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Consumerism


  • What is the last day to ship before Christmas? (11 comments)
    This article is by editor Linda Vergon.

    What is the last day to ship before Christmas? Well, that depends, actually. Traditionally – that is, say, prior to 2008 – the last day to ship was around the second week of December. These days, it really depends on how much you are willing to spend. FedEx offers same-day shipping on Christmas Day. Yes, the FedEx SameDay department is open seven days a week, 365 days…

  • What can I do with the gift cards I don’t want? (17 comments)
    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson.

    Chances are, you’ll get at least one gift card for Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanzaa this year — whether you like it or not. If you are lucky, your card might be something you could use right away — like an Amazon gift card or one for your favorite store. But you might not be that lucky. You might end up with a gift card to a store…

  • When is it okay to re-gift? (41 comments)
    This article is by editor Linda Vergon.

    The year I met the man I would marry, we were living in different cities and hadn’t spent much time together when Christmas came around. It was difficult to know what to give, how much to give, and how much to spend. I looked for inspiration. I consulted friends. I visited a lot of stores in search of a great gift. I ended up with a few…

  • What to buy on Black Friday (48 comments)
    This is a guest post from former GRS staff writer Donna Freedman.

    Want to start a fight? Announce that you’ll be shopping on Thanksgiving Day. A whole bunch of folks will likely sigh and mourn the once-was-sacred Thanksgiving dinner with family. Why, they’ll ask, would anyone want to shop on this day? Why would anyone force retail clerks into manning their posts even though they’d rather be home melting marshmallows atop sweet-potato casseroles? One such…

  • The link between consumerism, entitlement and ego (87 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. Earlier this year, I started volunteering at my local library for a couple of hours a week. I’m a big fan of libraries, and I wanted to find a way to give back. And for some odd reason, I felt compelled to do something good. I couldn’t really pinpoint why, so I chalked it up to getting older. At the library, one of my duties is to make…

  • Can you trust those government numbers? (32 comments)

    This article is by staff writer William Cowie. Ever hear someone say, “You can’t trust those government statistics”? When they say inflation is 1.6 percent, do you feel they might be fudging the numbers to bamboozle the masses? Many people, even the highly educated, feel there is a government conspiracy to doctor the numbers and make them look better or maybe just make us feel better. Investopedia, one of the more respected sites, has a…

  • Act surprised: Your wedding ring is a terrible investment (95 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. Divorce. It’s an unattractive yet common end to a relatively high percentage of marriages in the U.S. In fact, as many as 50 percent of American marriages end this way, often leaving catastrophic personal and financial consequences that linger for years. The division of assets. Alimony. Child Custody Issues. Who gets the Stuff? These are all things that must be dealt with during and after a divorce, whether…

  • Spending less than you earn so the Joneses don’t keep up with you (69 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Lisa Aberle. Why spend less than you earn? There are the obvious reasons. Spending more than you earn isn’t sustainable, of course. You can’t build your net worth unless you spend less than you earn. And spending less than you earn decreases your stress level. But is there another reason to spend less than you earn … something that doesn’t benefit you at all? Keeping up with the Joneses is…

  • Ask the Readers: How many wedding gifts should you buy? (85 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. Earlier this week, I wrote about the problem with trying to buy the perfect gift. Sticking with that gift theme, there’s a question that’s been on my mind: If you’re invited to an engagement party, a bridal shower, and a wedding ceremony all for the same couple, and you attend all three, do you give a gift at each event? See, I’ve been invited to a few weddings…

  • Material stuff can make you happy (69 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. Experiences make us happier than “Stuff.” That’s the current line of thinking, which quite a few studies support. Here’s an example from Livescience.com: If you’re trying to buy happiness, you’d be better off putting your money toward a tropical island getaway than a new computer…The results [of a Cornell University study] show that people’s satisfaction with their life-experience purchases — anything from seeing a movie to going on a…

