the store’s Kirkland brand. According to Consumer Reports, some Kirkland products rate higher than premium brands. Here are four highly-rated Kirkland products and one other item you should be buying from Costco.

Bacon

Consumer Reports tested regular and thick-sliced uncooked bacon, precooked bacon and turkey bacon. Of all types and brands tested, only Kirkland Signature bacon was rated excellent. “It crisped up nicely and consistently and had balanced fat and meat flavors, complemented by wood smoke and a taste of sweetness,” the report said.

Mayonnaise

After you’ve stocked up on bacon, head over to the condiment aisle to pick up some mayo to make BLTs. Kirkland’s Signature Real Mayonnaise rated just as good as Hellmann’s in Consumer Reports’ blind taste tests. And, it costs 60% less.

Car batteries

Kirkland’s Signature 12866 battery, which is suitable for large Ford or Mercury cars, trucks or SUVs, aced nearly every Consumer Reports test. The $85 dollar battery almost beat out the top rated battery from Interstate, which costs $280. Consumer Reports rated all car batteries and said many Kirkland batteries performed very well in its tests.

Ice Cream

Kirkland Signature Super Premium Vanilla ice cream consistently rates 5 out of 5 stars, and Consumer Reports tasters called it “full and dense with a big dairy flavor and complex vanilla-extract flavor.” The Costco brand beat out premium brands like Breyers and Baskin Robbins, and because it’s typically sold in packages of two half-gallon containers, it’s much less expensive than Ben & Jerry’s – about 30 cents per serving, compared to $1 per serving for Ben & Jerry’s.

Eye glasses

Costco topped Consumer Report’s eyeglass store ratings, which was based on a survey of nearly 20,000 subscribers. Costco shoppers paid less for frames and lenses than those who bought their glasses from independent retailers, private physicians or specialty eyeglass stores like LensCrafters or Pearle Vision. The median Costco price for a pair of glasses was $186, compared to about $300 elsewhere.

The moral of the story, it might be time to think about getting that Costco membership. Or if you already have one, be sure to check out these products!

Article Source: Heather Anderson for CUInsight.com

5 Easy Ways to Cut Your Spending Dramatically

Trying to trim expenses can seem like a never ending task, as new expenses always pop out of nowhere. With already tight budgets, the task of reducing spending can seem impossible. You’ve already cut out your morning latte and canceled your gym membership – what more can you do?

Lowering your expenses is definitely a daunting task. While you’ll have to make sacrifices and get a little creative, it definitely can be done without cramping your lifestyle too dramatically.

Cut Up Your Credit Cards

Take a close look at your credit card collection if you have multiple cards, and decide which ones you should keep using and which ones you can cut up. First, note the interest rate for each card, and don’t use the ones that charge the higher rates. Obviously, it is ideal to be able to pay off your bill every month – but that isn’t always realistic depending on your situation. Second, take a close look at the rewards programs for each card. Such programs are becoming more and more competitive and can be a determining factor when deciding what your go-to card should be. Also, canceling credit cards can negatively affect your credit score as it lowers your credit to debt ratio. Consider literally cutting them up and forgetting about them instead of really canceling them.

Be Your Own Chef

Food is one of the biggest expenses we face and most people are guilty of spending too much on dining out. Don’t ignore this habit because the expenses can really add up. Cooking more at home can easily and drastically lower your spending.

But what if you hate cooking? Don’t worry, because you can still save. To mitigate this, cook once a week by meal prepping. Make a big batch of whatever you want and portion it out into multiple meals a week. When it’s time to eat, all you have to do is heat it up – even easier than going out.

Ride a Bike

Car maintenance and gym memberships can cost an arm and a leg. Why not kill two birds with one stone by riding a bike? Depending on where you work, riding a bike to your office could be a great option to get a workout in and save money on gas. Many big cities also now have bike sharing programs, which makes it even more convenient to ride wherever you need to go.

