It's Official... March 2...iPad 2...

That's right... Apple made it official by sending out their invitations to the media for their March 2nd event... iPad 2 will be introduced... for all of those who were shook out of their $AAPL shares in the last few trading days, it's a great time to get back in just above their 50SMA... see you at four hundy.


Loyalty Programs for Groceries...

In an earlier post, I mentioned that loyalty programs are are great way to stretch your budget via earning rewards on everyday purchases. In this post I'd like to touch upon those ones we would use for our weekly grocery shopping list in Edmonton stores; comparing them to see which offers the best return for our patronage and hard earned money.

Superstore offers PC points via PC (President's Choice) Financial Mastercard- when used at Superstore or anywhere else, you receive 10 points for every dollar you spent. Points are redeemed when you have accumulated 20,000 points for $20 in savings on groceries bought at Superstore and, 10,000 points there after. So, 30,000 points gets you $30 and 40,000 gets you $40 and so on. So PCF Mastercard would get you a return of 1% for your purchases.

Additional promotions for earning more points are occasionally offered such as gas savings, etc. Opening a PC Financial bank account and using their debit card gets you some bonus points and 5 points for every dollar spent at Superstore. Same redemption value as above.

Costco offers their Executive membership for an annual $100 fee. This gives you 2% annual cash back on your Costco purchases including membership fee if you so choose up to $500 max per year. There are certain items listed here that are not eligible for the 2% reward. In addition, American Express offers a Costco TrueEarnings credit card which offers 0.25% cash back on your first $1000 spent; 0.50% on the next $2000 spent; and 1% on any amount over $3000; plus 2% cash back on gas purchases up to $3000 annually and 1% thereafter. After some research, I see AMEX doesn't offer the Costco Platinum Rebate card anymore which gave the consumers 0.25% on the first $2000; 0.50% on the next $3000; and 1.5% on amounts over $5000; and if you carry a balance another 0.5% rebate can be earned.

Sobey's offers 1 point per every dollar spent on groceries with Club Sobey's. Points can be redeemed for in-store savings as such:

Club Sobey's points can also be redeemed for Aeroplan miles or other items via their catalog. BMO offers a Club Sobey's Mastercard that rewards customers with double Club Sobey's points (2) with purchases in store and 1 point per dollar spent elsewhere.

Save-On Foods offers 1 point per $1 spent at their stores with their Save-On-More Rewards card. Save-On Foods offers a catalog of items one can get when they redeem their rewards in-store or online; there is also instant rebates in-store but they are not explicitly clarified anywhere until you are at the till. Redemption rates according to their website is 6000 points for $10 gift card or $25 gift card for 16,000 points with various partners such as Starbucks and Futureshop.

The MBNA Save-On-More Mastercard gets you an extra 3 points for every dollar spent at a Save-On Foods store for a total of 4 points when showing your More Rewards loyalty card also; and 3 points for everyday purchases elsewhere.

Walmart offers only the Walmart Rewards Mastercard for 1.25% cash back on Walmart purchases and 1% rebate for purchases anywhere else.

Safeway offers there the Safeway Club Card. It is only good for current in-store promotions and sales. What is nice is if you forget your Club Card, you can enter your telephone number at the cashier and still receive the discounts available. They also offer Airmiles of 1 airmile for every $20 spent in a Safeway store.

Last but not least, we have Shopper's Drug Mart. They do not offer the selection that the above grocers where you can do all your weekly one-stop shopping but they have entered the fray offering miscellaneous items, etc. that one would get a good deal on and could add as one of their stops in their weekly shopping outings. I mention Shopper's because their Optimum program offers some of the most competitive and highest loyalty points in Canada. You get 10 points for every dollar spent at Shopper's Drug Mart. Rewards are redeemed as such:

When using a Shoppers Optimum Mastercard, you get an additional 15 points on top of your 10 points earned for every dollar spent at a Shoppers (must present both cards at cashier).

And so the comparison goes as such... if one were to spend $500 per week at any one of the above listed stores and was signed up for their loyalty program, not including any introductory offers and current special promotions to earn more points, we would accumulate how many points which represents the cash value of those points after one month (so $2000 spent).

Most loyalty program credit cards offered do not have any annual fees but interest rates on balances vary from card to card.

Also, Costco may seem like it is the best loyalty program in terms of cash value returned, keep in mind you must pay for an annual membership and must spend more for the returns to be worthwhile.


