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Smart Consumers

Balance Your Budget and Buying Habits

Living without a budget is similar to taking a long trip without a road map or GPS. Is it possible? Sure. Is it the most expedient way to reach your destination? Probably not.

One could argue you might enjoy the journey more if you don’t pre-ordain all of your stops, and that might be true. But a good budget isn’t so rigid that you can’t use discretionary income at, well, your discretion. Once you’ve created a line-item budget for each of your essential expenses, you will likely have some leftover funds. You can spend all your extra money as you wish, or just a portion — assigning the rest to a regular savings plan.

Utilizing some of your discretionary funds for savings also can be fun. Maybe not as fun as a hot air balloon ride with Champagne and strawberries — but even those can get old. Saving the same amount of money each month and watching it grow, knowing you have funds available for an unexpected expense, can help give you confidence in your financial journey. While maybe not traditionally “fun,” this can provide a sense of satisfaction you can’t get from new shoes, a luxury vacation or dining out at an expensive restaurant.

Remember, budgeting is a lot like eating healthy. It’s OK to indulge occasionally, but the important thing is to stay on budget and stick to your savings goals on a regular basis. This strategy can help you enjoy occasional splurges even more because you know you’ve earned them.

 

Money-Saving Tips

What’s Available at Amazon

Once upon a time, many people believed Walmart and its cousin, Sam’s Club, were going to take over the retail world. Now, that mantle belongs to Amazon. Recently, Amazon’s entry into the world of groceries led to the creation of Amazon Prime Pantry and the purchase of Whole Foods supermarket chain.

Amazon Prime Pantry, available exclusively to Amazon Prime members, is another fee-based service that enables shoppers to buy select nonperishable grocery store items packed in a single delivery box for a flat fee. It can even be used to purchase heavy, expensive-to-ship items such as bottled water, laundry detergent and kitty litter. The products are ground shipped for delivery within one to four business days.1

AmazonFresh, currently available only in certain areas, enables shoppers to buy fresh food including produce, meat and even local items, delivered to their homes at a specified time. It is available only to Prime members and currently costs an additional $14.99 a month.2

Amazon’s much-hyped Alexa, the electronic voice for the company’s home-based Echo devices, works much like Google or the iPhone’s Siri. The devices utilize artificial intelligence (AI), allowing users to ask questions or request services and receive instant responses. For example, you can request that Alexa remind you to start the laundry after work on Tuesday, create a to-do list, give you scores for your favorite sports team or play your favorite song from your Amazon Music account.3

Speaking of Amazon Music, this subscription service provides access to tens of millions of songs via smartphone, tablet, computer, Fire TV and Amazon Echo. You can create your own playlists, download songs to be available when you’re not connected to WiFi and never listen to any advertisements. The service differs from Prime Music, which is free to Prime members and offers many of the same features but with a smaller library.4

Regarding Amazon Prime, a recent shareholder letter revealed there are now more than 100 million Prime members worldwide who pay an annual or monthly fee for free two-day shipping on eligible products, as well as additional features such as access to television, video and music.5

1 Elizabeth Harper. DealNews. May 19, 2017. “What Is Amazon Prime Pantry?” https://www.dealnews.com/features/What-Is-Amazon-Prime-Pantry/1981946.html. Accessed May 1, 2018.
2 Amazon. “About AmazonFresh.” https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/ref=hp_13819211_primefresh?nodeId=201338210. Accessed May 1, 2018.
3 Taylor Martin, David Priest. CNET. Dec. 18, 2017. “The complete list of Alexa commands so far.” https://www.cnet.com/how-to/amazon-echo-the-complete-list-of-alexa-commands/. Accessed May 1, 2018.
4 Amazon. “Amazon Music Unlimited FAQ.” https://www.amazon.com/b?ie=UTF8&node=15730321011. Accessed May 1, 2018.
5 Eugene Kim. CNBC. April 18, 2018. “Jeff Bezos reveals Amazon has 100 million Prime members in letter to shareholders.” https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/18/amazon-ceo-jeff-bezos-2018-shareholder-letter.html. Accessed April 19, 2018.

 

Planning Tip

Why Buy Local?

Here are six reasons to shop at locally owned, independent businesses:

  • Localproduce is fresher and often tastes better.
  • Supporting local shopkeepers allows them to continue operating in a convenient location.
  • Contribute to the character and culture of your community.
  • Increase small business development — local businesses often purchase from other local businesses, service providers and farms.
  • Increase local tax base to provide for schools, roads, infrastructure, fire and law enforcement, and other public services.
  • Small businesses often contribute to the community by donating to local nonprofits, events and teams.