Posts filed under ‘shopping’

When Money Saving Tricks Fail

As I was waiting in line at my local TJ Maxx I watched a woman scurry over to the checkout counter. “Can I leave this here?,” she asked, rolling an oversized piece of luggage into a corner next to the carts. A few minutes later she reappeared. “Can I leave this here too?,” she asked laying a toy on top of the luggage. While I waited in line the woman returned two more times creating a nice little stack of items she wished to purchase.

I thought it was odd. Why not just take a cart and dump your stuff inside as you shop? The store was quite large and she was gathering stuff all the way from the far back corner and walking it all the way to the front of the store. It seemed like a ridiculous waste of time.

shopping carts

Eventually the cashier got annoyed with the pile she created and suggested that the woman take a cart. “Oh no I couldn’t,” she said. “I can’t be trusted with a cart. I know my limits and try to stick to whatever I can carry.”

In theory it was a great idea. Shopping without a cart forces you to think more thoroughly about each and every purchase. You have to really want something to lug it around the store with you.

It was clear that this woman wanted to avoid unnecessary purchases, but she’d found a loophole with her own plan to save money. Sure she didn’t have a shopping cart, but she certainly wasn’t carrying everything she intended to purchase in her own two hands and walking around the store with it. If anything she was buying more than a cart would hold, because the luggage would have taken a significant amount of space and left little room for anything else.

I really wanted to stick around to see how many items she finally purchased, but instead I grabbed a bite to eat inside the mall.  Thirty minutes later as I walked back through the store to get to my car I noticed the woman was still shopping and her pile at the front of the store had grown into a sizable mound.

I completely understand the desire to trick yourself into spending less, but this woman’s approach was clearly not working. I’m sure she burned a few extra calories shopping this way, but I don’t think she spent less money.

What do you think? Do you have tricks for saving money? Do you ever find yourself creating loopholes so you can continue to spend?

Photo Credit

December 11, 2013 at 4:48 PM Leave a comment

Do You Have a Shopping Vice?

Christmas Tree

Did you ever have one of those moments where you look down in your shopping bag and wonder what on earth you just bought? Maybe you don’t regret the purchase right away, maybe it creeps up on you months later when you look at that awful orange dress hanging in the closet or the ridiculously expensive purse hanging on a hook that you’ve never found an occasion to wear.

My downfall has always been holiday decorations. I suppose it’s the wanna-be Martha Stewart in me. Whenever Christmas rolls around the sparkle of Santa and reindeer always catches my eye. Of course, every time I get home and plop new holiday knickknacks and doodads onto the dining room table I instantly regret my purchases. Two or three days later I trot off to the store, wait in a long line and hand over whatever it was that I really didn’t need in the first place.

I don’t have the space to store all of these items. In the past I shoved them into crawl spaces in our house, but typically forgot to retrieve them when the holiday finally rolled around.

I used to return a lot of the things I bought. Probably somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 to 50%. Sometimes I didn’t have enough time to try something on before leaving the store, other times I tried the item on in the store but couldn’t decide if I really looked good in it. Still other times I just couldn’t ignore the lure of something bright and sparkly. Wouldn’t that Santa look so cute on my dining room table? Couldn’t I fill that bright red bowl with beautiful Christmas decorations?

I always kept the tags attached and the receipts filed in my handy-dandy, ever so organized plastic binder, but wouldn’t life but so much easier if I stopped buying stuff that would eventually be returned? If I stopped wasting money on stuff I never really needed in the first place. Yes, of course it would.

So this year I am making a vow to avoid the lure of ridiculously overpriced decorations that are used for such a short time each year. No more glittery orange pumpkins or Santa Claus figurines. Doesn’t everyone need a turkey on their mantle or a large ‘Happy Thanksgiving’ wreath of leaves on their front door? No. It turns out I don’t need them either.

It’s tough to ignore the decorations popping up in every store’s entryway, but this year I’m bound and determined not to buy anything I don’t need. For the time being I’m able to pass by the table wrapped in shiny silver and red without batting an eye.

I remind myself that I don’t like to dust, don’t want to find a place to store new knickknacks and above all else I don’t want to find myself back in line returning something I don’t need.

