Comparison Shopping in the Modern World

comparison shopping Marilynn Dawson budgetingComparison Shopping: Discovering the benefits and differences of a product or range of products before making a purchase.

The art of comparison shopping has saved many people money, and it can save you money too! If you’ve never done it before, this is typically how I do it:

1) Know exactly what you’re after. Sometimes figuring out exactly what you’re after is a step all by itself if you were told by a doctor or friend or co-worker or family member that you really should get such and such because you need/want it for some particular reason. In the old days, as recently as the ’80’s and into the ’90’s even, this step was accomplished by walking, biking or driving downtown and checking out the stores that might contain what you thought you were after. Occasionally this step meant stopping a store worker and asking them where to find something, only to be told it was referred to by a different name. Once you knew the exact name of what you were after, you could assess if it was what you were told about, or if you had to keep looking.

These days, figuring out exactly what you’re after can take place online using search engines and search functions of favourite stores or manufacturers’ websites. Sometimes an email or click of the live chat button is still required to figure out exactly what you’re after, but this step in today’s world can be far less time-consuming and far less of a drain on your gas tank.

numbers money calculating calculation2) Have a budget in mind. You didn’t expect to come across an article like this on THIS blog without some mention of that all-important financial word, did you? Once you know what you’re looking for, build an understanding of how much this product typically costs and assess whether or not it can fit into your budget right now. If the price is all over the map, ask yourself why? Sometimes the item can come in different sizes, quantities, quality, list more or fewer benefits, come with sales, deals, add-on’s, member-only pricing, etc. Narrow down the criteria you are after, then compare pricing to your budget again. If you only have a certain dollar value you can put toward the purchase, this will narrow the field all by itself. You may have to choose between quantity and price, or quality and price, just as two examples of the decisions you may have to make.

Shopping decisions3) If you are shopping solely online, you also have to factor in shipping. Compare the cost of purchasing online versus going to the local offline store to get it yourself. Is there enough of a price difference between in-store and online to warrant paying the additional shipping charges, or is it cheaper to drive down there instead? Depending on what you are shopping for, this answer will vary, particularly when considering outlets where it may be purchased.

An example of this kind of shopping from my own life involves looking at adrenal support. For more than 10 years, I suffered from adrenal fatigue without knowing it, and it finally caught up with me in a bad way in May of 2013. Adrenal health books and advice from the local natural healthfood store led me and family to a range of products to get my healing kicked off to a solid head start. Two of those products were 5-HTP and later when my budget didn’t allow for 5-HTP, swapping to L-Tryptophan supplements instead, and products containing it.

One of the local stores I can drive to in town also has a website where I can buy this online. Out of curiousity, I looked up these products on their website and found the following:

NOW FOODS 5-HTP 60caps 200mg Tyrosine NEW ROOTS L-TRYPTOPHAN 220MG 90 VC NOW FOODS 5-HTP 60caps 200mg Tyrosine $32.99

NEW ROOTS L-TRYPTOPHAN 220MG 90 VC $14.99

I added them to a shopping cart to check out what the shipping would be like, and learned it would cost $10.00 to have them shipped to me for a total cost of: $57.98

I could drive to the local store, spending roughly $5 of gas round-trip, and save myself roughly $5.

However, what if I didn’t live here where this store is available, and my only option was to get it online? There are so many stores online to choose from! I’d originally been curious if the local store had the NOW version of L-Tryptophan because I’d found it on another online store. Unfortunately, they don’t, so my comparison shopping couldn’t give me an exact comparison. A different store however, did, but not the same quantity.

NOW FOODS L-Tryptophan 500 mg 60vcaps $13.59NOWFOODS L-Tryptophan 500mg

Shipping at that location was $9.99 to get this product to my door.

The online store where I found both NOW FOODS items was over at Tripleclicks. How did vendors there compare? (DISCLAIMER: I am an affiliate for Tripleclicks https://www.tripleclicks.com/17849708.99 and will receive a small reward if you purchase through the next couple links)

 tripleclicks.com

L-TRYPTOPHAN NOW FOODS — CA$26.46 (Save 4%!)