  • Surviving Christmas: A post-holiday checklist (4 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Holly Johnson. After months of anticipation, Christmas day is finally here. And depending on your outlook, that could be a great (or an awful) thing. Just a few short years ago, I was a total Scrooge about the holidays in general, with a special hostility toward anything I perceived as forced gift-giving or wasteful spending. And while I still struggle with those notions to a certain extent, my perspective of…

  • The costs of Christmas past (10 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Honey Smith. One of my favorite holiday memories comes from my very early childhood. At that time we lived in a very rural area of a very rural state. On Christmas Eve, we went to the town hall for a meeting (because our town was so small that everyone could fit in the town hall). I don’t remember much about the program, but near the end, the sound of…

  • Ask the Readers: What brings out the Scrooge in you? (46 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. As I mentioned last month, Thanksgiving is my very favorite holiday. It’s about food and togetherness, not gifts. Sometimes I think this makes me sound like a Scrooge. But it’s not the idea of gift-giving that I dislike, it’s all the stress that surrounds it. Here’s an example. My husband and I have been together for almost 10 years. During the first four or five years, we did…

  • Thanksgiving is all about personal finance (57 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. I love Thanksgiving. It’s my favorite holiday of the year. So when I venture out during the month of November, I’m slightly annoyed to hear Christmas music piped into retail stores or to see giant, inflatable snowmen at The Home Depot. (Yes, I do secretly want one, but only after Thanksgiving.) I get mailers about Christmas presents, and when I bother turning on the TV or radio,…

  • 7 Money-saving strategies that can cost you more (44 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. I’m in the middle of renovating a house, a project that started in January 2013 and will end — well, who knows when it will end? We have a lot of plans for this house. Truly, the only reason we’re able to afford this project is because we’re doing the work ourselves. And the only reason that DIY is saving us money is because we have my…

  • Lifestyle inflation: Can it be done responsibly? (61 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Kristin Wong. Lifestyle inflation gets a bad rap, and understandably so. It’s so darn tempting and so many of us seem to have a serious problem controlling it. But inherently, lifestyle inflation isn’t a bad thing. Lots of Get Rich Slowly readers have made this point, and I agree: if your finances are in order, what’s wrong with treating yourself to a little luxurious lifestyle upgrade? In fact, I’d…

  • How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Bargain (35 comments)

    Note: This article is from J.D. Roth, who founded Get Rich Slowly in 2006. J.D.’s non-financial writing can be found at More Than Money. “My family’s coming over for Thanksgiving,” I told Kim last week. “Really?” she said. “Where are they going to sit?” Good point. When I moved in, my condo was sparsely furnished. In the divorce, I took a handful of items that were clearly mine — a couch, a chair, a liquor…

  • Bad customer service? Talk to the CEO (36 comments)

    This month, I started getting collection calls. Apparently my Internet provider wanted $61 for a modem that I returned last May. I’d been trying to resolve the problem for months, but nothing seemed to work. No matter how many times I asked to speak with a supervisor and was promised that the matter would be taken care of, that “I’ll be the last person you’ll have to talk to,” I was getting nowhere. During the…

  • For fraudsters, no target too small (6 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. A lot of people I know get at least part of their income from a side business. For instance, before I quit my job, I was freelance-writing on the side. I have friends who give private yoga lessons, who sell handmade items on Etsy, and who pet-sit. Before my mom retired, she started her sewing business and sold clothing online and at trade shows. Technology has made…

  • Do you read the fine print? (38 comments)

    This post is written by staff writer April Dykman. We’ve all heard the advice to “read the fine print” before we sign anything, but does anyone actually do it? I recently spoke with a man we’ll call Randy. Six months ago, Randy went to a state fair, the kind that vendors of all kinds descend upon to hawk their wares. One of those vendors was a hot tub company with a very recognizable name. They’ve…

  • My teens spent $400 on fast food last month (and how I learned to deal with it) (104 comments)

