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Shopping

Starting last night, Amazon’s 3rd annual flash sale, called Prime Day, went live. The big event runs for 30 hours, ending at 3am EST on Wednesday, July 12. So, shoppers still have plenty of time to take advantage of hundreds of huge deals on the site.

So, what is Amazon Prime Day, and how can you make the most of this big shopping event?

Prime Day is for Prime Members

As the name suggests, Amazon’s epic Prime Day is reserved for Prime members. But don’t fret if you haven’t signed up yet!

Prime membership runs $100 a year, or $12 a month. Amazon also offers a free 30-day trial, if you’d like to try the service before committing to the $100 annual fee.

If you aren’t yet a Prime member (why not?!), there’s still time to sign up and take advantage of Prime Day. Simply visit this page and either sign up for a membership (annual or month-to-month) or just the free trial. Then, get to shopping.

The Types of Deals

There are two basic types of deals on Prime Day: spotlight deals and lightning deals.

Spotlight deals are all-day discounts offered on hundreds of items throughout the site. These include deals like 33% off of a Roomba robotic vacuum or 51% off Sony Wireless Headphones. You’ll find discounts on pretty much every Amazon-branded product available, like the popular Echo Dot with Alexa technology. You can also snag magazine subscriptions for as low as $0.99 for 5 issues (Country Living and Redbook are two on the list).

Lightning deals are limited-stock items that are typically offered at even greater savings. The catch is, though, that these deals go quick (hence the “lightning”).

The items being offered as lightning deals are available at different times, and are offered until they sell out. These items go live as often as every 5 minutes, so you’ll need to be quick if you want to snag the next big deal.

When Will I Get My Stuff?

The glorious part of Prime membership — aside from being able to participate in Prime Day, of course — is that shipping for Prime items is two days or less.

Many Prime items now come with Next Day shipping, and some are even lucky enough to have Same Day delivery! You’ll also have access to Prime Now, the service that can deliver select items, groceries, and household goods in as little as two hours.

I’ve used Prime Now many times. It has saved me a trip to the grocery store in rush hour traffic. I’ve also used it to send ice cream treats to the house when a babysitter was there with my kids. I’ll admit, the service has spoiled me rotten.

There’s Not Much Time Left!

If you want to take advantage of the Prime Day deals you’ll need to act fast. The deals continue until 3 a.m. EST tonight, or until the lightning deals sell out.

Remember, Prime Day is only available to Prime Members, so you’ll need to at least sign up for a free 30-day trial if you want to snag a big discount. Now, what are you waiting for? Hop on over to Amazon and start shopping!

What’s the best deal you snagged for Prime Day?

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Whether or not you should pay more for quality is a decision that comes up often when shopping. The answer varies depending on the product.For some purchases, paying more is a giant waste of money which would be better spent elsewhere. For other items, it’s well worth the additional investment up front to ensure a quality product that lasts. So, how do you decide?

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This question could be asked of virtually any purchase, so we can’t cover them all. However, here are seven examples of popular purchases and our verdict on whether it makes sense to pay more for quality:

Cars: Pay More for Quality

When it comes to buying a car, especially a used car, going with the cheapest option could be a big mistake. There are plenty of stories of people who bought used cars thinking they were getting a deal, only to discover the car needed costly repairs. Although state “lemon laws” exist to protect consumers in situations like those, you may not discover the car’s problems right away. Ultimately, you could be left with a vehicle that costs you more than expected.

It’s worth it to pay more for a quality car that has a clean history and is up-to-date in its maintenance. Buying cheap will likely cost you more in the long run. A completely new car might be out-of-budget for many people (and isn’t the best idea from a personal finance standpoint, anyway!). Buying a late model used car can be just as good as new, though, and you’ll likely be able to extend the warranty on it.

Homes: Pay More for Quality

Things like location and square footage are important factors to consider when purchasing a home. These shouldn’t be overlooked solely for the sake of price.

Unlike an ugly kitchen that can be remodeled, the big concerns will be difficult (or impossible) to change later on. Buying a home that’s in a bad neighborhood or is too small for your family can make you incredibly dissatisfied after a while. Turning around and selling the home too soon after buying is not only a headache, but can also make you lose money.

Learn as much as you can about the homes you’re considering for purchase. If you don’t find the ideal place right away, that’s absolutely fine. House hunting can take months before you find the right property for you and your family.

