Posted on 1/31/2012 15:40 EST
Knowing when to purchase what can mean big savings throughout the year. Savvy shoppers take advantage of two major, and related, trends: seasonal shifts and post-holiday efforts to clear out inventory. In February, with winter halfway over, retailers want to get rid of their seasonal merchandise -- anyone who needed a winter coat has probably already bought one, right? Also, stores usually have a lot of electronics left over from the holidays and need to make room for new gadgets, so now is a good time to upgrade. Read on for a full rundown of February deals.
TVs and Home Theaters.
With Black Friday and Christmas long past, retailers advertise cheap LCD TVs
and home theaters
for yet another national "holiday": Super Bowl Sunday. Game day couples with January's Consumer Electronics Show to spur retailers toward February deals on things like HDTVs, speakers, surround-sound
systems, and other components to clear out inventory and make room for new models shown at CES. Snap up a 3D TV
on the cheap and make your Super Bowl party the hottest ticket in town.
Like TVs, point-and-shoot digital cameras
see a round of price cuts in February after the holiday rush and CES. Amid technological advances and a wave of new models, retailers will be itching to sell off the old ones. If you're a budding photographer who has always wanted to own a digital SLR, look for February deals on our picks for best cheap DSLR camera
Video games are usually released in early winter, just in time for holiday gift-giving
. Wait until February, though, and even the newest and hottest video game titles should be discounted. For savings year-round
, check eBay or Craigslist.
Coats and Cold Weather Gear.
With winter coming to an end, now's the best time to scoop up coats, outerwear, gloves, scarves, hats, and sweaters. Cold weather accessories are an especially good buy because styles don't change much from year to year. This far into the season usually means huge markdowns on coats and jackets, so take advantage of February deals and pick up next winter's coat today.
Air Conditioners and Humidifiers.
Who wants an air conditioner when it's freezing cold out? Well, smart shoppers do. The winter months are the best time to buy a budget air conditioner
because no one needs more chill in the air. Low demand for AC units leads retailers to offer February deals to move units out the door. Another bargain worth snapping up is a cheap humidifier to counteract the skin-drying
effects of winter air and indoor heating. One easy-to-find
cheap pick is the Crane EE-5301 Cool Mist Humidifier
Bicycles and Motorcycles.
Slick streets and icy winds deter most people from hitting the road on two-wheelers
, so sales of bicycles and motorcycles slow during winter. Take advantage of the lull and buy your bike at the best prices you'll see all year. Already have a bike? February is also a good month to get it serviced for cheap.
Just in case you're yearning for a yacht, the winter off-season
boat shows make February the right month to buy a boat. Dealers may offer discounts and deals to entice buyers, so be ready to bargain, whether at a boat show or on the showroom floor.
Foods in Season.
Eat seasonally, proclaim the food gurus. And what a feast you can find this time of year. Winter fruits and vegetables include oranges, grapefruit, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, and sweet potatoes. Enjoy these February deals while they're plentiful, fresh, and reasonably-priced
. Check Epicurious
map to see what's freshest in your area and try out new recipes, like Rachel Ray
's Brussels sprouts with bacon or the Korean spicy fermented cabbage dish called kimchi
Like a kid in a candy store, chocoholics can satisfy their chocolate cravings on the cheap after Valentine's Day. Raid the candy aisle to find enticing February deals on Valentine's Day packages as retailers try to clear the holiday stash. And don't be afraid to stock up -- chocolate lasts for several months when stored in a cool, dry spot. Our picks for best cheap chocolate
: Cadbury Royal Dark Chocolate and Lindt Lindor Truffles.
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Posted on 1/30/2012 22:12 EST
Football draws large crowds on a regular basis, but no game attracts as many spectators as the Super Bowl. The National Retail Federation expects 173 million to tune in on Sunday and spend an average of $63.87 on related merchandise -- an all-time high. Whether you're a Giants fan, a Patriots supporter, or someone who watches only for the commercials, you can use our Super Bowl tips to save on everything from food and drinks to a new TV.
Super Bowl 2012 Official Logo
Super Bowl Food.
The National Restaurant Association predicts that 48 million Americans will order food via carryout or delivery for this year's big game, according to Super Bowl Ads for Geeks, and nearly 12 million will go to a bar or restaurant to watch the game. This practice can get pricey. Cut Super Bowl food costs by enjoying the game at home with a group of friends instead.
The folks at ZipList, the recipe discovery and grocery shopping app, have put together an Ultimate Super Bowl Checklist for frugal football fans. In addition, they offer these Super Bowl shopping tips:
- Shop for non-perishables such as soda and chips. They're cheap to begin with and they're likely to be on sale this week.
- Don't buy pre-made Super Bowl food such as dips or pre-cut vegetables. You'll save a few extra bucks by cutting up your own veggies and fruits and mixing your own dips using low-fat sour cream or yogurt as a base.