    This guest post is from Naomi Mannino. Naomi is a freelance consumer personal finance and health journalist who reports on health, medical and personal finance news and how it will affect your life today. You can follow Naomi on Twitter @naomimannino. My 19-year-old daughter came to me sobbing and wanting to borrow $20 for a concert because she didn’t have any money. I simply said, “Nope.” That made the sobbing worse. Now, before you accuse…

  • Ask the Readers: Do you ever pay more to support a local business? (115 comments)

    Reader Jennifer Gwennifer raises a timely question: When I can, I try to support small, family-operated businesses instead of “big box” stores like Walmart. However, I live in a coastal area of New England that is overrun with tourists in the summer, which means I end up paying slightly higher “tourist” prices for some things in the summer months. Some hotels and businesses shut down completely from November to April, so my range of choices…

  • A spring-cleaning discovery (79 comments)

    It’s amazing the number of things we can throw out and not miss. I do not wish to backpack through Third World countries living on a dollar a day, I hate the tiny house fad, and I am staunchly against miserliness, but I have to say: I find the slavery of things to be more of an encumbrance every day. Really. I’ve had it with things, and I’m starting to detest them. Well, almost all…

  • Ask the Readers: Will you spend $130 on Valentine’s Day this year? or Stop laughing and tell us your plans for Valentine’s Day (66 comments)

    This short post is from personal finance writer Gwendolyn Pearce, who last wrote about no-money fun. According to the National Retail Federation, the average person is planning to spend $130.97 this Valentine’s Day. If you’re a male in love, that number jumps to $175.61. Females, however, are only projected to spend $88.78. The NRF’s report forecasts that consumers are playing down Valentine’s Day this year by only spending $18.6 billion. (It made me curious what…

  • Knowing when to be a squeaky wheel (100 comments)

    A few months ago, I decided that I needed new furniture. I didn’t want new furniture. My 3-year-old couch and loveseat were in great condition. On the other hand, I began to realize that I had once again been blurring the lines between being cheap and being frugal. Although my furniture looked nice, it was completely uncomfortable for my back. As someone who has had two spinal fusions, I must be very picky about where…

  • Battle of the toy bulge (102 comments)

    By now, most families have taken down their trees and house lights. And if you’re like me and live in the Midwest, you might be counting down the days until the first signs of spring. A new year of goals, hopes and beginnings has begun… Meanwhile, a battle is taking place in many homes. Many people with children, like me, are finding that they have been overrun by an absurd number of new toys and…

  • The consumer, the ower and the owner (21 comments)

    This is a post from staff writer Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the adviser for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. Happy Day After Christmas! Do you feel like you’re getting rich slower? Yes, ’twas the season for all kinds of holiday traditions, including, of course, Coca-Cola commercials. They’ve been a part of the holidays since the 1920s, and may have even played a role in…

  • Lowering expectations for Christmas (175 comments)

    This post is from new GRS staff writer Holly Johnson. Holly is a 32-year-old wife, mother of two, and frugal lifestyle enthusiast. She blogs about saving money, frugal habits, and whatever is on her mind at ClubThrifty.com. Personally, I begin to panic every year as the holiday season approaches. It’s not because I don’t love Christmas. I really do love the holiday season, in general. I just cringe at the thought of all of the…

  • Why we buy: The science of shopping (42 comments)

    This is a guest post from J.D. Roth. J.D. founded Get Rich Slowly and now writes at More Than Money. Ready or not, the holidays are here and the shopping season is upon us. Although I wish I could convince you not to shop during November and December — I’m a fan of Buy Nothing Day myself — I realize I’m in the minority. It’s Black Friday. It’s Christmas. People are going to shop. If…

  • Want to avoid Black Friday madness? Just fill out this application… (48 comments)

    This article is by staff writer April Dykman. Last week, Target announced that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, shoppers can get exclusive access to 20 deals on Target.com. But there’s a catch. In exchange for sneak peeks and early access, you have to pledge your loyalty to the big box retailer — in the form of signing up for a Target REDcard. Of course, you get more than just early access. The Target REDcard also comes with…