My Pricebook: Edmonton Grocery Comparison Feb 21, 2011

In the honour of the late Max Satanove, the man who wrote a weekly Edmonton Examiner column, "Max's Edmonton Food Basket", that compared grocery prices in the Edmonton area for 18 years, and in my quest to find more savings in our household monthly spending, I've created my own "Pricebook" that compares items that my family would have in our own shopping cart at any given time during the year.I've added Costco and Walmart to the store list for the sake of comparison and any loyalty points in dollars value that would be given for the amount spent on the shopping list.

Please note all items and prices in the cart were adjusted accordingly to the same per unit size as indicated on the chart. Items were selected to be the same brand in all the stores to the best of my ability or the cheapest one or sales tag I could find at the time. Keep in mind these are prices for this given date and include price savings from current sales promotions, coupons, and membership programs. All items were priced at Edmonton west-end locations; hence eliminating issues with prices varying at different chain- store locations and the question of more time spent driving to or gas expenditures used driving to a farther store would be only mere pennies for the trip.

The best deal was at Costco, where the entire cart amounted to $189.91.
The same goods were bought at Walmart for $238.93
At Superstore, they were $192.85 to my surprise. Superstore has always been the clear winner in this comparison even when Mr. Satanove was still writing... But, a head to head with Costco and Walmart has never been done... until now.
And, the most expensive was Save-On Foods where the entire cart cost $250.23

Best buys were Huggies Pull-ups 40 count for $12.50 at Superstore and Safeway; Sobey's had the cheapest soda pop- Pepsi 24 can cube for $5.99 (ends today); and potatoes at superstore were at blowout prices— $4.88 for a 20lb bag of Russets and $5.97 for a 10lb bag of yellow potatoes.

Ranking the stores from cheapest cart price to most expensive, we have Costco, Superstore, Sobey's, Walmart, Safeway, and last Save-On Foods. So as expected, and what Mr. Satanove's weekly comparison showed also, Superstore and Costco came out the clear winners in this comparison while the others jostled around each week for third place and under. Keep in mind, this ONLY shows the consumer getting the best bang for his buck or value on a per unit basis NOT overall savings per week spent. As anyone who has shopped at Costco knows, one cannot buy such small quantities as shown above; surely your weekly food bill would be substantially higher in real money terms just on sheer size of the portions Costco sells. That is why when shopping at Costco, we know each individual item we look at on the shelves is a great deal for that price, so we throw it into our shopping carts. But, we are always agape in shock when we get our receipt at the till.—doesn't fail; does it to me every time. Heck, I'm in awe when I spent UNDER $100 on a weekly trip to Costco!

What is impressive about Costco is these prices are their everyday prices for all the items listed. The other retailers' prices include many of the items currently being on limited time specials or in the case of Superstore, limited quantities of one or two.

Everyone knows if one to drive to each retailer and buy their cheapest items and time each sale correctly, they would be guaranteed to get the best possible deals and come out further ahead in terms of savings. It would prove interesting to see if one were to buy the same bulk quantities as Costco's portions, if one would really save as much money per unit since prices tend to increase dramatically when you buy over the maximum allowable limits Superstore has set out. And as with the other grocery stores, if one were to go shopping on customer appreciation days such as the first Tuesday of every month with Safeway and Save-On Foods and get an additional 15% off their total bill, one would also see the gap between savings per store narrowed.

And of course, as we all know, when picking up a couple of items only such as milk and eggs, it would be a waste driving all the way to Costco, only to try to find parking and then fighting the long lineups at the till; it would be definitely more cost efficient buying milk and eggs only at your local Safeway for the few pennies more it would cost at the till.


The Case for Shopping at Superstore...

As mentioned in an earlier post, I used to go more often to Superstore for my weekly groceries, but have found the Superstore nearest my house had gone down in quality of their products especially fresh produce and meats, customer service has always been the worst of the major grocery stores, and the discounts weren't as good as they used to be. But, after looking at the last flyer, there were some deals there that could not be beat; so we did our most recent grocery stint there.

An article from Pennysaverblog.com:

I like to shop at Superstore for the majority of my groceries. Although shopping at Superstore can at times be inconvenient due to large crowds, if I go on weekday evenings I find it much more relaxing and simple to shop there. I have saved hundreds of dollars each year by shopping there and I highly recommend it if you are looking for ways to decrease your grocery bill without having to buy less.

Below are a few of the major reasons why I choose to shop at Superstore:

*They have cheaper food prices than most grocery stores. I have compared grocery prices with Sobey’s, Safeway, and a few smaller grocery store chains and have found that for the most part, Superstore is the cheapest. Costco’s prices are similar to Superstore’s, but Superstore has the advantage of offering different types of brands rather than just one or two brands for each item.