I suppose I should count my blessings. As far as shopping vices go I suppose the lure of holiday decorations is pretty benign. Do you have a shopping vice? Something that you find yourself buying even when you know you shouldn’t?

November 11, 2013 at 10:24 AM 1 comment

Consignment Sales Are Not For Me

Consignment

Last week I heard about a local consignment sale going on in my area. My son doesn’t need much these days, but for some reason I convinced myself to take a few minutes out of my day to poke around the place. I went alone, (my husband was kindly babysitting), so I had plenty of time to look around without rushing. I was actually a little less interested in buying then I was in scoping out prices. If we don’t have a second child I’ll have a lot of baby items to sell next year.

A lot of the bigger ticket items like swings, strollers and bouncy seats were tagged with prices about 20% lower than what you might find at Amazon. If you want to buy second hand to save the environment, the earth and the landfills than I can see why you might purchase something used, but in my case a 20% discount is not worth buying used. A lot of the items were clearly worn. Since none of the items were plugged in and very few had batteries I couldn’t try them out. I couldn’t see how the swing would move or how much the bouncy seats vibrated. The same could be said for the mound of children’s toys that didn’t contain batteries. If I got one home and decided the item didn’t work, I was out of luck, which is just another reason I wouldn’t buy there.

After looking at used baby equipment I took a look at the racks of baby and toddler clothes. There was a surprising number of boys items available, typically these types of sales have racks of clothes for little girls and almost nothing for little boys. About a quarter of the used clothes were actually in good condition. There was also quite a few items with the tags still attached, but again the overall prices were quite high.  I find brand new items for less, by waiting until the season begins, scouring the clearance section and using coupons.

The average price for a decent pair of 18-24 month pants was between $8 and $10. Some were listed even higher. I often purchase brand new pants for less than that.

This is the first consignment sale I’ve been to, but I’ve seen the same thing when browsing consignment stores in our area. The prices appear to be equal to or higher than the bargains I can find for new items online and in store.

So tell me, am I the only one who thinks consignment store prices are remarkably high? Has anyone ever walked away from these sales feeling like they found good bargains?

October 28, 2013 at 5:17 PM 6 comments

One Reason It Pays Not to Be Size 6

mannequins

A friend of mine, who shall remain nameless, is a perfect size 6. You know the cute little sizes all the store mannequins wear? Yup, a size 6. She can walk into any store and find a plethora of shirts, dresses and sweaters that mold perfectly to her build. When we went wedding dress shopping she tried on half the gowns in the store and found they all fit like a glove, almost no alterations needed. You know the cute, little shoes that sit on top of the displays in department stores, yup, those all fit her too.

I always thought those size 6 women were so lucky. How amazing would it feel to walk into a store and walk out with bags full of clothes that fit so perfectly? The same is never true for me. I am rather impossible to fit. Although the fashion industry employs models with super long legs, there are actually few stores that make clothing for tall women. For years I shopped in the men’s department at the gap. It was the only place I could find pants that would fit a 36 inch inseam.

Needless to say shopping has never been fun for me. I’m not the kind of girl who owns fifty pairs of shoes or wears a different outfit for every day of the year. It’s not necessarily that I didn’t want to own a lot of clothes, but rather that I could never find any to fit me. I can walk into a dressing room with 50 articles of clothing and not find a single item that fits. I can’t tell you how often I leave a store empty handed.

In the past I dreamed of being a perfect size 6!

These days I have a different outlook on things. A medical crisis transformed my notion of what’s important in life and fitting into everything I try on is certainly not high on my list.  I now try to lead a minimalist lifestyle and I’m happy that my dressers are moderately empty. Although it’s probably not a good sign when your husband comments on the fact that you wear the same five shirts week after week.

In fact, as I look at my friend’s closets I see a bunch of stuff. Stuff that she couldn’t resist buying. Stuff that she is literally running out of space to store. Stuff that she spent a lot of money on. Perhaps it’s good not to be a size 6 after all. If nothing else my lack of clothing options has saved me a significant amount of money over the long haul.

*Photo Credit: Eran Bendheim

October 4, 2013 at 5:03 PM Leave a comment

Lured by the $1 Deals at Target

Last night, after my husband came home from work and we all ate dinner, I grabbed my wallet and sneakers and drove over to Target. I had a very clear agenda in mind: step into target and walk directly to the aisle with pool toys.