  • We all have our Joneses (88 comments)

    When I wrote last week’s post, I admit to feeling a bit pleased with myself when someone made a comment about wanting their furniture to all match (and thus free pile-ism was hard for them) now that they were fully adult. “Who cares!” I thought to myself. “That’s just the keeping-up-with-the-Joneses stuff the rest of you are talking about!” And then Monday afternoon one of my husband’s friends came over with his wife. The house…

  • Ask the Readers: Should you comment on a friend’s overspending? (114 comments)

    This post is from Ollie Geiger, a personal finance writer who contributes to MoneyRates.com. My wife has a friend who likes to talk about how broke she is. This friend – let’s call her “Amber,” since that’s her real name – is fond of complaining about the dire state of her finances each month, even though her income is higher than many of our mutual friends. But here’s the rub in Amber’s complaints: She is…

  • Are you a compulsive spender? (15 comments)

    Following up on Kristin’s post this morning, we thought we’d share this infographic about compulsive spending, which came from MoneyRates.com. Courtesy of: MoneyRates.com

  • The rise and fall of the shopaholic (85 comments)

    As a college student, I often took up side jobs to make extra cash. One of those side jobs included selling random things on eBay. It was easier and slightly more lucrative than holding a garage sale every weekend. Once, I sold a pair of highly coveted boots that I no longer wore. They went for $75, or in college currency, one textbook. I’d already started wrapping them up and brainstorming my budget when I…

  • Why I hate consumer contracts (63 comments)

    A problematic prepay I was going over my old files the other day and found a bill for “Sunrocket,” a long-defunct Internet phone company that charged me $244 for a year’s worth of service and proceeded to close shop a couple of weeks later. They just disconnected service and stopped answering the phones. No message, no warning, nothing. I was literally robbed, but luckily I had paid with a bank card, so I initiated a…

  • Ask the Readers: Do Your Morals Cost You More? (163 comments)

    This is a guest post from personal finance writer Gwendolyn Pearce. I’m considering building a chicken coop. I’m thinking about this choice because paying over $5 for a dozen eggs seems ridiculous. Especially when compared to the carton of bleach-white generic eggs beside them for $1.04. But I take the $5 eggs every time because they are free-range and organic and (despite the debate on whether organic is actually better) I feel they are worth…

  • ‘Tis the Season for an Autopsy of Last Year’s Holiday (96 comments)

    This is a post from staff writer Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the adviser for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks. With the retailers already selling bones, severed limbs, and other Halloween paraphernalia, it’s only a matter of (short) time until it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. I know, summer’s not even…

  • How Much to Tip (and to Whom) (203 comments)

    Note: This article is a reprint. Several readers have suggested that one way for Get Rich Slowly to retain my voice although I’m no longer a regular contributor is to re-publish old articles like this. This is a keen idea, especially on days like today when the staff writer hasn’t turned in his assignment! Every time I get my hair cut, I’m faced with a dilemma — should I tip the barber or not? I…

  • Showered With Needs (142 comments)

    Until the end of this week, we’re sharing “audition” pieces from folks interested in being new staff writers at Get Rich Slowly. Your job is to let us know what you think of each of these writers. Pay attention, give feedback, and after a couple of weeks we’ll ask which writers you prefer. This article is from Will Crosswell, who says he’s a young guy who’s made some dumb moves financially. But he wants to…

  • Changing Focus from Stuff to Substance (64 comments)

    For the next week (or two), we’ll be sharing “audition” pieces from folks interested in being new staff writers at Get Rich Slowly. Your job is to let us know what you think of each of these writers. Pay attention, give feedback, and after a couple of weeks we’ll ask which writers you prefer. This article is from Ashley Kipp. Sometimes it seems like the U.S. can be described by just one word: SUPERSIZED. It’s…

  • Ask the Readers: Items Worth the Extra Money? (171 comments)

