Shopping

Overspending on Gifts? 6 Things to Think About

One of my readers related a story to me over a long conversation that, rather than posting a bunch of long quotes, I’m going to paraphrase. This reader, who we’ll call Maggie, receives an over-the-top lavish gift from her great aunt each year. Her aunt loves buying the perfect gift for everyone in her family …

Categories: Shopping

Why Buying Things on Sale is an Awful Way to Save

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 …

Starting a Bulk-Buying Co-op with Your Friends, Family, and Neighbors

One of the biggest knocks against warehouse stores like Sam’s Club and Costco is that you have to buy many items in large bulk quantities. The price per unit is low, but what exactly are you going to do with 36 rolls of toilet paper? While I personally don’t mind this (we have a ton …

Categories: Shopping

The Gift Card Dilemma(s)

A few days ago, on the very day I pledged to reduce my personal book buying budget to $0 for the coming year, a little surprise came in the mail: a $25 gift card. To a bookstore. Ordinarily, this kind of thing is just something to laugh off and not worry about, but the whole …

Categories: Shopping

A Clever Trick for Automatically Finding Deals You Want at Amazon

Lately, I’ve been working on my Christmas shopping list, trying to get (way) ahead of the curve. I have a lot of great ideas in mind for the people around me, but I know that unless I’m diligent, the gifts will either wind up being too expensive or will simply slip through my fingers. Add …

Categories: Shopping

Anticipation Buying

Recently, my wife and I had some guests over to visit. While here, one of the guests used the restroom on the main floor of our home, where we have a large closet where we store supplies over the long haul. She observed that there were about twenty bars of soap, several bottles of Old …

Gifts That Matter Don’t Come From Wal-Mart

… they come from the heart. In most of our lives, there seems to be a never-ending string of gift giving occasions – birthdays, graduations, baby showers, wedding showers, and so on. That often means a never-ending string of gifts to give, and because we’re all so busy and harried, it’s often easier just to …

Categories: Shopping

The Recession Diet

There was a fascinating article yesterday in the New York Times entitled Recession Diet Just One Way to Tighten Belt, which looked directly at the real-world ways consumers alter their spending at the retail level. In other words, the authors, Michael Barbaro and Eric Dash, actually went to a supermarket to watch and learn how …

Categories: Meals, Shopping

Amazon Grocery vs. the Local Supermarket

Recently, I made an offhand mention that I’m a user of Amazon Grocery and this intrigued several commenters, so I thought I’d walk through the shopping process that leads me to using Amazon Grocery for some items. Comparing Amazon Grocery to Your Local Supermarket What’s Amazon Grocery? For those unaware, Amazon Grocery is a section …

Categories: Meals, Shopping

The Workstation Debate: Making a Rational Purchase

As I embark on a career as a full-time writer, I’ve come to discover that I truly need some sort of workstation on which to do my writing. My laptop (upon which every single post ever posted to The Simple Dollar was composed) works great for a couple one-to-two hour sessions a day, but for …

Misery is not Miserly: Breaking the Connection Between Spending and Sadness

One of my readers recently alerted me to an interesting article at CNN.com entitled Why Sadness Can Blow Your Budget. The article discusses the “misery is not miserly” phenomenon, where people who are experiencing sadness tend to be much less in control of their personal spending, prone to splurges and poor consumer choices. Even more …

The Value of Customer Service

In the wake of yesterday’s discussion about ING Direct and customer service, a fair number of readers wondered whether I am overvaluing customer service. I personally believe that good customer service is worth a premium on most items, from a bank account to an electronic device, and here’s why. In 2002, I purchased an iPod. …

Categories: Shopping

The Souvenir Debate

After an offhand mention of souvenirs recently, several people commented on the topic, indluding Cyde Weys, who left this one: And as for souvenirs while traveling, my solution is simple: I don’t buy them, period. Souvenirs are synonymous with schlock in my mind. I can return from a trip with the memory card in my …

Categories: Shopping

Talking Myself Out Of Frivolous Purchases

I’ll start off this time by relating a few tales of recent shopping excursions where I talked myself out of making some seriously frivolous purchases. A week before Christmas, I was at an electronics store searching for a shower radio for my sister-in-law. While wandering around, I went through the flat panel television section. As …

Zen and the Art of Item Replacement

My family has only one television in the house, and it is primarily used for playing Wii games. It’s an enormous, extremely heavy old 32″ television, bought when I was in college and now approaching ten years old. In all four corners, the screen has begun to turn faintly blue, and it shows up particularly …

Categories: Shopping

Savings Bonds as Gifts for My Children: How Should I Handle Them?

Both of my children have received a pair of savings bonds as Christmas gifts this year. While the gift is wonderful and very much appreciated, I am considering cashing them in and putting that money straight into their college 529 account. Let’s look at the pros and cons of the choices. Why I Should Cash …

Categories: Family, Shopping

The Over-Gifting Relative

Each year, my grandmother gets me and my wife an exorbitantly expensive gift, usually something way out of her budget. One year, she managed to procure a small library of Kurt Vonnegut novels all signed and with individual notes inside in his handwriting. Another year, she managed to find me several pounds of fresh imported …

Categories: Family, Shopping

The Simple Dollar’s Wii Buying Guide for Christmas 2007

Usually, I don’t write about specific luxury goods, but over the last two weeks, I’ve received about twenty emails about buying a Wii as a Christmas gift, so it’s probably reasonable to expect that there are a lot of other readers out there with similar questions. If you’re completely not interested in a Wii this …

Categories: Shopping

Getting the “It” Toy At Christmastime

In 1983, when my wife was just a little girl, she wanted a Cabbage Patch Kids doll for Christmas. Her parents were unable to find one, but her grandmother apparently bribed a shelf-stocker at a TG&Y in rural Iowa to grab a couple. In 1988, I desperately wanted the video game Super Mario Bros. 2 …

Categories: Home and Life, Shopping