*They have a wide variety of products and a nice selection of produce that is usually fresh. We like to eat a lot of different types of ethnic foods. Superstore often has a whole aisle devoted to imported foods that can’t be found at most regular grocery stores.

*You can earn points every time you shop at Superstore if you use a President’s Choice Mastercard or debit card. After earning 20,000 points, you can redeem the points to get $20 off your grocery bill. You can earn extra points by bringing your own bags and bins instead of using disposable plastic bags. Just be sure to remind the clerks when they ring through your groceries. You need to be proactive at Superstore.

*If you buy your gas at Superstore, you get Superbucks that you can use towards your groceries. If you have a PC Mastercard or debit card, you will get more points than if you use another form of payment. My husband and I use a lot of gas, so we usually end up getting about $10.00 off our grocery bill every time we shop by using Superbucks. If you fill your prescriptions at the Superstore pharmacy, they will also give you Superbucks that you can use towards your groceries.

So, by shopping at Superstore you can take advantage of points, Superbucks, and inexpensive food costs. If you live near a Superstore, I would definitely encourage you to check it out the next time you go grocery shopping.

Shopping At Costco: The Lazy Way To Save Money On Almost Everything

After writing my posts on our monthly expenses, many have asked "Why do I shop at Costco?" "You have that fee to pay.." "I can get a better deal elsewhere..." IMHO: Costco- a great balance of quality and price...lazy way to save? Perhaps. But, I've done the running around to find the best deals..Costco is still in the top 2 for savings. Add the Costco points from the Executive membership with AMEX points and voila! I'm fast becoming quite the Costco addict...perhaps buying some $COST shares are in order... An article from HowToSaveMoney.ca explains my choice to shop at Costco well:

February 8, 2011 by SavingMentor

CostcoWhen it comes to everyday shopping value, Costco truly is the cream of the crop and it is very hard for them to be beat in regards to value because they have great prices on above average quality products. Most people have shopped at Costco at one time or another, so I may be preaching to the choir here, but there has to be at least one person out there that still hasn’t given them a chance!

What do I mean when I say it is the lazy way to save money? Well, you definitely aren’t going to get the absolute lowest price when shopping at Costco. If you look out for amazing loss leader sales, you will often be able to beat Costco’s prices just by doing that. Then, if you combine a good manufacturer’s coupon with said sales, you are practically guaranteed to get a better deal elsewhere. However, finding cheap prices that way requires vigilance and dedication as well as potential trips to several stores with a lot of time wasted and money spent on gas!

When you shop at Costco, you are almost always guaranteed a more than competitive price and a selection of products that is heavily screened for quality. It is very rare to find an inferiour product at Costco as it seems every product has been hand picked to the highest quality and even products you see in other stores often come with an added feature or bonus to make them just a little bit better. But more importantly you will save yourself a whole lot of research and time making Costco the perfect choice for busy people focused on advancing their career (i.e. making more money) and their family or even those just looking to maximize their efficiency and free time while still saving money.

Shopping at Costco is actually almost too easy as you always find so many great products that you never knew existed before, so you may end up spending much more than you originally intended to. To stay on budget, it is important to go in with a list of things you need and then stick to it religiously. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

Costco Pros

  • Prices that are as good or better than typical sale prices you will see elsewhere all day everyday.
  • An amazing selection of products that typically exude both quality and value.
  • A return policy that is the best in the business.
    • Most items can be returned indefinitely even without the receipt or packaging for almost any reason.
    • Computers and most electronics now have a 90 day return policy as the previous unlimited return policy was being severely abused on these items.
  • Free extended warranty on TVs, projectors, and computers up to 2 years from the date of purchase.
  • Free technical support provided by Costco themselves on many electronic devices and computers by calling 1-866-231-9731.
  • Extra large parking spots and shopping carts so you always have lots of room and space!
  • In store coupons and coupon books for added savings on some of their more popular products.
  • Cheap and good fast food restaurant located in the store if you feel like binging on some junk food.
  • Free food samples handed out at a multitude of stations as you walk throughout the aisles, especially on weekends.
    • People have been known to go to Costco for dates and outings just to sample the free food!
    • I may have done this once or twice myself, but shhh – don’t tell anyone!

