Sunday, August 30, 2009

Tools of the Trade

Every occupation has its own specific tools of the trade. A construction worker is never far from his tool belt. A painter keeps her brushes and color pallet nearby. The Everyday Economy lifestyle benefits from gathering several simple tools and keeping them close by.

Comparison shopping is greatly aided by a small calculator, whether in the store aisle or scanning advertisements at home. Multiplication and division skills tend to fail me when I’m in a hurry, and yet a quick computation easily distinguishes between a bargain and a money-waster. Many cell phones have a calculator feature, so explore this option and learn how to use it, or find an inexpensive calculator that will fit in your wallet.

Consider acquiring a white board for making lists on the side of the refrigerator. While it may be true that elephants never forget, I do! My board is divided into list sections for the grocery store, the warehouse store, and big box retail stores.

When the last bottle of salad dressing is removed from the pantry, I write it on my grocery list. As I notice more and more threadbare socks going through the laundry room, the big box store column gets an entry. The warehouse store gets a notation when I run low on powdered milk.

For many years I used a paper list to track these details, but I finally figured out that I never purchased everything on my list at one time. Invariably the list would get lost, and I would wind up trying to reconstruct it on another piece of paper, where the cycle would repeat itself. The white board approach allows the versatility of making a list and erasing items after they are purchased, resulting in an up-to-date picture of household needs.

Another helpful tool in the quest for Everyday Economy is to view store advertisements on a weekly basis. The daily newspaper is a tremendous asset in identifying sales in the area, which can save both time and money. While the Sunday edition has both coupons and a myriad of advertisements, the Wednesday paper carries grocery story ads. Several businesses are using other days of the week to insert their circulars into the newspaper, and every day there are numerous display ads that promote special deals or provide additional coupons to local businesses.

It has been my experience that a subscription to the local newspaper more than pays for itself with the coupons it provides, but if cost is a concern, most retailers post their ads online. Reading things on a computer screen is slower than reading from paper, and depending on your internet connection, downloading the graphics-loaded ads may take some time. However, some web sites also allow you to personalize and print a shopping list, which can be a time-saving measure.

Reading the ads doesn’t do any good, however, unless you can remember which stores have what deals each week. Designate a notepad to record the weekly specials that catch your eye from your ad research, and keep it next to the white board on the refrigerator. As you prepare to go shopping, transfer any white board notations to the store list you’ve already created from the weekly ads.

A calculator, a white board, the weekly ads and a notepad are all tools for success. But tools don’t work if you don’t use them. Find a way to make these ideas work for you, and you’re on your way to a lifestyle of Everyday Economy.

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