Shopping

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 …

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 …

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

Maximize 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: Home and Life, Shopping

Finding the Perfect Gift Without Spending Too Much

As I write this, I’ve spent about five hours online hunting down “perfect” gifts for various people on our Christmas shopping list. In almost every case, I wound up spending less than our target dollar amount on our list. In almost every case, as well, I found a gift that I think is utterly perfect …

Categories: 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

“So, What Do You Want for Christmas?”

Over the past few weeks, I’ve heard this question several times from various people who find me on their Christmas gift list this year. I’m guessing they’re all thinking more or less the same thing: what do you get for a guy who doesn’t really want anything? So they ask me, and then I’m left …

Categories: Frugality, 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

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