Dynamic pricing

Amazon pricing
AAA battery prices on Amazon from camelcamelcamel
How much? How much you got?

As online sales increase and retailers get more proficient at data collection it seems like they are continually trying to sort customers into two groups; one that is price insensitive, and one that is price sensitive. The Safeway club card reduces prices significantly. I could not bring myself to buy more than a 3$ single item without it. Amazon has dynamic pricing. Do you want to pay $26.12 or $7.82 for AAA batteries?

Variable pricing for insurance, willing to be inconvenienced?

It would be great if the insurance companies valued me as a long term customer and lowered my rates, but they keep going up. It’s a pain to switch insurance companies and to get quotes and do an apples to apples comparison.

What about airlines? How bad do you want that flight?

It’s been reported that airlines provide different pricing depending on how many times you search. Search a lot and the price goes up. Open a new ‘incognito’ window and you get a better price.

What to do?

For purchases I have started tracking the price of repeat items in a spreadsheet. We buy often from amazon and there are two major ways to save at amazon. For groceries we shop at Walmart for most items and then use the Savings catcher app to see if we got the best price. You quickly scan the receipt using your cell phone and the Walmart app when you get home. So far we are up almost 5$ since we started in December. Here is why we don’t shop at Costco. For airlines you can open an incognito window, or even better use points from a credit card bonus. For insurance I now plan to get at least one additional quote each year. With each variable pricing model, you may need a new approach to combat it.

Walmart savings catcher results
Final thoughts

The good news is the savings can really add up if you want to be in the price sensitive group. The bad news is you have to be pro-active to get the low price. I plan to keep educating myself on these dynamic pricing models and searching out ways to exploit them. But I don’t like that these kinds of strategies are likely to affect the elderly negatively. How is grandma supposed to know to use incognito mode on the browser?

Frugal snacks; popcorn and choosing a brand

Hot air popcorn

Popcorn is a frugal snack and doesn’t take much effort if you have a hot air popper. We have been buying Walmart’s Great Value Yellow Popcorn for $1.66 in-store. For that price we get at least 16 servings, or about 10 cents a serving plus the cost of butter so let’s say 25 cents a serving max. Much cheaper than buying it pre-made, or buying potato chips. We were enjoying it until Walmart was out of Great Value and instead we bought Jolly Time Pop Corn White for $1.94 in store.  The Jolly time was way better, much softer when cooked in the hot air popper. This got me thinking, how many brands do we use, where we are happy with it, but a much better option exists? How would we know?

Popcorn forensics

I’m a big fan of doing research before buying almost anything. Why not get the best value? We buy a lot of our goods online from Amazon where we have instant access to many reviews. I can find out quickly what the best rated product in a category is, and I usually read enough reviews to understand what the strengths and weaknesses of a product are. But what about groceries? DW shops in-store, so the reviews aren’t in view when buying. We have brands we have used for years. But what if there is a product we would enjoy much more, even if it costs a bit more? So I looked at Walmart’s rating for the popcorn after the fact.

Walmart ratings

For the Great Value Yellow Popcorn there were 90 reviews on the Walmart site as of 1-15-2018. The rating was 4.0. For the Jolly Time there were 40 ratings and the average was 4.2. Pretty close. But the ratio of 4 stars to 5 stars was different. For Great Value the ratio was 51/15 = 3.4. For Jiffy it was 26/5 = 5.2. I am not saying this is scientific, but in the future I am going to look at this ratio.

Final thoughts

DW and I both greatly prefer the Jolly time when popped in our hot air popper. This makes me wonder how many other grocery items we buy regularly, where there is a different brand we would greatly prefer. I will be comparing some brands we use a lot to see, stay tuned.

Pruning apple trees on the homestead

Apple tree pruning on the Palouse
Before

It’s December and winter has set in on the Palouse. Time to prune the apple trees. I didn’t prune them last year, so there will be a bit more to do this year. My secret weapon is a reciprocating saw with a pruning blade.

Reciprocating saw and blades for pruning

I use a corded saw but a cordless one would be better for this job, maybe I’ll get one at some point. It takes about 3 hours over two days to do one tree. I am absolutely not a pruning expert and I know I over-prune, but my goal is to get it done. There is always something to do, even on a small acreage. But the sun is out and the air is crisp.

One down, three to go
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Frugal Entertainment: Thanksgiving 2017

A PS3 with a 32 inch TV is just fine for some co-op gaming
Getting value for your entertainment dollar

As the number of internet content providers expand, the choices for how to spend money on entertainment have gotten dizzying; Netflix, Hulu, Sling, Amazon. On the path to FI it’s critically important to minimize recurring costs, so just signing up for all the subscriptions is not an option. We cut cable 7 years ago and haven’t looked back. But we still want to watch some TV including college and NFL football, Game of Thrones, American Pickers and Brooklyn Nine Nine.

Over the Air Network TV: Upfront ~$323, recurring zero

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