Another service, eMealz, can help you plan for Super Bowl 2012 too. The site was created as a meal-planning
resource to help busy parents simplify their dinners, organize their days, and save money on groceries. Users report an average of 30 percent savings on weekly groceries using eMealz. Users who sign up for the service this week get a free Super Bowl menu with cooking directions and a shopping list of ingredients. Some Super Bowl food items include "EZ Meatballs" and buffalo chicken dip with French bread and celery sticks.
"Actually constructing the grocery list based on a planned menu helps avoid overspending and adds confidence while spending. You know you have everything you need to prepare the dishes you've chosen to serve. 'You plan, you save' is the motto," says Forrest Collier, CEO of eMealz. "Most people throw parties without a budget and just start pulling it together without really knowing what the 'damage' will be. This gives you a great place to start and actually knowing how much you'll spend. Then you can decide if you want to embellish with drinks or even more food."
If you'd like to go it alone, Personal Finance Journey's Super Bowl tips include some budget staples for any Super Bowl party:
- Deviled eggs (less than $3)
- Chips & salsa ($4 to $5)
- Vegetarian chili (around $5 for eight servings)
Popcorn is another crowd-pleasing snack that's easy, tasty, and cheap. You can also choose to host your Super Bowl party as a potluck. That way you don't have to provide all the food -- your friends can bring their favorite dishes, too.
Super Bowl Beverages.
Watching the Super Bowl often means tossing back a few cold ones, and this is where the cost tends to get out of hand. To get game-day
drinks on a budget, ZipList recommends hitting up your local state-run
liquor store (if you have one), where prices are usually cheaper than at the grocery store. Super Bowl tips at Party Bluprints Blog include narrowing your beverage options to three items -- a wine, a beer, and a non-alcoholic
drink -- and buying them in bulk. That way you don't spend a small fortune trying to please everyone's taste. Of course, the cheapest option is to make your Super Bowl party BYOB -- surely your guests won't mind chipping in with their drinks of choice.
Super Bowl Viewing.
A home viewing system is a great expense and one you should consider carefully, rather than invest in on a whim ahead of the big game. If you could use an upgrade ahead of a Super Bowl viewing party, Cheapism has recommendations for cheap LCD TVs
and cheap home theater systems
. While retailers may not offer discounts as large as we saw during the holiday shopping season, there are bound to be some better-than-average
deals this week.
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Posted on 1/27/2012 12:10 EST
If your post-holiday credit card bill came as an unwelcome surprise, check out the tips we posted this week on how to hop back on the frugal bandwagon. Learn about money-saving strategies and smart ways to plan for upcoming events (think Valentine's Day, birthday parties) that can help keep your spending on track.
Chocolate possesses qualities that many people find hard to resist -- and living on a budget is no reason to forego this indulgence. Our hunt for the best cheap chocolate
turned up several high quality products, in bar and bonbon or truffle form (and sold in boxes). We also researched so-called
variety chocolates enhanced by flavors and mix-ins
, like nuts or fruit. A price ceiling of $4 for 3.5 ounces of bar chocolate and 75 cents for a bonbon or truffle can still ensure a rich and satisfying chocolate high.
New Blog Posts.
Kids' Birthday Parties.
From the cake to invitations and decorations, a kid's birthday party
can end up costing a pretty penny. Read our tips on hosting a frugal birthday party so when the big day looms on the calendar, you'll be armed with a few money-saving
tricks that will guarantee a memorable birthday.
Frugal Month Challenge.
We're daring you to take a frugal month challenge
: Pick a month and cut out all excess spending -- from restaurants and coffees to gifts and clothing. No treats for you, except what's left in your bank account at the end of the month.
Save on Coffee.
A daily cappuccino may seem like a small splurge, but over the course of a year this treat could be costing you several hundred dollars. Check out our tips on cutting your coffee costs
-- or cutting your coffee habit altogether.
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Posted on 1/27/2012 11:45 EST
If you've ever seen the MTV show My Super Sweet 16, then you know about the parents who spare no expense to indulge their child's every desire for one birthday party extravaganza. And judging from our research, this kind of out-of-control spending doesn't break out just for the Sweet 16, but for every birthday party leading up to it. Yep, we read about a themed birthday party for a child turning five that included pony rides, a rented merry-go-round, giant inflatables, hired magicians, and, well, more, for a total cost that reached upwards of $6,000. Umm, as frugal consumers, we'll pass.
If you're one of those parents who aren't interested in keeping up with the Joneses, spoiling your children, or frittering away a good portion of your life savings, here are some ways to reign in the cost of a kids birthday party.
1. Set a budget and stick to it.
It's always a good idea to set a budget for any event, but a kids birthday party can easily spiral to new heights. Knowing the size of the kitty goes a long way toward helping you stand your ground as you peruse the party store with all the tempting knick-knacks
2. Make the invitations yourself.
An easy and cheap birthday party invitation idea is this: Choose the cutest picture of your child, get it developed in a 4x6 size, and request as many copies as the number of invitations to be sent. Print the birthday party details on 4x6 paper (or lay out the information four times on a desktop document, print on a regular sheet of paper, and cut apart), stick the info on the back of the photos using double-sided
tape, and you're done: Cheap kids birthday party invitations for half the cost of having them made by the local copy shop.
