A.J. Shepherd

A.J. is a full-time graphic designer and wanna-be-out-of-debtor who shares money-saving ideas and tips on getting out of debt. In 2003, he found himself $40k in debt ($20k in credit cards alone) and rid himself of debt in five years. He and his friends have a website dedicated to personal finance and gaining financial independence at www.threethriftyguys.com. Read more about A.J. Shepherd.

Is Walmart Really Cheaper Than Cub?

Posted by: A.J. Shepherd under Household budgeting, Shopping, Supermarkets Updated: June 28, 2012 - 9:35 PM

I'm sure you've heard all the Walmart ads on TV, newspaper and even the radio, boasting about their lower food prices. They are even daring you to "take the test" and compare their prices against Cub Foods (which has the largest marketshare here in the Twin Cities). 

So, I decided to visit a neaby Cub Foods and then a Walmart store to compare the two. While this was not "scientific" study, it did give me a feel for the price differences. Who do you think was cheaper?

This is how I ran the test: I sampled 10 random items at each store that (I'm assuming) end up in a lot of shopper's carts. Of those, one was eliminated because I could not find the exact product at Cub. Also, I just matched - price to price - not including any coupons. I wanted the straight-up price for what I could get each item for - that day.

Here's what I discovered.

 Grocery Item  Walmart Price  Cub Price
 Ragu Chunky Garden Sauce (24 oz) $1.88  $2.29
 Kikkoman Soy Sauce (10 oz) 1.74  1.99 
Kraft Stove Top for Turkey (6 oz)  1.98 2.19 
Kraft Mac and Cheese (7.25 oz) 1.38  1.00 
Pace Picante Chunky Sauce Mild (24 oz)  2.48 3.39 
Betty Crocker Super Moist Lemon Mix (15.25 oz)  1.34 1.99 
Kelloggs Fruit Loops (8.7 oz)  2.50 2.50 
Diet Coke - 24 cans  5.98  5.99 
Ice Mountain Sport (23.7 oz)  4.98  5.00 
Totals $24.26 $26.34

So, according to my loose study - it appears as though Walmart is correct in their boast. I have to admit - I'm partial to Cub Foods - as I've grown up shopping the store and enjoy supporting a local, home-grown company.

While the price difference isn't huge - it could cause a few folks to turn their backs on Cub and shop Walmart from now on. 

Do you think the difference is enough to make the switch? Or do you have other factors (besides price) that factor into your choice of grocers?

Aaron writes at ThreeThriftyGuys.com - a personal finance site devoted to helping folks keep a few more bucks in their pockets (and purses).

Personal Finance Reading: Get More Done, Best Bank Accounts and Start a Budget

Posted by: A.J. Shepherd under Personal finance, Saving money Updated: March 8, 2012 - 11:02 PM

There are a lot of good personal finance sites out there right now. So we thought we'd bring you a round-up of some of our favorite posts from the past week.

Five Unique Money Personalities (Which are you?) Budgets Are Sexy
An interesting read about five different ways in which people handle money.

Class Consciousness and Social Mobility Get Rich Slowy
A discussion of class and how it plays a role in our lives.

America's Billion Dollar Baby Scam Frugal Dad
Through an infographic, see the baby industry in a whole new light.

Best Bank Accounts That Save You Money ChristianPF
A list of seven banking accounts that will put money back into your pocket.

Local Deals: Free Showerheads and More Pocket Your Dollars
From free admission to the zoo to low-flow shower heads - PYD has got you covered.

Start Small When Starting a Budget Northern Cheapskate
Creating a budget doesn't have to be overwhelming.

3 Productivity Apps to Help You Get More Done The Jenny Pincher
If you've got a smartphone, these tips will help you maximize your productivity.

Are there any other articles out there you are reading?

Aaron writes for ThreeThriftyGuys.com - a personal finance site devoted to helping you keep a few more bucks in your pocket. 

The Millionaire Who Was Frugal for a Greater Purpose

Posted by: A.J. Shepherd under Personal finance, Society Updated: February 16, 2012 - 10:36 PM

I came across this story last week in the Huffington Post. It was about a 96-year old woman who died in late 2010 and left $1.7 million to the Salvation Army. This happens all the time, right: rich folks leaving large amounts to charities? True - but Elinor Sauerwein wasn't known for her high lifestyle. She was a frugal millionaire.

According to the East Idaho News, Elinor lived in a very humble home in Modesto, California. A school-teacher who had graduated college in the early '30s, Elinor would travel by horseback to a one-room schoolhouse in rural Nebraska. She married in 1945 and then moved out to California to work on a ranch with her husband.

