January 18, 2006

529 College Savings Plans

More and more advertising is appearing for various forms of 529 Savings Plans. These are plans providing various ways to save for college. Are these good for you? Want to know more? Check out SavingsforCollege.com where the plans are explained, in great detail.

Epinions - Online Comparative Reviews

Epinions is a fantastic site for comparison shopping. Take, for example, its review of Upromise - a site promising to help folk save for college via a 529 plan -- where every time you shop, a bit of money is automatically saved for you in a separate account.

Epinions reviews an extensive amount of products, dividing its database into the following topics:cars, books, movies, music, computers & software, electronics, gifts, home and garden, kids & family, office supply, sports, travel, and more.

FYI, Epinions' bottom line on UPromise: recommended.

Freebies Online - A Blog Collection

There is a blogger who collects freebies offered online for you. He's the Slant Eyed Bargain Hunter.

Great Grocery Savings

The Grocery Game is different from other coupon sites. Each week, Teri Gault provides an online list for your specific zip code: in it, "rock bottom" prices on hundreds of products are itemized; then, manufacturers' coupons are coordinated with those products so you can maximize your food budget dollar.

How does Teri do this? She has databases that track manufacturers' coupons together with weekly sales and specials, both advertised and UN-advertised. This gives you much more purchasing power than clipping coupons alone. All you need, she says, is your Sunday newspaper, a pair of scissors, and her site list.

How it works: you stockpile (which Teri says takes 12 weeks to fully implement) and thereafter, you buy only on a needs basis. Teri explains that items are placed on sale according to "Categorical Sales Trends," i.e, only certain categories of items are on sale each week. Teri explains, "[f]or example, let's say the supermarket is divided into categories: frozen foods, deli, dairy, toiletries, cleaning products, etc. Only two or three of these categories will be featured on sale in any given week. So if you shop each week only for what you need, you will only be able to save on 10% or so of the categories in the store, but you will have to over-spend on the other categories. In other words, about 90% of your purchases will not be at their lowest prices.

"When you are "stockpiling," you only buy the items that are at their "rock bottom" price with a good coupon. This cuts down on high-priced, "need" shopping. You end up building your own "store" at home comprised of items that you stockpiled at the lowest possible prices. After about 12 weeks of stockpiling, you should have a well-rounded stockpile. Your "need" shopping diminishes and you save even more as you pull items from your "store" at home."

Why bother with her site? Teri explains:

"People who are great at coupon-ing typically spend hours each week preparing for their shopping trip. These "coupon pros" research sales in the ads, matching up their coupons to those sales. Once at the supermarket they soon discover there may be twice as many more un-advertised sales. So, after spending many hours at home with the sales ad, they spend even more hours standing in the supermarket aisles sifting through their coupon files once again, searching for even more coupons to match those sales. This is what we call making a career out of coupon-ing. Unfortunately, most of us don't have the time for this type of shopping.

In contrast, members of The Grocery Game eliminate all of those time consuming hours and usually save even more time and money than most "coupon pros". Even "coupon pros" can make costly mistakes. Just because an item is on sale doesn't mean its time to play your coupon. The Grocery Game databases differentiate between "phantom sales" and "rock bottom" sales, saving members even more money. Now, the best possible savings are quickly accessible to "coupon pros", busy professionals, overworked moms, single adults and anyone who wants to cut their grocery bill by as much as half or even more."

The site has lots of encouraging stories -- and images of grocery receipts with remarkable savings. Amazing ones.

And, you do pay to participate. But it's cheap. And, there's a $1.00 (one buck) trial offered -- which covers 4 weeks. That should be enough time to see how this works for you....
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