Smartphones: Don’t Pay More for Quality

You’re probably familiar with absurdly high-priced smartphones like the Apple iPhone or Samsung Galaxy S series. With these phones costing $500 and up, many consumers opt for payment plans. They have a monthly installment added to their cell phone bills in order to even afford the device.

However, if you want a high-functioning smartphone, a $500+ device isn’t your only option. There are competitors who make comparable smartphones that come with top of the line specs as well. For example, the ZTE Axon 7 will cost you about $400 and comes with a sharp camera, generous storage, and an attractive design. Another example is the Moto G4 Plus, which costs $299. It comes with an HD display and a long battery life.

Part of the reason high-priced smartphones are so popular is because they’re seen as a status symbol. If you’re just looking for a reliable smartphone, you can definitely forego the brand name and still get good quality.

Mattresses: Pay More for Quality

You go to sleep on a bed every night. Why not pay a little more to ensure your mattress is comfortable?

Getting a mattress that’s made from durable and high-quality materials can make a big difference in how well you sleep and how pleasant your body feels. Whether you choose a bouncy innerspring mattress or a firm memory foam mattress, you usually get what you pay for in terms of quality. A good mattress can last up to 10 years. But a poor quality one could have broken springs or stagnant memory foam after just a couple of years.

Mattresses can cost thousands of dollars. But you don’t have to pay that price. Department stores like Macy’s have sales throughout the year that can save you a considerable amount of money on such a large purchase. Be sure to also shop around at local mom & pop stores near holiday weekends (like Labor Day), as many of them will be willing to negotiate the price with you.

Walking/Running Shoes: Pay More for Quality

Foot health is important, but often overlooked. Many see foot pain as unavoidable and as something you just have to deal with when you’ve been on your feet for long periods of time. However, that doesn’t have to be the case. High quality walking/running shoes can not only prevent foot pain, but can also support your soles and offer breathability.

Although high quality walking/running shoes offer better support, they do experience wear and tear just as any other pair of shoes would. If you use them daily, it’s recommended to replace them about every six months. This may come as a large expense to you if you’re not used to buying top of the line shoes or replacing them that often. But it’s worth it if it means preventing pain and promoting good foot health.

Batteries: Pay More for Quality

If you have small children with lots of electronic toys or otherwise use electronics often, you know how important it is to have long-lasting batteries. Dollar store batteries just don’t hold up to the trusted brands, Duracell and Energizer. In fact, some electronics specifically call for high-quality batteries in order to function properly. I’ve experienced this with my digital camera.

If you look at some dollar store battery packages, you’ll even see recommended purposes for the batteries. The recommendations are usually for low-drain devices like alarm clocks or television remotes. When it comes to high-drain devices, like a video game remote control or a digital camera, you’ll want to pay more for high-quality batteries.

Sunglasses: Don’t Pay More for Quality

Sunglasses are eyewear that protect your eyes from the ultraviolet (UV) rays in sunlight. There are two types of UV rays: UVA and UVB. As long as your sunglasses protect from both types of UV rays, you don’t have to worry about the price of them. Beyond that, you often pay more for style. Just look for the sticker that indicates the UVA/UVB protection. It might also say “100% UV protection”, which means the same thing.

Sunglasses, in general, are fragile. To decrease the likelihood of breaking them, try not to keep them in your pockets or hanging from your shirt. The best place for them when they’re not on your face is in a case.

Final Thoughts

There are plenty of times when paying more for quality equals a better product. There are also times when, clearly, it doesn’t. When you’re considering a purchase, really take time to think about and research whether the increase in quality is substantial enough to warrant paying a lot more. This is when it’s important to do things like read online reviews, to further examine your choices.

What other purchases can you think of that warrant paying a bit more for quality… or some that don’t?

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philadelphia-beverages-taxLast year, the city of Philadelphia decided to pass into law a “beverage tax,” which taxes the sugary drinks you consume at the rate of 1.5 cents per ounce.  At the time, there was some considerable outcry from residents of the city. Nevertheless, the government stuck to their guns.

Well, at the turn of this new year — on 1/1/2017, in fact — the tax was enacted. Consumers are quickly feeling the effects, and are none to happy about it.

What It Is

Taken directly from their city government website, Philadelphia lawmakers explain where the tax is to be levied.

The tax is not just on sodas. This tax is on any non-alcoholic beverage, syrup, or other concentrate used to prepare a beverage that lists as an ingredient any form of caloric sugar-based sweetener, including, but not limited to sucrose, glucose, or high fructose corn syrup.