Reinvent Your Social Life

Socializing with friends takes time and money. Just having a single drink could cost up to $15 with tax and tip, which can really add up as the night goes on. However, there are plenty of inexpensive or free activities you can do instead. If you’re going out for drinks, consider meeting up during happy hour. While timing might not be ideal, it can cut your bill in half. Also, every city, big or small, has free events, especially during warm weather. So take advantage of them as the weather is warming up for the season.

Analyze Your Bills

Getting a bill is never a fun moment, but be sure to take a thorough look instead of quickly glancing through it. Many of us end up paying fees we don’t realize every month that could easily be avoided. Also, look carefully at your usage every month, particularly when it comes to your cell phone and utilities. Perhaps you could lower your texting plan if you’re not close to using your maximum for the month, while others can easily trim their data plans. Small details like these seem insignificant when you look at them individually, but everything can collectively make a huge difference in the long run.

Article Source: Connie Mei for Moneyning.com

Are Meal Delivery Services Worth the Money?

With almost $5 billion in sales in 2017 alone, it’s safe to say meal delivery services are catching on. If you haven’t sampled the savory selections from companies like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, or Home Chef already, you’ve probably seen more than a few of their sponsored ads pop up in your social media feeds. You may even know someone who uses the services for themselves. While these chef-designed, pre-packaged meals can be a phenomenal way to try new recipes, are they a solid choice for stretching your grocery budget?

According to a recent Morning Consult poll, 59% of survey respondents listed high costs as their main concerns. But with projections suggesting the meal-delivery industry could become a multi-billion dollar market by 2022, it seems like plenty of consumers are still willing to jump on the meal delivery bandwagon. The widespread appeal appears to be based on a variety of factors other than monetary savings.

Costs can be measured in more than money.

Meal delivery services enjoy the highest popularity among millennials and individuals earning more than $100,000 a year, particularly those living in cities. These results point to the fact that busy people appear to value time savings and food quality as much as, if not more than, financial savings.

Time Cost

There’s no denying that it takes time to plan your meals, create a grocery list, and actually shop for the food. By creating recipes and sending all the ingredients right to your door, companies like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh can save you the time you’d normally spend on planning and shopping. The busier you are, the more value this service becomes.

Quality of Ingredients
If saving money on your groceries is your main goal, it’s easy to reduce costs by buying lower-quality food. Unfortunately, this strategy usually leaves you with an abundance of processed foods that lack nutrition and flavor. The most popular meal prep services rely on culinary chefs to design meals that combine high-quality ingredients to create a meal that’s healthy and delicious.

Financial Expense

With the most popular 2-person meal plans starting at $60 per week for 3 meal kits, the cost averages $10 per meal. While you can certainly spend less shopping for yourself, these options are considerably less expensive than the average meal at a restaurant. So, if your busy schedule leaves you dining out on a regular basis, meal delivery services may provide financial savings after all.

What kind of savings do these services actually deliver?

There’s no denying the growing demand for meal delivery services. The fact that retail giants like Amazon and Walmart are looking to be part of the meal kit market, only serves to confirm its rising popularity.

As you try to decide whether one of these services is the right solution for you, the value depends on your expectations. If you’re looking to spend less than you would by planning your own meals and shopping for yourself, you’ll probably be disappointed. But if you view these services as a time-saving bridge between home-cooked meals and going out to eat at restaurants, the value is much easier to see.

What are your thoughts on meal delivery services if you’ve tried them, and the value they provide? Comment using the word bubble at the top of this blog post. We’d love to hear your feedback!

 

5 Ways to Save on Wedding Costs

If you’re currently planning a wedding, you may be experiencing sticker shock at how much it costs to say “I do.” According to a recent study conducted by online wedding planner The Knot, the average wedding cost was $35,329 in 2016. And that cost doesn’t even include the cost of a honeymoon, which could add several thousand dollars to that total.

According to a recent article by Buzzfeed, here are 5 smart ways to save on the cost of a wedding:

1. Don’t get married on a Saturday. Most venues charge much less for weddings on Friday night or Sunday, and even less for mid-week ceremonies.

2. Rent a home for the wedding and lodging. A fun new trend includes couples renting a huge vacation home for a few days and throwing a wedding house party. Bring in a caterer for a festive touch, so nobody is stuck on dish duty.