In mid to late summer you can typically find really great bargains on summer gear. In the past I’ve found sales offering up to 75% off. I like to buy floats and sand toys for guests who stay in my beach home each year. I want our renters to enjoy their stay as much as possible and what better way to enjoy a beach home then by spending the day digging in the sand or floating in the pool.

Sand toys tend to last from season to season, but unfortunately pool floats are an ongoing expense. Young kids can destroy even the most well made ones in a matter of days. I started purchasing the swimways spring floats a few years ago. They can cost as much as $25 at the peak of the summer season, but I like how they are constructed and how they have fewer components that kids can accidentally puncture.

I walked into the store with a very short time limit, (I needed to get home to help put my son to bed), and a very specific purpose, yet the minute I looked up from my cart I found myself perusing the $1 deal aisles.

Oh how those $1 deals lure me. On principal I try to avoid this particular section of the store. My reasons are twofold. First, I don’t typically need anything I find there and second most of the items are poorly made, but last night I could not resist the lure.

Once or twice a week I give my son play-dough as an after breakfast activity. Up until this point he shows interest in pulling the dough out of the container and squishing it, but after a minute or so he seems quite bored of it. I found all sorts of old cookie cutters to make shapes, but even the smallest ones seem quite big for his hands.

In the $1 section of Target I found a tiny bag of plastic cookie cutter like objects that were perfect for play-dough. They were brightly colored and just the right size for my son’s hands.  I put them in my cart then reconsidered after thinking they looked like cheap plastic that could easily break or at the very least end up in the landfill within a very short period of time. I walked around to the other side of the aisle and then walked back because I just couldn’t resist them.

I couldn’t find any pool floats on sale, but I picked up a few groceries in the store and waited in line to check out. As I stood there I kept eying that bag of cookie cutter shapes and trying to decide if I really wanted to buy them. It wasn’t so much about spending a dollar as it was about buying something that I know won’t last. When I reached the checkout counter I set aside my beliefs about money and the environment and let this one little bag of toys go.

This morning I pulled out that tiny bag of cookie cutter shapes and showed my son three or four of them. He chuckled in this ridiculous way he does when he’s unbelievably happy and played with play-dough for over an hour. He loved pressing those shapes into the dough and picked them up and pressed them back in over and over. He kept saying two-til, two-til, which is his version of turtle, but he was equally excited about all of the little shapes I gave him.

Was the bag of toys worth it’s $1 price tag? Probably not. Will the environment suffer a little? Possibly. Am I glad I purchased them anyway? Most definitely!

July 23, 2013 at 5:54 PM Leave a comment

Price Changes and Crappy Return Policies

We have been blessed by box after box of hand-me-downs from friends and family. It’s been a true blessing because my son seems to outgrow his clothes ridiculously quickly.

At the current time he’s an odd fit. He has a very long torso, but he’s skinny and has relatively short legs. At least it seems that way because his shirts are always showing his belly, his pants are always slipping off his waist and his shorts somehow look like pants even though he’s taller than 99% of other children (according to his medical charts).

While I’ve received a lot of pants and shorts for my son I didn’t receive too many shirts. At least I haven’t since he grew out of 12 month sizes. If you are going to receive only pants or shirts I think pants are the best thing to get. They tend to be neutral in color so as long as they fit he can wear them and they can be paired with an adorable shirt.

I take a lot of photographs of my son each week. I’ve taken thousands since his birth and I will admit that I like to dress him in color shirts that look good on camera. Also, boys clothes tend to be rather boring, when compared to clothes for little girls, so I want to dress him in bright colorful clothing while I can. By the time he’s four or five the colors and designs are quite boring.

While I have found some items at thrift stores, for some reason mine local store has a plethora of adorable hawaiian shirts, I haven’t found much in the way of colorful shirts that I want to photograph my son wearing. I tend to buy deeply discounted items at local department stores as well as TJ Maxx and Ross. I’ve also bought a few items at Gymboree.

I like the quality of Gymboree clothing, but the way they constantly lower and raise prices drives me crazy.  One day the shirt you want to buy is on sale for $9.99 and the next it’s $15. The next day they hold a 40% off sale, two days later it’s only 30% off and the next it’s back to full price.