L-Tryptophan supports relaxation

Pharmaceutical grade (USP)

Vegetarian formula

L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid important in human nutrition for the synthesis of…

L-TRYPTOPHAN NOW FOODS

L-Tryptophan supports relaxation

Pharmaceutical grade (USP)

Vegetarian formula

L-Tryptophan is an essential amino acid important in human nutrition for the synthesis of melatonin and serotonin, hormones regulating sleep, positive mood and immune function. As an essential amino acid, it is not synthesized by the body and must be obtained from the diet. NOW L-Tryptophan is pharmaceutically pure–every lot is tested to be free of Peak E and microbial contamination. Contains no sugar, salt, yeast, wheat, gluten, soy, milk, egg, shellfish or preservatives.

500 MG, 60 V-CAPS

21
USD
InStock
 ************************************
Shipping on this product costs $10.08 from this vendor.
 tripleclicks.com

5-HTP, 200 MG, 60 V-CAPS NOW FOODS — CA$31.49 (Save 26%!)

Neurotransmitter Support

Supports Positive Mood

With L-Tyrosine

5-HTP, the intermediate metabolite between the amino acid L-tryptophan and serotonin, is extracted from the…

5-HTP, 200 MG, 60 V-CAPS NOW FOODS

Neurotransmitter Support

Supports Positive Mood

With L-Tyrosine

5-HTP, the intermediate metabolite between the amino acid L-tryptophan and serotonin, is extracted from the bean of an African plant (Griffonia simplicifolia) . Contains no sugar, salt, starch, yeast, wheat, gluten, corn, soy, milk, egg, shellfish or preservatives.
200 MG, 60 V-CAPS

24.99
USD
InStock
 ************************************
 Shipping on this product was not listed. Normally shipping is listed in the product’s right-hand sidebar if it is being charged to the customer.

So the total cost of ordering both these items from Tripleclicks would be: $68.03. That’s roughly $11 more than getting similar products from the website of a local store. It’s $2 more if I bought one from the local website and the other from another website and paid shipping at both. So for an extra $2 more, if I was living in a small town without a local affordable health food store, I could get both products from one place.

Fortunately for me, I can save myself $15 by driving down to the local store. Comparison shopping needs to take all these details into account, or all it becomes is expensive window shopping. Remember what I’ve said in the past, that a few minutes spent with a calculator can mean the difference between a runaway budget, and having funds to spare at the end of the month. Because I am an affiliate for Tripleclicks, if I chose to add these to a standing order, I’d pay an even cheaper rate than the retail member prices I already shared. Yes, all the stores I did my research at had both member and “regular” prices, offering the guest visitor the better of the two prices assuming they wanted to become a member of course. I also quoted you Canadian prices, because I am Canadian and interested in doing my comparison shopping in my own currency.

4) That’s actually a point worth making because of the international nature of online shopping these days. Always ensure the website you are on is showing you their prices in YOUR country’s currency! Your efforts will be meaningless and quite unhelpful if you don’t at least have a conversion site up helping you make sure you are comparing prices online to what you might buy at your offline store.

5) Member pricing goes a long way when comparison shopping! Take Amazon for example. As a Prime Member, you can eliminate shipping altogether on orders over certain amounts, or ask for shipping to be expedited to within 2 days of your order. This is only available in certain countries of course, but membership has its perks! You could continue today’s illustration by searching for the above two items there and comparing brand, quantity, price etc. just as I did for the three sites linked to here. I am an affiliate of Amazon’s as well, but I’m not too happy with how they are doing things these days, so I’m not as keen to take a piece of their pie at the moment. However, if you wish to use my affiliate link I’ll start you at my course for budgeting:

From any of those links, you can continue today’s example, or do your own comparison shopping for something entirely different.

So what are those points again?

1) Know exactly what you’re looking for, and get help narrowing that down if required.
2) Have a budget and stay within it.
3) If comparison shopping online, factor in shipping costs.
4) If comparison shopping online, be sure you are getting prices in your own currency.

Always settle on the location that will give you the best price for the quantity and quality you are after. Sometimes your budget will have you settling on price more than quality or quantity. If you are in that boat, don’t be upset by it, but work within it to make life easier in the long run. If you have the money, settle more for what gives you the best quality for your money. Lastly, remember that membership has its perks. You could save yourself even more money simply by signing up at the site of your choice as a member. Not all online stores work this way, but many do and more are coming onboard with the idea in order to get and retain customers. Use it to your advantage when you find it!