    From time to time, I get queries from reporters asking me to comment on particular personal finance topics. I do my best to help these folks, especially when they ask something interesting. Recently, Katie from CNBC dropped me a line with a question that actually stumped me: For which things should people be willing to spend extra money? Here’s an edited version of her e-mail: I’m working on a piece for our personal finance section…

  • From the Trenches: An Update on My War on Stuff (105 comments)

    Though our divorce is final, Kris and I continue to see each other about once a week. We have lunch or dinner together, and sometimes we do chores around the house. One big chore is approaching: We’re going to hold a joint garage sale to purge our lives of some of the Stuff that has accumulated over the years. A few other friends are going to join us (in the hope that we can attract…

  • I Run My Errands, Too! (And Other Ways to Spend Less) (51 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Sarah Gilbert. I was cleaning the kitchen and listening to NPR (my default state) when A.J. Jacobs came on, discussing the various diets he’d committed to for Drop Dead Healthy, his latest stunt journalism book — this guy practically invented the genre. Naturally, most of the diets were a bust, but he did conclude that exercise was always a smart way to keep slim. “I literally run errands! So,…

  • Why It’s Okay to Buy a Mega Millions Ticket (Even After You’ve Done the Math) (154 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer Donna Freedman. Donna writes the Frugal Cool blog for MSN Money and writes about frugality and intentional living at Surviving And Thriving. Recently I outed myself as an occasional lottery player and as a person who thinks that lotteries in and of themselves aren’t so bad. I don’t think they’re good. Rather, I think they’re not-too-terrible in the way that potato chips are not-too-terrible. Enjoy a few every…

  • Shopping for the Sake of Shopping (85 comments)

    When I was a boy, my family had a series of dogs: a Saint Bernard, a Shih Tzu, a Golden Retriever and a whole host of mutts. Because dogs will be dogs, and because we lived in the country far from anything, our dogs would sometimes begin barking…and continue barking for minutes. Or hours. When this happened, my dad would shake his head and say, “That dog is barking for the sake of barking.” Barking…

  • How Retailers Manipulate Consumers (90 comments)

    In the past, I’ve written several times about the insidious power of marketing. In 2007, I shared a guest post from Malcolm Gladwell on the same subject. My thesis is this: A lot of people like to believe they’re immune to advertising and marketing; a lot of people are wrong. In fact, I suspect (although I have no hard evidence) that those who are most adamant that marketing doesn’t affect them are probably the most…

  • Building a Collection Without Breaking the Bank (91 comments)

    Before I moved out of the house and into my apartment, my cousin Nick paid a visit to play board games. After some rousing Carcassonne and Ticket to Ride action, I gave him a brief tour of my geek room, which was home to my board games, science fiction novels, and comic books. “Your comic collection is growing,” he told me. “I know,” I said. We talked about the process of building a collection while…

  • Finding the Perfect Gift (52 comments)

    If you’re like me, you’re still not finished with your Christmas shopping. It’s true that Kris and I are big believers in home-made gifts, and it’s also true that my family only exchanges inexpensive Christmas presents, but there are still a handful of gifts I like to shop for. And every year, I put this shopping off until the last minute. Part of the problem is that I want to find the perfect thing for…

  • Consumers Bear the Risk with Gift Cards (61 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. The chaotic holiday shopping season is in full swing, but many of us are still scratching our heads about what to get for some of the loved ones on our “nice” list. Sometimes it’s hard to think of something heartfelt for the person who has everything or who has tastes completely opposite your own. In those situations, a gift card might be a great solution — you…

  • Avoiding Competitive Shopping For Fun and Profit (79 comments)

    This post is by staff writer Sarah Gilbert. As a personal finance writer and editor, I have watched many a Black Friday with a mix of fascination and horror. For some of those years, I was involved in the packaging of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, as AOL ad sales people pushed us to develop a series of posts, videos, and photo galleries leading up to and culminating in the event, including one year when…