It makes me bonkers to buy my son anything there. I’ve actually decided if I want to shop there I can never look back online at the same items again. I tracked the changes for one item over the course of two weeks and found a difference in over $6. Imagine how this adds up as you buy more and more things.

I recently bought a bunch of items for my son and then cursed myself when all of the items went on sale two weeks later.  I decided to return the original items and then buy everything again as it would save me over $25.

I drove to the store last night to return the items. It had only been a few weeks since I made the purchase so I was within the boundaries of the return policies, but I was unable to receive a credit back to my card. Since the time of that purchase my credit card was compromised and the credit could only be issued to the card I originally used. I was angry, since it’s not my fault the card was compromised, but I was okay with receiving a merchandise card that could be used in store or online instead.

Apparently that wasn’t possible. According to the clerk I could only receive a merchandise credit that can be used in store. I’m not a fan of in store only cards since I tend to perform 90% of my shopping online.

When I inquired further I was told that there is a significant amount of fraud at Gymboree stores. As a result they will not issue a card that can be used online. They will only offer you one that can be used in the store.

Huh? I don’t understand the policy. What difference does it make if you are purchasing in store or online? If the store believes you are committing fraud they can certainly keep track of your purchases just as easily online as they can in the store, so why not issue a card that can be used online?

Is anyone familiar with this type of store policy? I’m sure there is reasoning behind the decision but I can’t imagine what it is.

May 8, 2013 at 2:21 PM 5 comments

What Would You Do: Spend More to Save a Little?

Last night a friend of mine asked me a money related question and I thought I’d post it here to see what my wonderful readers have to say. Imagine you are shopping for clothes. The store is holding a sale where you can save $20 if you buy $80 worth of merchandise.

You browse the racks and find a dress you’d like to buy for $50. In your head you know that you don’t really need this dress, but you like it and decide it’s worth the money.

Now you are faced with a dilemma. Do you continue browsing for additional items in the hopes of finding another article of clothing that costs $30 or do you forgo the $20 savings and walk out of the store with only one item.

You know that it will be next to impossible to find an item that costs exactly $30, so you stand in the middle of the store contemplating your options. Odds are that you will find something that costs more than $30 and so you will pay an additional $10 plus any additional cost over $80.

The $20 savings is tempting. You are already planning to spend $50, so adding another $10 to buy an additional item seems to make sense, but is it really the right move? Is there a minimum or maximum threshold for this type of thing? Would you feel okay spending an additional $10 or $15, but not an additional $20?

Have you been faced with this scenario and if so what did you do?

February 26, 2013 at 1:00 PM 11 comments

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December 17, 2012 at 12:06 AM Leave a comment

Buried in a Sea of Ribbons and Paper

I subscribe to a bunch of party related blogs. I have no idea why I do this. I rarely throw parties, I’m not particularly crafty and I can’t imagine sitting around creating handmade centerpieces, gift bags and favors. Despite these facts I am absolutely mesmerized by the colorful images. In fact, while I skip over most of the blogs in my RSS reader I will without a doubt scan through the beautiful party pictures and dream of a world in which I have the patience and craftiness to attempt even one of the Martha Stewart like projects.

Until a few days ago I merely looked at the photos and thought about how cute our house would look all filled with handmade decorations. Until a few days ago the pictures and ideas remained on my computer. Until a few days ago when my husband attempted to toss a happy birthday banner into my shopping cart. “I can make something cuter than that,” I told him. It was shiny and glittery and well kind of tacky and I just didn’t want to hang it from our wall. I wanted to reproduce one of the adorable banners I saw on the Internet.

The idea seemed pretty simple. The next day I gathered up my son, my purse and a flyer from the local craft store and set out to make a homemade banner. Initially I wanted to make one from fabric, but shopping on Columbus day was not a wise idea. The line to cut fabric was ten people long and I was carrying my son in my arms. Nope, not gonna wait for that. I found a few fabric squares, which were more expensive then cutting fabric, but also ensured I could buy fabrics of varying designs. The trouble is I had no plan. I didn’t know how big the letters should be, how much fabric I would need, what colors exactly I wanted to buy. I grabbed a bunch, not knowing if it would be enough, and added three rolls of ribbon to my basket.