3. Get hitched on campus. Even if you and your fiancé didn’t attend the same alma mater, many universities have beautiful facilities you can rent for a fraction of the price of private venues. They also make excellent settings for photos!

4. Don’t serve a sit-down dinner. Hors d’oeuvres and/or cake and champagne are plenty, especially if you have a night wedding. And honestly, probably no one will miss the chicken or the fish.

5. Get married in December. Most places are beautifully decorated for the holidays, which means you will save on flowers and other decor. *This is true! First Financial’s VP of Marketing got married in December and the couple only needed to provide minimal decorations at the reception, being that it was already beautifully decorated for the season with Christmas trees, wreaths, poinsettias, and the like.

Article Source: Heather Anderson for Financialfeed

5 Ways to Throw Away Your Money

1. Paying credit card interest.
Make a plan to pay off your credit cards as quickly as possible, then set up reminders to pay them in full each month.

2. Utility Waste.
There is a really good chance you are wasting your utilities, such as water and electricity. Here are some energy and water wasters to keep in mind:

  • Leaving devices plugged in. Even if a device is switched off it can sometimes still draw power.
  • Poor insulation will cost you more money to cool and heat your home.
  • Using old and outdated appliances.

3. Paying for things that are free.
Making coffee at home is a great way to save money. Here are some other things you can get for free:

  • Water. Carrying a reusable water bottle is way more cost effective than paying for bottled water. (Plus drinking more water is good for your health).
  • Borrowing books, movies, and magazines from the library.
  • Free meals – sign up for birthday coupons. What a great way to treat yourself on your birthday!
  • Entertainment. Many cities embrace farmer’s markets, free museum days, and community sports games.
  • Perks and benefits through your workplace. Find out from HR if there are various discounts available through the company or your selected health insurance plan (i.e.: gym membership reimbursement).

4. Living above your means.
This is easy. Live by this motto: Spend less than you make (or a lot less than you make).

5. Paying for a gym membership you rarely use.
Do you spend money each month to have a tag on your keys with the name of the gym you send money to? Exactly.

Here are some more affordable options:

  • Ditch the gym entirely and workout at home. There are a ton of home workouts for free on YouTube.
  • Go on hikes! If you can, this is a free and scenic option.
  • Find a drop in gym where you can pay by the day.

Article Source: Robbie Young for CUInsight.com

 

5 Ways to Save at Theme Parks this Spring

Spring Break is coming up, and if you have kids – or you’re a kid at heart , you might be making plans to visit a theme park. But a day riding roller coasters and eating funnel cake can be very expensive. Here are some tips to save on your next theme park trip.

1. Go two days or more.
Most theme park price-per-day rates drop significantly when you buy two days or more. For example, according to an article earlier this year in The New York Times, it costs $89.99 to go to Busch Gardens once, but only $10 more to buy an annual pass that lets you visit unlimited times.

2. Buy tickets online.
Most parks offer a discount if you purchase tickets ahead of time on their website instead of showing up to buy tickets at the gate. At Six Flags Magic Mountain, a daily ticket costs $84.99 at the gate. But if you buy it online and pick your date, rates start at just $59.99.

3. Be flexible about your dates.
Sure, everybody wants to visit Disneyland on various holidays, but most parks hike up the price of tickets on their most popular days to avoid overcrowding. If you are willing to visit early in the season when school is still in session – especially on a weekday – you can save quite a bit. At Sesame Place theme park in Pennsylvania, between April 28 and May 25 – daily tickets are only $45, much less than the regular $75 price.

4. Use social media.
Follow your favorite theme park on social media and you may be lucky enough to snag tickets during flash sales. At the very least, you’ll be notified of special promotions and discounts.

5. Spring for fast passes.
Any deal that keeps you from waiting in line means you’ll spend more time enjoying the rides and less time standing in line. As much as theme park tickets cost these days, that’s important. Usually, the cost to upgrade is well worth the extra fun you get in return.

Article Source: Heather Anderson for www.financialfeed.com