Cybershopping Saving Strategies

 By Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

Online shopping has a lot of appeal because it is fast, easy, and convenient. Last year, consumers spent $2 billion online on Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving. As more and more purchases are made online, consider these tips to score the best deals:

  • Before you buy, look for coupon codes. Coupon codes are normally a series of letters or numbers that you enter when checking out online. If you are a member of the website’s mailing list, you probably regularly receive coupon codes via email. If not, simply type the name of the online merchant and the words “coupon code” into an internet search engine. Typically, the coupon code will be for free shipping, upgraded shipping, or a percent off merchandise purchased. Be certain to check the expiration date and details of the coupon code; you may be required to spend a certain dollar amount to receive the benefit.
  • When checking out at the mall, are you consistently asked to provide your email
    Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.
    Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.

    address after the purchase? Although the idea of receiving extra coupons to stores where you shop is appealing, the idea of filling up your in-box with spam is often enough to make you pass. Consider setting up a free email account that you can use only for retailers. You will not need to check the account often, but when you are ready to make an online purchase, you can search the account for recent coupons.

  • If you are not in a hurry for your purchase, consider leaving your virtual shopping cart hanging for a few days. If you have created an online account with a merchant, place your items in the shopping cart but do not complete the purchase. After a day or two in limbo, a merchant will often email a coupon to encourage you to complete the transaction.
  • Daily deal websites are growing in popularity. Daily deal sites offer products and/or services at discounted prices, often 50% or more off retail. Typically someone who has signed up for daily deals will receive either email or social media alerts to the “deal of the day.” There is no doubt that daily deals offer the opportunity to grab some great items at significant discounts; however, you may also be tempted to buy an item or service that you don’t really need or hadn’t planned on purchasing. Normally, daily deals are offered for a limited amount of time and have limited quantities available, often encouraging the buyer to make an impulsive decision in an attempt to avoid missing the big savings. If the daily deal is for a product or service that you use often, it may make sense to snatch the item quickly, but be cautious not to just click buy because it is such a great deal. Be certain that it is an item or service that you need and will use.
  • Remember to safeguard your personal information when online shopping. You are entering a tremendous amount of personal information (your name, phone number, address, etc., not to mention your credit card information). Always make certain that you are using a personal/home computer for online shopping. Public computers, such as those at work or the public library, may store your information that someone could access later. Be certain that the website you are using is secure. Once you enter into the shopping cart phase of a website, the web address should have a “s” after the http. The “s” indicates that your data will be transmitted securely. Also, be certain that you are on a legitimate retailer’s site. Knock-off websites do exist and at times it may be difficult to tell the difference from the real thing.
  • Use a credit card, as opposed to a debit card, when shopping online. When you pay with a credit card there is a period of time between when you make the purchase and when you pay your credit card bill. This gives you time to dispute a charge if something goes wrong with the transaction. When you pay with a debit card, you are authorizing the retailer to go ahead and debit your account. Most likely you will still be able to successfully dispute a charge, but the money will be missing from your account until the dispute is settled.

Contact Jennifer at jhunter@uky.edu

 

 

Resisting the Urge to Splurge

By Jennifer Hunter, Ph.D., University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service

Marketing has made it both appealing and easy to want “more bang for our buck,” such as when we size up a meal at a fast-food restaurant or upgrade to a premium cell phone or cable package. Often, it can be very tempting to receive “more” for what appears to be a relatively small amount of additional cost. The extras, however, can definitely add up!

Due to fast-paced lifestyles, many families are tempted to eat fast-food meals, which can be both unhealthy and expensive. We all make decisions every day about the type and quantity of food we eat. The average meal deal at fast-food restaurants costs between $5.00 and $7.00. If a family of four eats out three days per week, the family will spend nearly $4,000/year on fast food!

Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.
Join us in saving this month by making small daily deposits July 1-30 to save $100 in 30 days.

Food choice is just one example of how families are tempted to spend more in an effort to get more for their money. Cable television providers and cell phone carriers are examples of companies that commonly “bundle” services into larger, more expensive plans.

Like many of our household bills, communication services, such as cable, phone, and Internet, should be reviewed on an annual basis. Compare your use of the services to the price you are paying. Consumers often do not fully utilize their contracted services.

  • Do you pay extra for an unlimited data plan, but only use a small amount of data every month?
  • Do you send a large number of texts every month, but only have a small number of monthly texts included in your plan?
  • Do you have premium movie packages on your cable or satellite plan but find that you do not watch any movies?
  • Do you have a land line telephone with unlimited long distance and have a cell phone with unlimited minutes?

Bundling packages can be beneficial, if you need and use all of the services provided in the package. Although additional features and options can be tempting, review the terms and conditions of bundle offers. Evaluate each component of the bundle-deal separately. For example, if you are considering a home cable, internet, and land line phone bundle, price each option separately for the exact service or product that would best fit your needs.

Reviewing each option individually allows you the opportunity to determine the service that best fits your lifestyle and budget.

  • If you have an unlimited cell phone plan, you may decide to completely cut your land line or only need a very basic land line.
  • If you like to watch movies, compare the price of adding on premium movie channels to online movie streaming services.
  • Higher internet speeds are often very tempting, but do your research. How do you use the internet? If you are surfing the web and sending emails, a lower bandwidth may be sufficient. If you stream high volumes of content or online gaming, you may want a higher bandwidth.
  • If you choose to bundle services with promotional pricing, be aware of long-term costs of the services and how to change your plan when the promotional period ends. Be certain to mark the date in your calendar so that you remember to take action.

Families have many options for household expenses such as cable, satellite, phone, and Internet services. Shopping for different providers can help you find the service that best fits the needs of your family. If you find a plan with a different carrier at a lower cost, check with your current provider before switching. Many providers will have customer retention departments. Customer service agents will often work with you to offer a better plan to retain current customers.

Contact Jennifer at jhunter@uky.edu