  • Black Friday by the Numbers (24 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman, who baked without using flour — and liked it. Are you reading this while standing in line at your local big box store? Or are you celebrating Buy Nothing Day and hunkering down for a relaxing day of leftovers and football? Either way, you might be interested in a few facts about this day, the day after Thanksgiving in the U.S. that we call Black Friday. Here’s…

  • Ask the Readers: Black Friday Shopping Secrets? (98 comments)

    With Thanksgiving less than a week away, the holiday shopping season is about to move into high gear. In the past, I’ve consciously steered clear of holiday shopping, and especially of Black Friday. I’m not fond of the frenzied zeal with which Americans spend their money at this time of the year. For more than a decade, I’ve elected to observe Buy Nothing Day. I choose not to spend a single penny on the day…

  • Spend on the Things You Do Every Day (133 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. I used to be guilty of spending money on the life I thought I lived, rather than the life I was actually living. To illustrate what I mean, consider the following past expenditures: Snowboarding apparel, for my first and only snowboarding trip to date. Evening dresses from Bluefly.com. Yes, they were purchased at a big discount, but I had nowhere to wear them! A mountain bike. I…

  • Ask the Readers: How Much Do You Spend on Gifts? (126 comments)

    As Kris and I near the end our trip to Peru, we’ve begun to make preparations for our return home. That means shopping. I spent some time today buying books, for instance. Keeping in mind my recently-drafted guidelines of what to buy, I picked up a couple dozen Spanish translations of classic novels and popular children’s books. These books are all tiny (about the size of a religious tract) and cost only S/1.50 each, which…

  • Beating the Single-Shopper Penalty (81 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer Donna Freedman. Donna writes a personal finance column for MSN Money, and writes about frugality and intentional living at Surviving And Thriving. Single and/or living in a small space? Bet you’re good and sick of the Song of the Palletizers – that self-satisfied croon from folks who belong to warehouse clubs. Look how little I paid for this pallet of canned goods/toilet paper/sweat socks! My pantry looks like…

  • Got the Urge to Splurge? Use These Strategies to Fight It (or Not) (122 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer Donna Freedman. Donna writes a personal finance column for MSN Money, and writes about frugality and intentional living at Surviving And Thriving. This just in: Sales of bleach and fertilizer are down, but U.S. consumers can’t seem to get enough of cosmetics and wine. According to a recent New York Times article, we’re also buying more shoes, handbags, premixed cocktails, and meat pies. (Meat pies? Who knew?) Cheesecake…

  • Remember to Value Your Time (83 comments)

    I can’t believe that Get Rich Slowly is going to link to two different xkcd comics within a single month, but it’s true. Genevieve dropped a line to point out this recent gem about one of the problems with penny pinching: Sometimes people forget to value their time. “This made me think a bit about my deal-hunting habits and what I’m really spending and saving,” Genevieve wrote. But I think this concept applies to more…

  • Halloween Spending: Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid (104 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman, who recently wrote about the wonders of goat-milk caramel. Recently staff writer Sierra Black wrote about ways to get financially prepared for the holiday season. By thinking about savings and gift preparations now, you can avoid a shocker of a credit card bill after the new year. But if you think post-holiday bank statements are scary, maybe you should start planning for Halloween expenses, too. Yes, you…

  • Ask the Readers: How Would You Sell a Collection? (81 comments)

    I am a collector. I always have been. When I was a boy, my parents gave me one closet in the trailer house to have as my very own. They called it the “rat’s nest” because I’d fill it up with all the sorts of things a boy might collect: bugs and twigs and baseball cards and comic books, among other things. As an adult, I’ve remained a collector. It’s both a joy and curse….