Costco Cons

  • Required annual membership fee costing a minimum of $55 that can be shared amongst family.
  • Manufacturer’s coupons may not be used at Costco; Only store coupons they issue themselves are permitted.
  • Potential for large crowds and long lines because Costco is a very popular and is usually quite packed.
    • This gets even worse on the weekends.
    • Fortunately they employ a lot of checkout workers to keep lines moving quickly.
  • No shopping bags or bins are provided at the checkout, but they might give you a recycled box if you're lucky!
  • Large sizes can lead to waste if you aren’t careful to freeze excess food items or share them with others.
  • Potential for increased driving time and gas used to get there because each city usually only has one Costco.
  • Good possibility of spending extra money because of how effective the store is at displaying and selling products.
  • Their range of products isn’t quite as good as Walmart and large grocery stores, so you may need to do some shopping elsewhere on occasion.
  • Credit cards, other than American Express, are not accepted.

Good Things To Buy At Costco

Not everything at Costco is a fantastic buy, but most things are at least decent. Here is a collection of a few things that I think provide exceptional value when bought at Costco:

Mattresses – These are always cheap at Costco and you don’t have to wade through the overpriced jungle that is your local mattress gallery or department store. At Costco you are bound to get a great mattress at a fantastic price without needing an 80% off sale or doing a lot of intense haggling; No high pressure sales tactics either!

Furniture – The selection is limited but you can find a variety of furniture at Costco ranging from dining rooms tables and living room furniture to computer desks and bookshelves. The quality is usually far superiour and the price is often much cheaper than you will find at your local department or office store.

Food – This is one of the best things you can buy at Costco as long as you have a family large enough to eat it all or the means to store it or freeze it until it can be eaten. Some grocery items that are much cheaper than elsewhere include meat (great cuts, good selection, and convenient packaging), cheese (so much cheaper, it isn’t funny), bread (traditional loafs as well as other varieties), and spices (containers 5 or 10 times the size for the same price).

Entertainment / Restaurant Certificates – Costco sells a variety of gift cards and certificates for various local entertainment and restaurants. For instance, my store has a night out movie package that I think costs just over $20 and includes two admissions, two large popcorns, and 2 large soft drinks. That would cost you at least $40 on the weekend if you were to buy everything directly at the cinema. Restaurant gift cards are also typically sold at a 20% discount, which is a significant savings.

Driveway Salt – This is a necessity for Canadian winters and I’ve noticed that the 20kg bags typically sell at about half the price of other stores.

Kitchen Stuff – Great selection of knives, dinnerware, cookware, tupperware, small appliances, and various other useful kitchen items at great prices.

Car Stuff – Car batteries and winter rims are both priced very well.

Clothes – They may not have all the latest styles, but it is hard to argue with $15 for a good pair of quality name brand jeans or full baby outfits for less than $10 each.

Electronics – The extended warranty, free concierge technical support, and the lengthy return period that is six times longer than the standard 14 days are all compelling reasons to shop at Costco for electronics.. The prices are also quite good, but you will almost always do better on electronics price-wise when shopping online.

Office Supplies – They offer a great selection of quality name brands and the prices are always less. Hanging file folders is one of my favourite office products to buy at Costco.

Digital Prints – Getting your home photos developed at Costco is usually cheaper than elsewhere unless there is a good sale happening somewhere else. The quality of the prints and photo paper is only average by my estimation, but it will still save you some money and gets the job done.

Tips For Shopping At Costco

There are a few somewhat lesser known tips for shopping at Costco that I would like to share with you to help you save a bit more money.

  • You can often get a discount on your membership by purchasing it online through Costco.ca and using a coupon code to either get a $10-$25 gift card in the mail or some other bonus like certificates for 2 free movies.
    • These coupon codes come and go but you can usually find one by doing a forum search over at Redflagdeals for “Costco membership coupon”.
    • If you aren’t a member at RFD, you can also search Google for “Redflagdeals Costco membership coupon” instead.
  • Right now you can also get a $10 gift card for having another Costco member bring you to sign you up for a membership. They will also be given a $10 gift card as well for the referral.
  • You can buy items at Costco, even without a membership, if you are using a Costco cash card (gift card) given to you by someone else.
    • You can even purchase Costco cash cards online (no membership required), have them shipped to you, and then buy stuff at Costco without a membership that way.
    • Keep in mind you may not get the other added benefits of membership like extended warranty, tech support, and so on.
    • This is a great way to try out Costco if you are uncertain about joining.
  • If you consolidate all your purchases at Costco, getting the Executive membership that costs $100 and gives you 2% back on all your purchases may make sense.
    • If you spend $5000 annually at Costco then your membership will be essentially free.
  • You should use a good American Express rewards credit card to earn rewards on all your Costco purchases.