Monday, October 15, 2012

Make the Most of Loyalty Cards

A lot of people take advantage of coupons, but many retailers and restaurants try to entice repeat business by offering bonuses for loyalty.  These type of frequent user cards allow the consumer to get free or reduced priced stuff.

I am a frequent customer of Panera Bakery and Cafe, and they offer a reward program called MyPanera.  It is as simple as you could ask for.  All you need to do is sign up, and present your card whenever you buy anything at the restaurant.

You get a free item for signing up, another free item for your birthday, and depending on the number of times you present your card, you earn discounts and free stuff during the year.

This morning I got a dollar off a beverage, but in the few years the program has been in effect, I have received a lot of awards, including:

  • Free bagels, 
  • Free pastry, or a dollar off a pastry
  • $2.00 off a You-Pick-2 meal
  • Free coffees

It costs nothing to join, and if this is a somewhere you go regularly, can really save you money.

My advice to make every dollar count:   Sign up for the reward cards wherever you eat or shop.  There are a lot of free gifts to be had for a little loyalty.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Pay With Cash and More

A lot of financial planner types recommend using cash instead of credit cards.  Credit makes purchases very easy, sometimes too easy and leads to excessive spending.  (On that note, have you ever bought anything on credit at Target?  If it is under $25, it takes less time to swipe than it takes to bag the item, yet, the lines are still long.  Why is that?)

I want to take that a step farther:  Instead of cash, pay with change.  Pennies are best, as they are really difficult and a pain for both you and the cashier.  You really will resist the urge to spend if you have to painstakingly count out pennies.  But, that might be overdoing it. 

Quarters are too easy, it’s almost like spending dollars, and you will need quarters for vending machines (Not!) or laundry.  A good compromise is using dimes.  Easy to carry around but still an annoyance to use, which is what we want. 

Make sure you do use pennies to pay the odd cents that come up in every transaction.  If the price is $2.29 for that small latte, don’t pay with two dollar bills and three dimes.  Pay with one dollar bill, 12 dimes and nine pennies,  After the looks you get from the cashier and other customers behind you, you will think twice about going back there again. 

Money saved.   Cha-ching.

Pennies Become Dollars

I had a boss who used the expression “Pennies become dollars.”  It wasn’t that he was particularly miserly, it was that he felt that if you saved money on little things, it would add up to big savings over time.

I am not sure I agree with that statement totally, in that sometimes if you focus on little things, you sometimes miss the bigger opportunities.   I generally go with “Don’t sweat the small stuff” as a favorite saying.

That said, pennies can add up to dollars in the right circumstances.  If you don’t miss the big picture, focusing on each small transaction can save you money.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Order the Small Size at McDonald's

Do you want to start saving money?

The first tip is when you go to McDonald's. order the small size drink and fries.  They are cheaper, sometimes considerably cheaper. 

For instance, a small french fries is $1.00.  Medium or large is anywhere from $1.60 to $2.20.  Getting the small saves a buck, and is better for your heart.  Learn to enjoy the smaller version. 

Soft drinks are similar.  Small size is a buck, and the bigger vats will cost 50 cents to a dollar more.  If you really need more pop, go inside and help yourself to the free refill. 

This assumes they don't have the drink special in your location where all the drinks cost are the same.  I am a bit lost on that.  What's the point?  Who would order a small if the large is the same price?  People with small hands?  Small cupholders?  It's either brilliant marketing or very dumb. 

A word about combos.  Do the math, and in a lot of cases you are better off ordering a small fry and soda rather than "saving" on a combo.  Yes, you get more sugar and fat, if that's what you really want.  But, you will still save money if you get the sandwich from the drive-through and drink a bottle from home, or God forbid, drink water. 

The best answer when someone asks: "You want fries with that?"

Hell no.