• My Top Tactics for Reducing Online Shopping

    I find it very easy to buy stuff online without adequate thought. I’ll click a few times and suddenly the item I want is on the way. I particularly struggle with three sites directly connected to three of my biggest hobbies: Amazon (for books), Cool Stuff Inc. (for board games), and Steam (for computer games …

  • 15 Shopping Rules of Thumb

    I recently read a wonderful post over at The Technium containing twelve simple shopping rules of thumb for various products, mostly technology related. Some of them are great. A few of them are outdated. I find I use some of them myself; here are the ones I really find value in: Pay for RAM, not …

  • Some Thoughts on Product Placement

    Please take a moment and watch this YouTube video before we get started. I’d embed it here, but the person who uploaded it has disallowed embedding of the video. If you’re unable to watch, the video is a series of clips from the movie Transformers, showing the absurd amount of product placement within the film …

  • Cost and Quality: Best and Worst Case Scenarios

    I’ll start this post out by showing you three chef’s knives from my kitchen. The top chef’s knife is a loose one that I picked up for $0.50 or so at a yard sale more than a decade ago – I’m unsure even what type it is. It’s serviceable, but it loses its edge fairly …

  • The Egg Nog Dilemma

    This past week, we spent quite a bit of time visiting Sarah’s parents. Her mother kindly bought several items that I would be able to eat or drink throughout the week in advance of our visit (yes, I actually like my mother in law!). One of the things she picked up for me was a …

  • My “Reverse” Black Friday

    This pre-Thanksgiving year is the time in which the internet seems to be abuzz with what various retailers are going to have on steep discount on “Black Friday” in order to get people in the door. For those not from the United States, Thanksgiving is a national holiday that occurs on the fourth Thursday in …

  • Degrees of Want: Revisiting the iPod Touch Replacement

    Two days ago, I wrote an article discussing the damage done to my often-used iPod Touch and my decision-making process when it comes to a replacement for it. A great many of you encouraged me to straight-up replace my iPod Touch with a new one, and I appreciate the comments. I thought I’d walk a …

  • Degrees of Want

    I received an iPod Touch as a Christmas gift in 2008. Since then, I have used and absued the thing at a level perhaps beyond what Apple ever intended. I’ve used it as a constant pocket notebook. I’ve used it as a podcast and music player every time I go on a walk (usually several …

  • Subconscious Connections

    Open up one of your favorite magazines. Turn to a full page ad for a product – any product. Look at it carefully for a minute. What do you see? Fire up your television. Fast forward through the commercials (I know many of you can). Think about the flickering images that still made it through. …

  • Pay More for These Meaningless Words and Phrases!

    Every time I go shopping for a food item or a household item, I’m always bombarded with all sorts of nonsensical and largely meaningless terms plastered all over products. The words are often tied to products that, frankly, I view as overpriced for various reasons. I decided to catalogue a few of these wonderful meaningless …

  • Buying with Confidence: Reviews, Trust, and Accountability

    A few weeks ago, in the July 2010 issue of Bon App├ętit, Andrew Knowlton succinctly summed up the way I feel about trusted and untrusted reviews: If I’m curious as to whether a restaurant is worth trying out or not, I don’t consult sites like Yelp – I ask a friend. That way, I can …

  • What You’re Buying When You Go to a Store

    Why do you shop at your preferred grocery store? Think about it for a minute. What reasons do you have for shopping at one store over another? Is it purely the prices? What about the location – is it because it’s close to your home? Cleanliness (like my Aldi story a while back)? Store organization? …

  • Five Challenges of Buying Used – and How to Overcome Them

    I revel in used stuff. I use PaperBackSwap almost religiously. I love shopping at thrift stores and consignment shops. I look forward to yard sales and make a day out of “community yard sale day.” Undeniably, though, there are drawbacks. Sure, you get a nice financial bargain, but no purchase is a perfect one. Whenever …

  • Pulling the Trigger

    One of the biggest challenges of saving money for a big goal is when exactly to go forward with that purchase. Three examples: For almost three years, I saved money for a replacement for my truck. For almost a full year, we shopped for a replacement while continuing to save and, during that year, we …

  • Why Do You Buy?

    What’s the single most important piece of personal finance advice you would give a person? I’ve heard this question (or variations on it) many times. I have a very simple answer to it. Whenever you buy anything, ask yourself why five times. That seems really off the wall at first glance, but I firmly believe …

  • The Psychological Trap of Warehouse Clubs

    Jonah Lehrer wrote a brilliant little article about Costco over at the Science Blog. An excerpt: The secret of Costco’s success – and the reason I’m willing to pay just to enter the store – is because I trust the company to give me a good deal. As a result, I don’t comparison shop on …

  • An Argument for Secondhand Store Clothes, Even If You Must Dress Nicely

    Monica writes in: I don’t understand how you can recommend that people shop in thrift stores for clothes. The stuff there is usually worn out and just looks bad and outdated. I would never wear that stuff to work. It sounds to me like you’ve made up your mind about thrift stores and secondhand stores …

  • Ten Tips for Maximizing Your Savings at a Warehouse Club

    As I’ve mentioned many times before, my wife and I shop at Sam’s Club. It’s really the only warehouse club available to us easily (there are no BJ’s around here and the only Costco is on the far side of Des Moines, almost an hour away) and it serves a lot of our needs. I’ve …

  • Shopping When You Need an Immediate Replacement

    Yesterday, while in the middle of a conference call, our home telephone dropped dead. The phone’s small screen went black, came back on, and then refused to connect to the base. I switched to another phone – and the same problem occurred. I called back into the conference call using Skype, but afterwards, I continued …