It's been a few years now since my husband and I began talking about relocating to another state. At first, it was only a dream, but soon idle chatter turned to serious talk. That developed into a list of must-haves — things a new location would have to offer for us to even consider making the leap.
At the top of the list? Weather. Having lived in Southern California for most of our lives, we knew it would be impossible to beat the weather we'd come to love and pretty much taken for granted. Finding the next best weather was at the top of our must-haves.
Second on the list: Costco. You think I'm kidding? They don't call me the queen of Costco for nothing.
I believe that anyone — a household of one or a big family — can stretch their money by shopping at a discount warehouse club such as Costco. But only if you are willing to stick to a very strict list of rules, some of which may be unique to your particular situation.
SHOP WITH CASH
Having the complete contents of your checking account, overdraft protection plan and credit card limit available to you in the form of plastic or a checkbook could easily enable you to pop one of those big-screen TVs into your cart, quite on a whim. Go with cash only and you'll avoid many temptations.
SHOP WITH A LIST
Decide what you need before you get there. If it's not on the list, don't buy it. If that 55-gallon drum of shampoo turns out to be a true need that you simply forgot to put on the list, you can always return to buy it later.
JUSTIFY THE MEMBERSHIP FEE
At $50 to $60 a year just for the privilege of membership (depending on the club), realize that the net savings are much more than the fee.
DON'T OUTSHOP STORAGE SPACE AND ABILITY TO REASONABLY CONSUME
If anything will nullify your best intentions, this will be it. No matter how great the bargain or how terrific the deal, if you can't reasonably use a 50-pound bag of flour or 25 pounds of onions before they spoil, that's a bad deal. Never buy more than you are sure (not that you hope, think or feel) you can use without creating a false need.
CREATE AN APPEARANCE OF SCARCITY
Once you get home with cases of this and that — even paper towels or toilet tissue — you'd best find a place to stash your supply or it will disappear faster than Colorado snow on a bright sunny day. Remember this: out of sight, out of mind.
DIVIDE AND CONQUER
Costco is notorious for its prepared entrees that are made in store. Ready to be baked or finished off at home, these meals can serve eight to 10 people. Even though mine is a small household of two, I buy these entrees routinely because they are fabulous, and I cannot make them myself for anywhere close to Costco's price.
Here's what I do: The minute I get home, I take the time to divide these big entrees into servings for two, transferring them to my vast collection of Snapware containers (equal to or even better than Tupperware but cheaper).
Sometimes, I freeze the re-portioned servings, but most often, I simply put them in the refrigerator. Works like a charm.
As for number one on the list, we are convinced the weather here must be the world's best kept secret, with an average of 300 sunny days annually — it's true!
And number two? We nailed that, too. Costco is a perfect 1.5 miles from our front door.
Mary invites questions, comments and tips at [email protected], or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually. Mary Hunt is the founder of www.DebtProofLiving.com, a personal finance member website and the author of "Debt-Proof Living," released in 2014. To find out more about Mary and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.