Have you been reading our Life 101 series, where campus experts share their how to tips? If not, take a look at last fall's Life 101 feature and last spring's tips on how to beat box and how to get a good night's sleep.
How to save money with coupons
Lanita Withers Goins talks about her money-saving strategies in the grocery store.
Staff writer Lanita Withers Goins loves to save money, and she's good at it. And not only does Lanita love saving money, she loves to talk about saving money. Coupons, two-fers, rebates, etc., she knows her stuff.
Coupons, to me, are like money, the sage shopper begins, deftly flipping through her coupon holder. You wouldn't take a $5 bill and throw it away, would you? I'm not going to throw a coupon away. It's like currency. For every coupon I use, that's more dollars that get to stay in my pocket, and stay in my family's budget.
Lanita and her husband, James, have a new baby, Joshua, born in December. So Lanita not only has one more reason to be thrifty, she wants to pass on her savvy shopping groove to Joshua.
Lanita's mom quit her job to stay home for a few years after Lanita was born, and did the same when her little sister, Lisa, came along. We were essentially a single-income family. Mom had to be thrifty, and when you're a kid, you pick that up. Everything is a learning opportunity.
Good habits are contagious and little Lanita began to help her mom scan the papers for the best deals. "We'd get the Sunday papers. Some people reach for the sports section or the comics. I'd reach for the circulars."
And the little girl grew into the clever shopper she is today, able to calculate a price per unit faster than you can say, Which one's a better deal? Here are a few of her saving secrets:
- Know your prices. You can't get the best deal in town if you have no means of comparison. Lanita suggests keeping a price book a notebook that lists several stores' average prices on staple items.
- All things in moderation. It's fine to buy in bulk as long as you know you will use the item, and use it before the expiration date. If it goes bad before you use it, or if you just don't use it, you're wasting your money. Items like shampoo, baby powder and soap are safe bets.
- Double or triple that coupon. Look for stores that double or triple manufacturers' coupons. In the Greensboro area, Harris Teeter and Lowes Foods are two stores that regularly do.
- Ask for a rain check. If the store has run out of an advertised sale item, it is likely because other savvy shoppers knew it was a good deal too. Go to Customer Service and ask for a rain check. Just be sure to note the expiration date on the rain check.
- Pair coupons with sale prices. This is the single best way to save money, Lanita says. Often, you can end up getting an item for free.
- Stack coupons when you can. Some stores, such as Walgreens, allow customers to use both store coupons and manufacturer's coupons on items. Using both stacks up on savings.
- Know your store's policy on coupons. Lanita knows which stores allow stacking, which stores double or triple coupons and which stores offer rain checks and product guarantees.
- Write the manufacturer. Ask them if they offer free product samples or introductory discounts as an inducement for you to try their product. All they can do is say no, she points out, and she has been successful often enough to recommend it.
- Take advantage of product guarantees. If you want to buy the less expensive store brand but are afraid it might not work as well as the name brand, look for the 100-percent satisfaction guarantee on the packaging. Most stores offer this on their store brand items. If those diapers leak, return the unused portion for a full refund. Stores will often give you the name brand product for free as an added incentive.
- Go online to find coupons. Keep checking the newspapers for coupons, but also check out manufacturer's web sites and their Facebook pages. Manufacturers often post coupons and rebate deals there. Just print and go shopping.
How to keep your cyber-self safe
From your friends list on Facebook to your bank account details, there's a lot of information about you online information you don't want to get into the wrong hands. Dr. Nir Kshetri, an associate professor in the Bryan School of Business and Economics, is an expert on cybercrime, researching the ins and outs of the estimated $1 trillion industry that's keen on stealing your information. Here are some of his tips on how to keep your online life secure:
- Use strong passwords, update your anti-virus software often and refrain from visiting unknown and suspicious web sites, Kshetri suggests. Also, you need to be cautious of opening email attachments from unknown senders even from known senders if you are not expecting (to hear from them). Also be wary of accepting friend requests from strangers on Facebook, Twitter or other social media outlets.
- Be careful about where you access the internet, Kshetri says. If you are accessing the internet from unsecure locations such as a public wireless LAN hotspot, internet café or public library, if possible at all, you should avoid entering sensitive information such as credit card numbers, social security numbers and health information. Also be mindful of the source of applications you use on your smartphone. Be very cautious in using products associated with less reputed or unknown companies, he says. For instance, you need to avoid downloading any apps for your smartphone or superphone from third party suppliers, especially if you don't know about the reputation of the supplier.
- As much as possible, you should refuse any request for personal information, Kshetri recommends. If you think the agency requesting your personal information is a legitimate one, you must ask why the agency needs the information and whether you have a choice not to provide it. You also need to be suspicious of any unusual offers by mail such as tempting business offers, lottery winning notifications or job offers from companies that you don't know or for which you didn't even apply.
- Look after your little and not so little ones. Children and teenagers exhibit a higher degree of vulnerability to crime victimization or perpetration in the cyberspace, Kshetri says. In general, teens' and kids' cyber neighborhoods are highly crime prone. For instance, according to the anti-virus company Kaspersky, in the first quarter of 2010, Facebook was the No. 4 most targeted site by phishers … Parents, guardians, schools and colleges need to make efforts to educate them in areas such as internet safety, information security and cyberethics."
Further, a few conversations now about what is and isn't appropriate online could prevent potentially difficult and embarrassing situations later, Kshetri says. In a survey of 500 top colleges released in 2008, 10 percent of them acknowledged looking at applicants' social media sites, of which 38 percent reported that such sites negatively affected the applicants. A Kaplan survey released in early 2011 indicated that more than 80 percent of college admissions officers looked at applicants' social media sites in making decisions. Posting inappropriate content may damage personal reputations and hurt college admission and job opportunities.
In addition to these tips, Kshetri gave advice on two relatively new innovations and ways consumers should be alert using them.
- The above rules of thumb are equally applicable for cloud computing, he says. Cloud computing, a relatively new trend, involves hosting applications on servers and delivering software and services to consumers via the internet. In many cases, cloud providers offer such services to individuals for free. But that doesn't mean you should keep everything in the cloud, Kshetri says. At the current stage of institutional and technological arrangements, if you are dealing with sensitive information, the cloud may not be a safe place to store your data. If you need to use a cloud, however, it is a good idea to ask the cloud vendors as to what security measures are in place and what the vendor would do in case of a security breach.
- And if you have a smartphone, be aware that it may have geotagging capabilities. Geotagging is when photographs and videos taken or SMS messages sent may provide location or GPS data such as latitude, longitude coordinates, altitude and place names, Kshetri explains. Geotagging-enabled smartphones might be pretty harmless in most situations but may pose a serious threat to privacy and security in other cases. For instance, if you post real time photo blogs, cyber-offenders may be able to track you and burglars may know when you are not home. People can also find where you have been and even your exact address.