Oh, but on my way to the checkout lane I passed by the cake decorating section. I’m going to make a simple box cake for my son, but I hadn’t thought about decorating it. The next thing I know I’m buying cake decorating supplies, which by the way I’ve never tried to use before.

I got home and laid everything out on the dining table. That’s when I realized I’d need to iron the fabric before I can make use of it. Oh bother. And I’m not sure I bought enough of each color because I want ‘Happy’ and ‘Birthday’ in one color and my son’s name in another.

So I skip that task and move on to creating a miniature banner for his birthday cake. I google for printable shapes, dig through my old craft stash for alphabetic stickers and spend the next hour and a half making a mini-pendant banner for his cake.

Ok, looking good, although I’m not sure that the banner will actually stay in place when I stick it on the cake, but that’s a concern for another day. Back to the main ‘Happy Birthday” banner.

Hmmm, maybe I should make the banner out of paper rather than fabric. That sure seems a whole lot easier, but I don’t have enough craft paper in the house.

In the mean time I decide to head to the party store in search of plastic cutlery. I know it’s not the eco-friendly choice, but with roughly 16 friends and family members attending I don’t want to spend the evening at the kitchen sink. I leave the party store with much more than cutlery. I buy a cupcake stand, streamers, more ribbons, bottles of bubbles, cupcake holders and a whole host of other things I didn’t know I wanted until I walked into that store. Will I really put a cone shaped birthday hat on my son, who knows, but add that to the basket for another $2.

Still not sure about the fabric or paper idea I also head out to Michael’s where I buy not only paper but more ribbons and streamers in case I want to decorate the little guy’s high chair.

In total I spent roughly $50 on a bunch of paper, ribbons, fabric and party supplies that I may or may not use. Martha Stewart I am not, but I’m gonna try to make some homemade decorations for my son’s birthday. Yup. Gonna try it.

Either way I’m chalking it up to the excitement of being a first-time mom. I’m just so darn excited that my son is turning one. It’s been an amazing year and I can’t wait to celebrate the special occasion!

October 10, 2012 at 6:54 PM 4 comments

Cheap, Cheap Clothes at Gymboree!

Long before the summer started I bought my son a very expensive swimsuit from Gymboree. I couldn’t wait to introduce my little one to the water for the very first time and I guess I wanted to dress him in something special for that occasion. I’m not sure why I thought that, but nonetheless that thinking led me to search the Internet and ultimately purchase an adorable little swim outfit that cost $35.

Now let me just say that $35 was the reduced price. My mom purchased a few outfits for my son around Christmas time and received $25 in Gymbucks that could be used towards a future order. Had it not been for that coupon the total would have exceeded $60! Yes you read that correctly. At full price the rash guard, swim trunks and little bucket hat cost nearly $60. $60 for a swim outfit that my little one will wear for a limited time this summer.

I convinced myself to make the purchase because I had my mom’s coupon in hand and I’d won a gift card for $25 to Gymboree a long time back, so the cost after shipping was just over $16.

Of course as the summer season rolled around I found an adorable swim outfit on sale at Macy’s for only $8 and received a number of rash guards and swim trunks as hand-me-downs. Although I plan to take my baby to the pool and ocean quite a bit I have more than enough swim wear for him and decided to return the Gymboree purchase.

Well I hit the jackpot at the Gymboree store. For the same price that I paid for three little swim related items I bought three long sleeved onesies (one with matching pants), two pairs of pajamas, two summer hats, a sweatshirt and a pair of overalls.

All but one item cost less than $4.50 and four were as low as $1.59. I am actually thinking about returning the overalls, which cost one-third of the overall total. They were $9.99 and while they are certainly cute I just received a brand new khaki pair of OshKosh brand overalls from a former coworker that are the exact same size as the ones I purchased.

I feel so much better about spending the money on ten items then I did on the original three. Especially since the other three items would only have been worn while swimming.

I hope when I return the overalls next week that I can find a bunch more items at rock bottom prices. Since I’ll have store credit from the return I might as well see what I can find! At these prices if my son can’t wear whatever I find I might just give them away as gifts. A lot of babies have been born to friends of ours in the past six months!

June 16, 2012 at 9:30 AM Leave a comment

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