Shopping

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 …

Categories: Shopping

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 …

Categories: Shopping

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 …

Categories: Psychology, Shopping

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 …

Categories: Shopping

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 The stuff there is usually worn out and just looks bad and outdated.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 …

Categories: Frugality, Shopping

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 …

Categories: Shopping

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 …

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 …

Categories: Christmas, Shopping

Taking 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 …

Categories: Shopping

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 …

Categories: Shopping

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 …

Categories: Shopping

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 …

Categories: Psychology, Shopping

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

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 …

Categories: Shopping

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 …

Categories: Frugality, Shopping

The Reliability Bell Curve

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 …

Categories: Shopping

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 …

Categories: Shopping, Websites