Drinks considered “diet” or “zero calorie” are also taxed. Specifically, this tax is on any non-alcoholic beverage, syrup or other concentrate used to prepare a beverage that lists any form of artificial sugar substitute, including stevia, aspartame, sucralose, neotame, acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), saccharin, and advantame.

A quick look at social media shows hundreds of posts today from people taking screenshots of their receipts to show just how much this tax will actually cost you.  You hear the details of 1.5 cents per ounce and might not think much of it. When you start to buy gallons, six packs, 12 packs of your favorite soda or sports drink, though, you’re going to pay quite a bit more than you expect.  Let’s have a look at an example.

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On the receipt above, you’ll notice a consumer purchasing a 10 pack of Propel Water (w/ Berry) for a retail price of $5.99.   These are just over 20 oz. a bottle, so the pack is a little over 200 oz. of total liquid. At a tax rate of 1.5 cents per ounce, the consumer ended up paying $3.04 just in the beverage tax alone.

Then, because democracy is so awesome, the sales tax is added AFTER the beverage tax. This means that the great residents of Philadelphia are paying 8% sales tax ON their beverage tax.  A $5.99 10-pack of Propel water (which actually doesn’t have any sugar, ironically), now costs $9.75.  This particular individual was stunned to see the cost, so they voided the transaction. And I don’t blame them.

Who Loses from the Soda Tax?

When you consider what the Philadelphia soda tax is meant to accomplish, there are two clear cut losers:

  1. The Sugar / Sports Beverage Industry – With the cost of everyday drinks like Gatorade and Pepsi being increased by as much as 150% (depending on the size of the container), the beverage industry is going to see a steep decline in demand.  There’s just no way around it. When you were paying $.30 for a 12oz can of Coca Cola at the grocery store and now are paying $0.48 cents a can, there will be a group of people that say “No, thanks.”   This decline in demand will, of course, be limited to just the city of Philadelphia. If the merits of this tax are well publicized in the coming months, though, other cities could join in for the added revenue.
  2. The Wallets of the American Consumer – I wouldn’t call myself an addict when it comes to drinking soda or sports beverages. But when they go on sale at the grocery store, I’ve been known to buy them in quantity (“four 12-packs for $10” happens a few times a year, and I like to buy just that many).  If there’s 144 ounces per case of 12 cans, that’s 576 ounces of soda in my $10 purchase.  In Philadelphia, my $10 purchase is now an $18.64 purchase… and that’s not good for my wallet.  The same goes for consumers who spend $1.99 on a gallon of iced tea (now with an additional tax of $1.92) or a liter of Mountain Dew (plus the new tax of $0.51).  Consumers will lose more money for buying the same everyday items.

Who Wins from the Soda Tax?

Once again I can find two clear cut examples of positive outcomes from the Philadelphia beverage tax:

  1. Early Childhood Education & City Programs – The city of Philadelphia anticipates that $91 million annually will be collected from this soda tax, and the majority of that money will go to fund early childhood education, parks, and libraries.  The remaining funds (roughly 20%) will target other city programs and employee benefits.  The sum raised is not as much as you might anticipate given just how much the cost of beverages will increase, but remember this is strictly for one city.
  2. The Health of the American Consumer – Allow me to speak from experience: the sheer amount of sugar in my beloved bottle of Snapple Apple is more than I should likely be consuming in a week, let alone in 15 minutes.  The reason these drinks taste as delicious as they do is because they are dripping with the sweet stuff. Philadelphia is not only looking at a new revenue source, but a way to tackle diabetes and obesity.  A “sin tax” has always been defined as a tax on things like gambling, tobacco, and alcohol, but it would appear we may be getting ready to add sugar and sports drinks to the list.  If this ever reaches Connecticut, the increased cost may just be enough to get me to start drinking water exclusively (or at least a LOT more than I do).

Grocery stores in the city are doing different things in order to inform consumers their drinks are going up in price.  Some list the full price on the sticker below the item on the shelves, some have sent out notices in their circulars, and others have decided to avoid the subject. The latter are just ringing up surprised consumers at the register, which I wouldn’t imagine going over too well for those not paying attention.

Philadelphia makes up roughly 0.5% of the entire US Population. So, while this is just one city, it’s a big one. This tax is now on the minds of 1.55 million people.

Keep an eye on this tax to see if your city adopts a similar policy and plan for a healthier lifestyle to keep your wallet and your waistline in check.