6 Habits of the Wealthy – a Low Income Perspective

I read an interesting article on CTV News last night!  The lady was talking about the attitudes of the wealthy and was impressed that most wealthy people she interviewed, discussed wealth outside the terms of money.  Whenever money did come up, a list of generally accepted mindsets or attitudes began to develop and she shared them in her article here:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/5things/pattie-lovett-reid-engage-in-these-6-habits-of-the-wealthy-1.3374225

When I read this list, I was suddenly amazed at how my own family often accuses me of having a poverty mindset!  I had to add my own thoughts to the author’s 6 main points in the article above.  Before writing these out however, I showed my daughter this list and asked her how many of them are present in our home.  She responded with “most if not all of them”, although current finances prevent us from enacting one of the sub-points in this list.  It hasn’t however, stopped us from trying in the past, nor will it stop us from trying in the future.  Here are my own thoughts.  Anyone who has purchased my course “The Poor Man’s Budget: a Five Week Course – Learning to live within your means” will recognize some of these points.

Change your money mindset: Have a positive attitude, increase your knowledge base, have goals and get disciplined ~ This begins by being thankful for what you have and following that Biblical concept that if you have two of something, give to him who has none.  It can be tempting to hoard when you are financially struggling, living below the poverty line, or desperately battling debt.  But if you honestly end up with more of something than you realistically know you need (not want), giving it away to someone else in need also contributes to a more positive attitude.

Sweep away your financial dustballs or myths:
a) Self worth equals net worth (Clearly it doesn’t but some might think it does) ~ I run into many people who believe this lie.  Your self-worth is not found in things, nor in others around you.  Your self-worth is found in the One Who made you!  Your self-worth is found in Jesus Christ.  Believe what He says about you in His Word and lack or plenty won’t affect your view of yourself.  Secondarily, look after yourself no matter how much or little you have.  You can always use water from a public fountain to wash up in the morning if you live on the streets.  You can brush your hair and straighten your clothes.  Walk with purpose rather than ambling aimlessly.  Shake hands firmly and meet people eye to eye when greeting them.  Don’t let life’s problems define who you are.  Everyone, rich and poor have issues they battle with.  Hold your head up and don’t let your particular issues drag you into the dirt.

b) A little debt never hurt anyone (Yes it will) ~ Financial advisors will tell you on one hand that it isn’t wise to get into debt.  They will turn right around in the very next sentence and tell you to get a credit card so you can build up a positive credit rating.  They will then go into detail about how to manage that credit card so that you ideally never slip into debt.  Human nature, being what it is, will invariable see the credit limit, see an emergency, what Christmas approach, and decide to spend just a little bit more than they can pay off at the end of the month.  They will justify it by saying now they have a debt load against which to build that credit rating, because creditors will see the monthly efforts.  Now this is true to a point, but it will come back to bite you eventually.  Yes, unfortunately the modern financial world won’t sell you a car or house if you don’t have positive credit ratings, but a little debt has and will continue to hurt people.

c) I need at least $1 million to retire (No, you don’t) ~ What you need is to assess the lifestyle you want when you retire, what would it cost now and what is the current inflation rate?  Based on that inflation rate, how much will you need to have in savings when you retire to lead that kind of lifestyle month by month?

d) I need to be a math major (Also, not true) ~ No, the above calculations are basic math.  Addition and multiplication and maybe some division.  If you graduated grade 6, you have what it takes to figure out the previous answer.

e) I don’t have enough money to start investing (How about $25 a month?) ~ Most people can afford at least $25/mo.  Those living on fixed incomes may not be able to however, nor those living below the poverty line, but whenever possible, it is advisable to set aside even $5 a month if you can manage it.  What I find in our household is that I can get up to $3 or $400 saved up, then an emergency comes along or income takes a dive and I need the funds to buy gas and groceries.  I am looking forward to the day when income is steady and I can get that savings account above that particular threshold.

f) It’s too late for me to start building a nest egg (No it isn’t, and retirement could last a third of your life) ~ It’s true, you can start saving at any age, the earlier the better, but any time is a good time as long as it is sooner to your present than later.

g) Personal finance is all about investing (It is so much more encompassing: debt management, insurance, retirement planning and more) ~ The biggest point in personal finance, is budgeting based on what you are regularly earning at the time.  Then learning to stick to that budget.  Failure to get this step down will make any other financial management task more difficult.

h) I can do it alone (Maybe, but start by asking for help) ~ If you understand how to set money aside and not touch it, if you know about TFSA’s or RRSP’s already, sure, go it alone, but be almost religious about the plan you put into action.  Asking for help often involves paying an advisor for their time or using their ongoing services from which they get paid a commission. If you can’t afford to pay someone for help, start small and work from there.

