Thrifty tips to save money

As a homemaker who has become a "purchasing agent" for her family, Buffy McCune is an astute shopper. Here she gives advice to men and women who want to save money.

* Never make blanket assumptions about shopping. Assumptions can mean costly mistakes. Learn to shop around.

For example, Mrs. McCune recently compared the price of oatmeal at a food cooperative, a health food store, and a supermarket (where the cereal was available either packaged or from a bin). Although she assumed it would be most expensive at the health food store, the oatmeal cost ranged from a high of 69 cents a pound from the supermarket bin to allow of 36 cents a pound at the health food store.

"I thought buying something from a bin would be less expensive than a box," says Mrs. McCune.

* Write down sales prices or take a copy of the ad when grocery shopping and watch carefully as the cashier rings up the purchases. Mistakes add up.

"Feel free to speak up," says Mrs. McCune. "No cashier can learn all the price changes every day."

* Watch for sales patterns because there is a right time to buy everything under retail price. For example, there are February sales after both Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays. Dishes, televisions, and appliances are at low prices, along with some winter clothes and sportswear. Persons who like canned cherry pie filling should stock up after Washington's birthday, since this is the only time of year it goes on sale, Mrs. McCune says.

* Be wary of clothing clearance sales this time of year, since the top fashions are probably already sold.

"You have to be realistic," says Mrs. McCune. "If you are a common size, chances are one in a million that you'll find the great buy." She also points out that people without good sales resistance are susceptible to buying unnecessary goods that are not on sale.

"It is gray and dreary outside, and you have a tendency to want to make your trip worthwhile," she says.

* Go to pre-season sales, when the markdowns are about 10 to 20 percent, and buy first-choice clothes. When the clearance sales begin, fill in the wardrobe with accessories and changes of blouses at 40 to 50 percent off.

* The best sales on men's clothes are during January sales and right after Father's Day.

* Hunt for children's jackets at factory outlets. The cost of small alterations, such as replacing a zipper, will still be far less than buying a new jacket at a retail store.

Persons interested in receiving Buffy McCune's tips, such as the best buys in beef or how to make home-brewed beverages (including hot chocolate and cinnamon or chocolate flavored coffee), may write to Penny Prudent, Petticoat Press, PO Box 6051, Bellevue, Wash.

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