  • Spare Change: Time to Travel Edition (12 comments)

    I was disappointed when I had to cancel my planned trip to England last month. I’d been looking forward to hiking across the country, and to visiting several GRS readers. It worked out for the best, though: I’ve managed to tackle some projects here at home, and have had time to help Mom get situated in her new living environment. Now, though, it’s time to travel. A week from today, I fly to Chicago to…

  • Spare Change: Game of Thrones Edition (48 comments)

    Years ago, a friend of mine tried to convince me to read A Game of Thrones, a fantasy novel by George R. R. Martin. I gave it a go, but it never really grabbed me. I’m no prude (far from it!), but there was just too much sex and violence. Besides, after 200 pages or so, there still was no sign of a plot. Over the past few years, however, I’ve heard nothing but rave…

  • Dissatisfied Customer? Make an Effective Complaint (41 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman, who recently wrote about how pineapple pops can prevent heatstroke. I’ve often heard that there are two kinds of customers, those who will complain and those who won’t. The ones who complain are better for a company because they’re more likely to stick around if the company can successfully resolve their issue. The customer who doesn’t complain, on the other hand, is more likely to quietly go…

  • Spare Change: Gaming Geek Edition (22 comments)

    I’m exhausted. I spent the entire weekend (from Thursday through Sunday) embracing my inner nerd, surrounded by tens of thousands of other nerds doing nerdy things. At the invitation of Adam Baker (who writes at Man vs. Debt and used to be a staff writer here), I flew to Indianapolis to spend four days at GenCon, an enormous gaming convention. I woke early each morning to spend all day with Adam and Courtney (and their…

  • Spotify: The Future of Music Is Here — and You’ll Pay Less for It (86 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and raising children at Childwild.com. Europe’s hit music-listening service has finally launched in the United States. Spotify is here, and it’s already changed the way I listen to music. J.D. is a huge fan, too. I’m so excited about Spotify that I’m breaking my usual habit of not doing product reviews to write about it. What is Spotify? Spotify is a service…

  • Crammed! A Shocking Utility Tale (79 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer Donna Freedman. Donna writes a personal finance column for MSN Money. She also writes about frugality, intentional living, and life in general at her own blog, Surviving And Thriving. My cell phone is billed directly to a rewards credit card, so I usually just give it a quick glance. Bad consumer! Bad! (Keep reading to see just how bad.) A few days ago I happened to notice a…

  • The Blurry Line Between Experiences and Stuff (87 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. A few months ago I wrote a two-part post about a study on how money, if spent correctly, can buy happiness. In the report, researchers Elizabeth Dunn, Dan Gilbert, and Timothy Wilson used empirical research to identify eight key ways to spend money that have been proven to increase happiness for the consumer. Research says when it comes to buying happiness, experiences trump Stuff… The first principle…

  • Every Purchase Is a Trade-Off (76 comments)

    While I was digging out of debt, I cut back on my comic book habit. I’d been spending a mind-boggling $250 every month on comics — most of which I bought in the form of hard-bound compilations — but for a few of years, I slashed that to less than $50 a month. I also cut my book spending from $100 per month to $50 per month. In other words, I made trade-offs. I decided…

  • Ask the Readers: But What If I *AM* Materialistic? (225 comments)

    I’ve received a lot of interesting out-of-the-ordinary questions from GRS readers recently. Two weeks ago, for instance, Rita asked about the moral implications of spending. This week, Crystal wants to know: What if she is materialistic? Is that wrong? If so, how can she change? Here’s what she has to say: I’ve read your blog for a while now, and it always inspires me, but I stop just short of embracing the frugal lifestyle. Why?…

  • What To Do with All That Clutter: Sell It, Swap It, Give It Away (75 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and raising children at Childwild.com. This Saturday (May 14th) is Give Your Stuff Away Day, a worldwide celebration of getting rid of clutter. People all over the world will be gathering up their unwanted possessions and taking them to the curb, where they hope neighbors and passersby will adopt their stuff. As the event organizers say: Because of all the shopping…

  • Ask the Readers: What Are the Moral Implications of Spending? (241 comments)

    Most reader questions I share at Get Rich Slowly are meant to solve a problem — somebody has a financial dilemma they’re hoping you folks can help them fix. But Rita sent a different kind of question. She doesn’t want to solve a problem — she wants to stir debate. Rita writes: I ask myself “How much is enough?” several times daily. My husband and I make good money — over $100,000 in combined income…