Eliminate the spending habit: Live below your means and ditch your bad debts ~ Hear, hear!!!  This is the second worst problem I am seeing among those who claim to be struggling in their finances.  They still visit the corner store regularly.  They still buy cookies and candy bars regularly and sugary or other unhealthy food choices when grocery shopping.  They still think they can engage in bad habits that cost them anywhere from $200/mo to $500 or more and they wonder where their money is going!  Newsflash! You don’t need that jacket on sale when you have two others at home already.  You don’t need sugary drinks or foods when because you are struggling, you need healthier food options instead.  You don’t need to waste gas with extra-curricular activities when you can’t afford the gas to begin with.  Start walking more.  Cancel the Cable TV subscription and watch all your shows online.  If this step isn’t mastered, the previous ones will all be derailed by some justification to spend!

Create a savings habit: Pay yourself first ~ See the previous comments about saving and spending.

Embrace the investing and compound habit: Learn more to earn more and compound your earnings ~ This may be where you want to ask for help, but in a standard savings account, if you leave your money there, the interest accrued will compound based on what stays in the account, previous interest and all.  This can work in your favour.

Choose a destination: Get real and set goals ~ Revisit this entire list, master the other points and when you get to this one, write down those goals.  In a quick-fix, instant-access society, long-term gratification seems like punishment.  But if you can get over the need to spend and start actively saving toward your goals, you will discover the pride and personal joy in having achieved those goals on your own!  Start with small goals that you can reach if you are disciplined in a month.  Say perhaps you can get $25 put aside into savings.  Reward yourself with a hot bath that night.  Say perhaps you went for three months putting that money aside?  Take $5 and go buy a booster juice smoothie (remember the poor spending point above).  Say perhaps you managed to maintain your new saving regimen for an entire year, take $20 and go have pizza!  These examples are merely for savings goals, but you might have other goals, like paying for a college course, replacing a dieing vehicle, maybe even owning your own home and saving up for a down-payment.  Once you realize you can meet your smaller goals, these larger ones will become easier to achieve and you’ll have the necessary patience to see them through.

Change, Affordability, and our Perceptions of “Normal”

Sometimes we have to adjust our perception of “normal” before any true, lasting change can be engaged in or even considered.  Sometimes, “the way we’ve always done it” is no longer the best or most expediant way to do it anymore.  Life has a way of throwing things at us that require change to adequately deal with.  Change is a difficult word for up to a solid third of modern society.  It is a threat for some.  A difficulty for others. Some types of change require time, effort, and/or money to accomplish and those requirements are not always available the moment change barges in.

Change arrives for various reasons:  Someone dies and family or work life must be changed to accommodate the gap left behind.  Health fails and change must take place to function in a manner conducive to healing or simply moving forward in a new way of life.  Locations change because of going to school or accepting a new job and change must take place to accommodate the move.  Prices rise and fall, forcing changes in how available earnings are spent.  These are just a few of the circumstances that tend to force change in a person’s life, whether or not that change is wanted or unwanted.

Over the days spanning the Canada Day long weekend, I’ve found myself reading various local news articles, thoughts and comments that reveal even more starkly, the issues that change can force upon unwitting or unwilling recipients.

The first article was about people living in a mobile home park in town, who have been or will soon be forced to move out due to inspectors ruling that various homes in the park are no longer livable due to mould and mildew having been found.  The park owner has been told these homes are not reparable and must be torn down.  For these poor home renters, health and finances are not on their side because of the rise in rental pricing elsewhere around town.  They can’t stay because of health reasons, yet their finances are not high enough to manage the change to a more expensive place to live.  Regardless of their financial situation, health demands irrevocable change to hopefully better circumstances.

