• Your After-Christmas Shopping Checklist

    A few days after Christmas, Sarah and I will usually head out to the store to stock up on post-Christmas sales. It’s often easy to find many items at bargain-basement prices in the days after Christmas – items which can easily be saved until next year. We usually make a list of things to look …

  • Taking Advantage – or Over-Advantage – of Customer Service

    Cam writes in: I got a sweater from Land’s End for my birthday with the receipt included. I wore it twice, but I just don’t like the sweater. It fits fine and is well made and everything, but I just don’t like the look. I’m thinking of sending it back to them under their unconditional …

  • Some Thoughts on Black Friday

    In a little less than two weeks, Thanksgiving will be upon us, immediately followed by “Black Friday,” the busiest shopping day of the year. Black Friday is quite often the day that pushes retailers over the line into profitability for the year (from the red to the black), hence the name. Naturally, since it’s the …

  • Thoughts on Finding Good Customer Service

    Whenever I mention a company on The Simple Dollar – Apple, Dell, Nintendo, Williams-Sonoma, etc. etc. – I usually receive an email or two from a reader telling me how absolutely horrible the company in question is. They tell a long story about how their customer service from that company was nightmarish and that they …

  • Seven Tempting Places – And Eight Ways to Minimize Their Impact

    I’m often tempted to spend money that I shouldn’t. I’m good at restraining my impulsive nature. I don’t simply go into stores and then emerge later with a hefty bag, a credit card bill, and a dazed look on my face. Still, in certain places, I am strongly tempted to spend. I look around and …

  • Living and Saving in the Moment

    My three year old son loves to go to the grocery store with Mom and Dad. He wanders around with us, listening to our discussions about which products to buy, and quite often expresses his own opinions. He’ll remind us that he loves V8 Fusion (our preferred fruit juice, since it’s 100% and also is …

  • Using Consumer Reports to Assemble Your Grocery List

    Long time reader Bob writes in: I like reading all of your suggestions about making a grocery list and searching for bargains. My technique is actually pretty simple. I trust Consumer Reports completely – they’ve never led me wrong. So each month when I get an issue, I write down their “best buys” in each …

  • Grocery Shopping 101: Quantity Surcharges and 10 Products to Watch Out For

    One common trap with buying in bulk is the fact that on some products, the higher volume version often has a higher cost per unit than the smaller version. For example, I recently spied two cans of tuna on the shelf at my local grocery store. The same brand (Starkist) featured a 5 ounce can …

  • Major Purchases and Your Specific Life Situation

    When I turned sixteen, I had roughly $1,000 saved up with which to buy a car. Obviously, my biggest concern was what is the cheapest thing that can get me on the road? Reliability wasn’t a concern at all – I mostly wanted it to drive back and forth to school and to some extracurricular …

  • The Reliability Bell Curve: What Does “More Reliability” Actually Mean?

    In a recent post about up front spending, quite a few people mentioned their anecdotes about buying a cheap washing machine and having it last for many years – and then used that as a justification to ignore reliability data when making a purchase and instead go for the cheap item. Let’s explore that idea …

  • The Logic of Up-Front Spending

    I tend to be an advocate of spending more up front on a large purchase if that purchase will have lower maintenance costs. For example, if I’m buying a car, I’ll spend more on one that has great gas mileage than an equivalent one with poor mileage (which is part of why we bought a …

  • A Step-By-Step Guide to Creating a Deal-Finding Homepage

    I love keeping an eye out for bargains. I’m the type of person who will come up with Christmas present ideas for people in March and spend nine months sitting on that idea, waiting for the right price to come along. I won’t hesitate in the least to jump on obviously exceptional bargains in areas …

  • The Variables of a Purchase: Is Price the Ultimate Bottom Line?

    My biggest criteria for most of my purchases is simply price. What’s the best deal I can get on an ear of corn or on a book? The answer to that question usually pushes me towards the checkout line. Yet, quite often, I find myself not always going for the rock-bottom price on specific items. …

  • Is Your Local Warehouse Store Worth Your While? Here’s How to Find Out

    My wife and I have been members at Sam’s Club for years. We use it to buy tons of items in bulk – but over time, we’ve realized that some items simply aren’t cheaper there. While visiting, I’ve noticed the same trend with Costco as well – it’s got spectacular prices on some staples, but …

  • Ten Surprising Things I Like to Buy in Bulk

    I’ve always been a fan of warehouse stores. On many, many items, you can get a great deal there if you’re willing to buy a large quantity of items at once. For a person with a lot of storage space and a family (like me), storage isn’t a problem, nor is using it up. People …

  • The Power of the Chaperone

    Ever notice how your shopping behaviors change depending on who you’re shopping with? I certainly have. I noticed this most thoroughly on three recent grocery shopping trips, which I’ll relate. My first shopping trip was entirely by myself. I went with a shopping list in hand, which I almost always do, and I stuck pretty …

  • Positive and Negative Advertisements

    I don’t comment on advertisements very often, and when I do, it’s usually to skewer it, as I did with Hyundai’s “Dollars and Sense” ad campaign. Advertisements are designed to sell products, after all, and they use a lot of clever techniques to convince you to buy. Still, I couldn’t help but notice when several …

  • The Aldi Question: Does One Bad Experience Spoil the Soup?

    Whenever I mention the grocery stores where I tend to shop, someone always asks me about Aldi. I tend to usually avoid that question because the answer makes me uncomfortable, but after several emails following my post yesterday about personal finance recommendations, I realized that it was actually a subject worth digging into. I don’t …

  • Buying Things Because They’re on Sale Is an Awful Way to Save Money

    For years, I’ve been on a closed email list with a group of like-minded people who enjoy sharing internet links with amusing comments (think of an email version of fark or reddit). Lately, though, the list has been completely overrun by a group of about two or three people who have become completely obsessed with …