Here are some interesting tidbits about her frugal lifestyle:

  • She grew her own fruits and vegetables
  • Never purchased a dryer - instead opting to use a clothesline in the backyard
  • Refused to go to restaurants, movies or pay for cable (though the Huffington story indicated that in her late 90s she did finally get cable installed and loved the History channel)
  • Never went on vacations (her only one was a trip to Hawaii in her later years - which a friend had to convince her to do)

“Most people around her thought she was poor. Sauerwin’s friends knew she had money, but they just didn’t know how much,” said Elinor's financial adviser.

But in the end, Elinor had amassed about $2 million dollars from savings and investments.

“She said every dollar I save is another dollar that could go to the Salvation Army. Her goal for years and years was to amass as much as she could so it would go to the Salvation Army,” her financial adviser told ABC News.

There is something very pure and noble about a life lived like this. Living to "amass as much as she could" so it would go to charity? And, she didn't get to enjoy any of it?

This is hard for me to even fathom. Saving and saving - living like a cheapskate for your whole life - and then not enjoying any of its benefits later on. Odd huh?

What do you make of Elinor's story? Too much the cheapskate or is there something to the way she lived?

How Are You Doing on Your Financial Goals?

Posted by: A.J. Shepherd under Personal finance, Saving money Updated: February 9, 2012 - 11:10 PM

(Or, I should ask - have you made any for the year?)

I'm not always the best when it comes to creating goals. I am more of a free-spirit when it comes to such things - I make a plan in my head and then loosely follow it. Not exactly a recipe for success, I know. But, I'm working on it.

Over at our personal finance site - we are running a year-long "Personal Finance Challenge" to help folks set up some goals for 2012 and see if they can knock off all 10 on the list by years end. I have to admit - this is more for me than our readers. :)

Here's what is on that list:

  1. Create a $1k Emergency Fund
  2. Get a Term Life Insurance Policy
  3. Cut Wasteful Spending
  4. Read a Book on Personal Finance
  5. Cut Your Debt by 5% or More (doesn't include mortgage - but can if you want)
  6. Tithe 5% or More of Your Income
  7. Start a Side Gig
  8. Start a File For Your 2012 Taxes
  9. Sell Your Crap
  10. Complete a DIY (Do-it-yourself) Project

So far this year, I've managed to cross-off several items and am working on a couple others. I'm actually enjoying having these goals in front of my face every day.

If you'd like to participate with us - all you have to do is sign-up at the Personal Finance Challenge page and then download the checklist there. For those who are partaking and complete the set goals for the year, we are doing a random drawing for $100 cash in early 2013. So, there is some more motivation for you.

Have you set any other financial goals for yourself this year?


Save Money by Making Referrals

Posted by: A.J. Shepherd under Business, Local business, Personal finance, Saving money Updated: January 19, 2012 - 9:39 PM

Business owners are facing stronger competition than ever before. It seems like for every sandwich shop that opens up - two more are just a couple blocks down the street.

Because of this, word-of-mouth advertising is still one of the best tools businesses have to garner new clientele. New customers are not cheap - so it doesn't get much better then when a loyal customer brings in a friend or family member. Smart owners recognize the importance of word-of-mouth and reward it. So, why not help a local business out? You may just land a deep discount or freebie.

Here's some good places to make referrals:

Beauty salon/barber
LIke many service orientated businesses, salons/barber shops rely heavily on word-of-mouth. Many hair stylists turn their business cards into coupon referral offers. One experience I had with a stylist offered a free cut to someone you referred and 50% off your next cut.

Insurance agent
A lot of people stick with their insurance companies. I've had the same one since I was 16 (20 years!). So, it's likely hard for agents to get new clientele. Help 'em out with a referral. They may reward this by checking over your policy a bit closer when it comes due.

Mortgage loan officer
You don't need to use these guys too often - but when you do, you want someone you can trust and rely on. I was fortunate enough to have one referred to me when I bought my first house and have also used him on a second home purchase. I wouldn't go to anyone else and have referred a couple other people his way too. They likely won't forget your goodwill - and may keep in touch with you regarding refinancing offers or other important information.

Health clubs/yoga studios
My wife does yoga and the studio she frequents give her $5 off any new person she brings in the door. Health clubs are also noted for rewarding referrals.

Some medical practices
Another service that many folks tend to stick with, are dentists. So to attract new-comers, they are sometimes known to reward clients who refer.

Online web stores
If you look at the footer of many web merchants, you'll note they often have a link for "affiliates". If you sign up to be one, you can get rewarded with discounts and/or cash. If you have a website yourself, you can add a link to their web store - which could give you some nice, passive income.

Of course, this is not exhaustive. Are there other businesses out there where you have saved some money by making a referral?

Aaron writes at Three Thrifty Guys - a personal finance site devoted to helping folks keep a few more bucks in their pockets.


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