Can You Do it?Hours after coming across that article, I came across a photo someone took of a list of foods someone else had made for themselves to avoid.  The comments attached to this photo revealed a battle for change that many nutritionists, dieticians, health food gurus, and others have been trying to win via educating the public for possibly going 2 decades now!  The perception of a normal grocery list screamed quite loud as I saw junk food, sugary foods, and items I’d only consider the occasional splurge on being touted as impossible to give up.  The challenge posted with this photo was asking the public if they could go without these items for 30 days.  I sat mildly shocked as I realized I go without those things for months at a time, generally only engaging in them on special occasions such as Christmas, birthdays, and national holidays such as what we just celebrated this weekend.

This photo was followed a day or so later by yet another article where a local news source was contacted by desparate parents complaining about how expensive it is to live in this town!  This bolsters another article I read earlier in the past week, where Kelowna was ranked the 11th most expensive place to live, and on a per capita basis with regional incomes taken into account, one of the most expensive in terms of rental properties for families.  Both complainers of the recent article had families, but neither could find homes that would accept their kids, in their price range.  This is a research reality on the ground in this town ever since I began looking into it myself back in and 2005.  Rents have increased dramatically over the past 11 years, once again creating the situation where change is being forced on people who don’t have the funds to deal with it.

However, the question rears it’s head for me, are they seriously having trouble affording life in Kelowna due to income versus expenses, or do they think the items on the 30 day challenge are a normal part of everyday life?  If those things are normally part of their weekly or bi-weekly grocery runs, do they also spend money at the local coffee shop every week or every day?  Is a meal caught at local fast food places a normal part of their workday routine?  I work with people who regularly buy their lunch rather than make it at home, so I know there are those out there who think this is normal on their expense list.  Do they go out for dinner once a week or even once a month?  How do they shop for clothes?  Is it important to them to have a different outfit for every occasion, shoes and jewelry included?  Are they offended by people who wear the same outfit two or three days in a row?  How do they handle their errands?  Do they plan routes to save on gas or do they go whereever as needed with no thought of the hit at the gas pump?  In other words, are these people struggling because they are trying to live at financial levels they don’t actually see in the bank account?  Or are they struggling because none of this is normal and they are seriously broke?

Those last two questions are an affront to many people because they don’t want to consider that maybe, just maybe, what they consider normal is not helping their financial situation.  Maybe, just maybe, wearing one outfit for two days, only having one pair of shoes for each type of occasion and wearing the same jewelry might help their financial goals.  Maybe, just maybe, cutting out most of the foods on the 30 day challenge might actually mean other stuff more important can suddenly become affordable.  But for any of these maybes to become reality, change has to take place.  Time is needed to identify the non-essentials that were once thought to be indisputable.  Effort is needed to ensure identified expenses are indeed cut out of the budget to make room for more important necessities.  I know for myself in times past, that doing these exercises has always resulted in better financial coverage across rent, clothing, groceries, hygiene, transportation, and debt payments.

Costs have risen for this author as well.  Income has risen and fallen quite scarily at times and made it difficult to pay the bills.  The financial lessons I’ve learned as a single mother raising two kids in a town such as Kelowna, has not only allowed me to recover from low income periods better, but has opened my eyes to the financial plight of many  in my situation who don’t realize that societal norms are actually harming their ability to make ends meet.  Occasionally someone will come along who like one of the parents complaining to Castanet, will realize that the only way they can make ends meet is to sell stuff and cut back.  While they were cursing the thought of having to do that, I’ve lived that way!  I’ve even contemplated having to do that in more recent times as well.

Change can be an adventure, or it can be a threat.  It can be viewed as a doorway to better things, or the iron gate swinging shut on one’s dreams.  The perspective is entirely up to each person facing it.  Time, effort and finances are freed up for better things when unnecessary stuff is removed from the picture.  Modern society is a slave to materialism.  Toys big and small require maintenance to keep in running condition.  Homes and properties big and small require maintenance to stay healthy and useful.  Special care clothing takes time and money to keep in optimal condition.  The less you own, the less you have to put out on such maintenance.  The less you put out on maintenance, the more you have available for needs, health concerns, and emergencies down the road.  This goes for time, effort and finances.  Change happens so much easier when all three of those criteria are adequately available.