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Well, we’re less than two weeks from Christmas, which means the shopping pinch is upon us. If you’re like me, you’re probably nowhere near done with your Christmas shopping – still have three people to shop for, and we are coming down to the wire.

This year, though, I’m avoiding that last-minute, mad dash at the mall. How? Well, today, I am taking advantage of Free Shipping Day. I am getting all of my Christmas shopping finished once and for all, from the comfort of my couch.

What is Free Shipping Day?

Every December, hundreds of retailers participate in what’s known as Free Shipping Day. This year, it falls on Friday, December 16 (today!). On this day, online shops waive their standard shipping charges, with guarantees that any purchased items will arrive in time for Christmas.

It was founded in 2008 by the same people who brought us CouponSherpa. They noticed that online sales plummeted following Cyber Monday, as most consumers figured that their items might not make it in time for Christmas after that point. Therefore, it seemed that most people switched to in-store shopping for the remainder of their list, if they didn’t buy it on Cyber Monday.

Its founders, Luke and Maisie Knowles, noticed that many online businesses were offering free shipping around the holidays, with much lower qualifying order thresholds. FreeShippingDay.com was a place where they could bring all of these merchants together, and allow the average online consumer to find out who was offering to waive postage for their last-minute shopping.

In 2010, which was the third year that Free Shipping Day was held, online shoppers spent $942 million. This made Free Shopping Day the third highest spending day of the 2010 holiday season. That number continued to grow, even crossing the billion dollar threshold.

Beginning in 2013, the website mandated that all companies participating agree to waive all minimum order requirements, so that every purchase would qualify for free shipping. Of course, they also had to guarantee delivery by Christmas Eve for all orders placed on the promotional day. That year, sales dropped slightly (as some merchants were unable or unwilling to meet both stipulations). However, sales quickly rose back up and Free Shipping Day still hovers around the $1 billion sales mark each year.

So, Who Is Included?

For this 2016 holiday shopping season, there are a whopping 1,220 merchants participating in the promotional shipping day. You can view the complete list, and even search by category, on Free Shipping Day’s website.

These merchants include Barnes & Noble, Target.com, Lululemon, Cabela’s, Tommy John, aerie, and (obviously) many more. Again, all of these retailers promise that not only do they have no-minimum free shipping through midnight tonight, but they will also deliver by Christmas Eve.

So, hop on over to freeshippingday.com, browse the stores, and finish up that gift list tonight. Santa will thank you next weekend.

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Amazon Prime: Is It Worth the Cost?

by Charles Aquino

In 2006, I was receiving about five deliveries a week from online shopping orders. What can I say? I was an online shopaholic. Amazon Prime was only a year old at the time, and I became tired of hoarding filler items in order to qualify for the $25 free shipping minimum. To me, receiving free […]

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11 Ways to Start Preparing for the Holiday Shopping Pinch

by Abby Hayes

Does your New Year usually start with a resolution to pay off all that debt you racked up during the holiday shopping season? If so, you’re certainly not alone. Holiday retail sales increased 3 percent in 2015, and many consumers carried that extra spending into the new year in the form of new debt. The key […]

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Black Friday Was a Bust

by Luke Landes

The National Retail Federation has admitted defeat. Sales over the past holiday weekend dropped 11 percent over Thanksgiving weekend in 2013 according to the organization in a press release yesterday. The organization reversed course after being highly positive about the prospects for shopping leading up to the announcement of the estimated figures. Shopping traffic for the […]

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Black Friday Deals: Don’t Fall for These Dirty Tricks

by Luke Landes

For some reason, this year I’ve been bombarded more than any other year by advertisements for Black Friday deals. The marketing is coming from helpful people who just want to share the good news with their friends, people who are clearly paid to spread the messages, and retailers who simply want people to buy as […]

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Money Systems That Lead to Success: Food Planning

by Luke Landes

The diner is a New Jersey staple of the restaurant industry. Once you sit down at a diner, you are presented with a thick menu, enumerating more dining options than you could possibly handle. If there’s any indication that having more choices makes the selection process more difficult, it’s the diner menu. The story of […]

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Rescheduling My Life: Grocery Delivery

by Luke Landes

On Sunday, I decided to take another shot at improving my time management skills. For as long as I can remember, time management has never been my strength. Always drawn to activities I find exciting, sometimes my responsibilities suffered. I’ve been through a number of programs and read a number of books designed to improve […]

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