Shopping

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 …

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Homemade Gift Series #9: Handmade Ornaments

How to Make Your Own Christmas Ornaments This year, we decided to make a big batch of handmade Christmas tree ornaments for our home, just to make some “homey” Christmas items to decorate with. We decided to make them in the style of Christmas sugar cookies, with dough that would harden and look roughly like …

Homemade Gift Series #8: Personalized Cards and Stationery

How to Make Your Own Homemade Cards for the Holidays (and Any Occasion!) A few years ago, Rachel gave my wife Sarah a wonderful Christmas gift: some beautifully-constructed stationery with photos of her own choosing placed on the front of note cards, along with envelopes to mail them in. Here are three examples that Sarah …

Degrees of Want

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 …

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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 …

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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. …

Homemade Gift Series #5: Wine Jelly

How to Make Your Own Homemade Wine Jelly “Not everyone will like the caramel apple jam,” Sarah commented to me after we made it. As much as I liked it, I knew she was right: it was very sweet and lacked the tartness that I often crave in my jellies and jams. So we decided …

Paying for 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 …

Homemade Gift Series #4: Homemade Beer

How to Make Your Own Craft Beer I often brew homemade beer. It’s an enjoyable hobby that allows me to sometimes use items from my garden and gets me deeply in touch with the natural process of making a homecrafted beer. I have complete control over the ingredients and can make whatever variation seems good …

Homemade Gift Series #3: Caramel Apple Jam

How to Make Inexpensive and Delicious Homemade Caramel Apple Jam A few weeks ago, my wife stopped by a roadside stand where an individual was selling apples. A lot of apples. My wife asked if there were any deals, and the seller told her that he would sell her 8 1/2 pounds of “seconds” (apples …

Buying with Confidence

A few weeks ago, in the July 2010 issue of Bon Appétit, 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 …

Homemade Gift Series #2: Homemade Soap

How to Safely Make High Quality Hand-Crafted Soaps Let’s just start this one off with two big, giant warnings! Warning #1 Making soap at home can be very fun and rewarding, and if done right, it can be an inexpensive way to make gifts. But it can also be very dangerous if proper precautions aren’t …

Homemade Gift Series #1: Vanilla Extract

How to Make Your Own Real Vanilla Extract For the last few years, one of the most prized possessions in our pantry has been a gigantic bottle of imported Mexican vanilla extract. It’s not that imitation stuff that you get on sale at the store, with weak vanilla flavor and added sweetener. This stuff is …

On Homemade Christmas Gifts

A few weeks ago, my wife and I were chatting about some of the best Christmas gifts we’ve ever received. Many great Christmas memories from childhood came up, as did some other great memories from various holidays since our marriage. Yet, when we both began to list some of our favorite gifts received over the …

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? …

The 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 …

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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 …

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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 …

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