3. Host the party at your house.
According to The Digerita Life
, hosting a kids birthday party at a venue can cost hundreds of dollars, an unnecessary expense when you can organize a party at home for free.
4. Limit the guest list.
If want to save money by hosting a cheap kids birthday party at your place but you're really concerned about space, limit the guest list to the number of people (kids and adults) who will comfortably fit. The birthday party is for your child, after all, so think about who has an impact on his or her life. Include their closest friends and your immediate family, but when it comes to acquaintances and assorted relatives, think real hard whether you really need to invite them.
5. Don't serve a meal.
The best time to host a cheap kids birthday party is during the afternoon -- after lunch and before dinner. This way the youngsters aren't too tired or cranky and you don't have to serve a full meal. You can get away with putting out a few snacks for guests to nibble on.
6. Cook/bake yourself.
When it comes to food, don't have it catered -- make it yourself, and that includes the birthday cake. There are plenty of online tutorials that show you how to create a cake that will wow the children. An example is Disney Family Fun
, which stores hundreds of birthday cake recipes and DIY tutorials on decorating an animal, princess, sports, and other themed birthday cakes.
7. Find cheap supplies and decorations.
Costco, Sam's Club, BJ's, and other warehouse stores are excellent sources for plates, plastic ware, table cloths, and snacks. Outlet party stores have more birthday-party
themed gear, and superstores like Walmart also stock cheap kids birthday party supplies. Don't forget to check out the local dollar store where you may be able to load up on birthday party balloons.
8. Decorate with what you have.
Get creative with the resources already on hand. If you're throwing a 1st birthday party for your child, try this: Pick out a favorite onesie from each month of their first year. Use a clothesline and clothespins to string them in size order. Clip a picture of your baby wearing each one next to the onesie. Guests will love seeing how your child has grown over the past year, and it makes a much more memorable decoration than balloons and streamers.
9. Don't hire entertainment.
We really like MSN Money Central's
idea of an arts and crafts station instead of hiring birthday party entertainment. Have little guests paint or create something on their own, which will keep them entertained for a bit and give them a sense of accomplishment.
10. Make table decor double as favors.
What kid doesn't love candy? Stock a glass jar with candy and let each child take some home as a birthday party favor. If you have baby food jars lying around, all the better -- fill them with jellybeans and suckers for pretty pops of color and let guests take a jar home as a cheap and useful birthday party favor.
Have you planned a cheap kids birthday party before? What are your suggestions?
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In this economy, most everyone is on a budget and looking for ways to save money. And while the holidays provided a festive reprieve from the daily grind, as a rule of thumb they aren't good for your wallet. With January comes the return to real life, which often means living on a tight budget.
So here's our New Year's offering to you: The Frugal Month Challenge.
An article in The Washington Post: The Root DC
that suggested a No Buy/No Spend Month to help clear out credit card debt sparked this idea. Here's how it works: Save money by going an entire month without buying anything other than the bare necessities of everyday life. This means you pony up for your house/apartment, monthly utility bills, groceries, and gasoline/public transit, but that's it. No dinners out, no trips to the salon, no shopping, no toys for the kids, no smartphone apps or music downloads, no cappuccinos or lattes -- nothing, even if you spot a great sale.
The author of The Washington Post article reports that this no buy/no spend rule regularly saves her $400 in the months she takes the plunge. And she's not the only person to suggest or live a frugal month. The family behind Learning the Frugal Life
is just finishing up the fourth year in a row of a similar January challenge. Last year the family saved $754 by forgoing allowances, turning off lights, timing showers, and adhering to the other no buy/no spend tenets.
Pick a Frugal Month.
If you haven't been particularly frugal this month, there's always February -- it's only 29-days long (leap year!) and almost upon us. But Valentine's Day falls in February, so if you want to wine and dine your significant other, look beyond to March. That's as good a time as any to accept the challenge -- no big holidays to throw you off your stride. The point is, pick a month and go for it. If you can't commit to an entire month of frugal living, try taking it a week at a time; same rules apply. And then reach higher and try living frugal one week every month for the next four months.
The goal, obviously, is to save money, but also to take stock of, and appreciate, what you already have. Moreover, abiding by the spirit of the challenge means you should take care not to overcompensate in the month before or the month after. It won't do you any good to plan the frugal month challenge for February and then run out and shop till you drop the last week of January. Nor, as Inexpensively
points out, should you plan on a shopping-crazed
week in early March. Nope, this is not frugality.
What You Can Do.
Despite the ban on spending money for an entire month, you can still live a normal life. Frugillionaire
suggests borrowing books from the library instead of buying them, packing your lunch instead of visiting the local diner, and brewing your own coffee at home or at your desk instead of stopping by the coffee shop or office bar during the day. Budget-friendly
activities abound in every community, and a previous Cheapism blog post
provided several ideas to keep the kids entertained for free while allowing you to save money.
Inspired to live a frugal month? Pick a month and start saving -- and let us know how it goes!