The Poor Man's BudgetFor the daily cost of a trip to Starbucks, and for less than the cost of lunch every day from the store or fast food restaurant, you can learn how to begin changing your own perception of “normal” and discover lost money in the process, by signing up to take my course, “The Poor Man’s Budget (or anyone for that matter): 5 week course – learning to live within your means”.  The first trick a person who feels life is too expensive in Kelowna must do, is find $5 per day, or $125 for the entire 5 week session.  Classes are one hour each Monday to Friday, with timeslots available being 8:30am, 10am, 11:30am or 1pm.  Sometimes, a person won’t know where to find that $5 until they have completed the first week of the course, then it will dawn on them where that money was hiding and they can continue more confidently toward a deeper understanding of where their funds are going, why they are going there, and how to better spend their resources in a manner that comes closer to meeting their daily, weekly and monthly needs.

Time and finances are needed to discover the effort necessary to make needed changes to live better on the income currently coming in.  Groups such as The Assignment will even sponsor students through this course.  The Assignment is the benevolent arm of Evangel Church down on Gordon Drive.

Kelowna is constantly being touted as a two-income town in order for families to survive here.  My kids are now young adults and one has a head injury he’s recovering from.  Neither are able to move out on their own yet and have found it cheaper to pay the room and board I’m asking, than to attempt getting into a rental situation here.  Yet somehow over the years, I was able to raise them on one income that was generally seen as less than the required amount to live on.  I’m not saying it’s easy to make ends meet in Kelowna, but I am saying with a financial scaple in your hand, it is possible.  All it takes is a shift in perspective regarding what is and isn’t necessary, what is a need versus what is a want, examining spending habits, bills and transportation norms.  Check out my course for yourself.

Paying the Bills: Figuring out if Your Income Will Stretch

Two months have gone by, and we are in the middle of grad season!  Soon, that special high school graduate will be out in the real world and having to face the same financial challenges that you do.  So far on this blog, we’ve discussed a few ways simple changes around the house can save you money.  We’ve discussed how changing shopping habits can save you money, and discussed how organization versus scrambled cupboards can also save money.

We discussed how careful organization, planning, and a critical eye can help when out shopping for groceries.  But eventually you have to go through the till.  You may save money on electricity, but eventually that bill has to be paid.  Bills simply need to be paid.  Companies appreciate it when you are early or on time with your invoices.  People who are perpetually late may find themselves with reduced service or being cut off altogether.  Not fun when your electricity runs your heat registers and you get cut off in the middle of winter!

This part of budgeting can be a challenge for people.  The focus here, is knowing how much you bring in, versus how much is spoken for by the bills you have agreed to take on.  When you sign up for a service with a company, you are promising to pay them for the service they provide.  That portion of the money you earn is effectively spoken for before you even earn it, because you promised to pay that amount.

Make a list of the bills you have every month.  Make a second list of the income that comes in every month.  Make sure groceries are on the list, gas, car insurance if you have a car, etcetera.  Ideally, the income total will be more than your bill total.  If it isn’t, some hard decisions need to be made about how you are going to cover your bills.  Perhaps there’s too much miscellaneous spending going on.  Some households discover that when they pare back their miscellaneous spending, they suddenly have money for their bills again.  Maybe there’s a bill that isn’t necessary, it’s a want.  Cancelling that bill’s service will free up funds toward covering a bill that is necessary.  Paying for TV subscriptions when your water bill isn’t paid is an example.  Cut out the TV subscription and you’ll have funds toward your water bill.

If income is less than your bills and you’ve already cut out all non-essential expenses, then it’s time to consider how you can spread your income across all your bills so that no company feels you are not paying them.  Look at your schedule and figure out how you can increase your monthly income.  Maybe spending time building up residual income might help, and you’ll find a few options for doing this in the sidebar of this website.

Songdove Books - Mom's Little Black Book: Godly Advice for the High School GraduateFinancial tips are available to your young graduate in my book, “Mom’s Little Black Book: Godly Advice for the High School Graduate”.

The financial section contains a sample budget sheet, a sample grocery list, note pages, and more tidbits of advice not mentioned here.  Take a look and put a book in their hands that will guide them well into their young adults years and beyond.