  • Spare Change: Colored Comments Edition (68 comments)

    Great news, everyone. By popular request, comment numbering is back! When we moved to threaded comments last month, we lost numbered comments. While I think everyone loves the threaded comments (so much easier to follow conversations), a lot of us liked comment numbering because it let us remember where we left off in the discussion. Thankfully, the GRS technical elves have returned the comment numbers to us. The technical elves also indulged a whim for…

  • How to Spend Your Way to Happiness (Part One) (109 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. You know the old adage “money can’t buy happiness”? Researchers Elizabeth Dunn, Dan Gilbert, and Timothy Wilson say it’s a myth. Drawing on empirical research, they’ve identified key ways that people can get more bliss for their buck. The link between money and happiness has been studied for decades, and the result is always the same: Money does buy happiness — but less than most of us…

  • Reader Story: Fight for Your Finances (66 comments)

    This guest post from Justin is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes. Normally, we personal finance aficionados aren’t the fighting sort. We’d rather use our spreadsheets and calculators than our fists. However, there’s a time and…

  • Spare Change: Cockeyed Edition (23 comments)

    Last week, I wrote about the dismal odds you face when trying to play the lottery. That article included a lottery simulator built by the GRS technical elves, a widget inspired by the lottery simulator over at Cockeyed. I’ve mentioned Cockeyed several times over the years. It’s awesome. Cockeyed is the home of Rob Cockerham and his crazy projects and pranks. It’s the sort of site you can spend hours exploring — and still go…

  • The Lottery: An “Investment” for Fools (with Bonus Lottery Simulator!) (162 comments)

    Over the years, I’ve done some foolish things with my finances. I’ve squandered money on comic books. I’ve speculated on risky stocks, hoping to make a quick fortune. I’ve paid a gazillion dollars — or something close to it — in credit-card interest and bank fees. I spent large windfalls on the latest technological gadgets. No, I’m by no means perfect with money. One trap I’ve managed to avoid, though, is the lottery. Playing the…

  • Gaming Without Breaking the Bank (59 comments)

    Though J.D.’s back on the blog, he’s still a bit behind — so much e-mail! — so here’s a guest-post from Tim Ellis, who writes Seattle Bubble when he isn’t glued to a screen, zoned out on video games. You can find him playing as “TH3 T1M” on Xbox Live and on PSN. I’ve been an avid gamer ever since I bought my first Nintendo Entertainment System when I was ten. Today I have a…

  • Redbox vs. iTunes vs. Netflix vs. Blockbuster (92 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. Sometimes I think that Netflix was the best thing to ever happen to me (er, besides my wonderful husband, of course). You see, when I was a Blockbuster customer, I was notoriously bad about racking up late fees. I would flat-out forget I even had a movie to return. There’s no telling how much money I wasted in late fees. So when Netflix came on the scene,…

  • The Cost of Love (60 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. Have you ever noticed all of the song lyrics about love and money? “No romance without finance…” “My love don’t cost a thing…” “Only boys who save their pennies, make my rainy day…” “Can’t buy me love…” Whether you side with Madonna or The Beatles on the issue of love and money, courtship can be costly. When you imagine your ideal partner, you probably think of general…

  • Conscious Spending in Action (167 comments)

    Kris and I pulled the plug on our television last week. We canceled cable, gave our DVD player to her sister, and moved the television to the workshop until we can find a buyer. We’re now officially TV-free. Sort of. We haven’t given up TV shows and DVDs entirely — we’re just consuming this entertainment via other methods. Namely, we use: iTunes subscriptions for Glee, The Office, 30 Rock, The Biggest Loser, and The Amazing…

  • Follow-Up: Thrifting for Holiday Gifts (16 comments)

    As I mentioned earlier this week, I get a lot of requests for follow-ups to reader stories and questions. People want to hear how things turned out. Because I want to know how things turned out, too, I’m going to start a semi-regular feature at Get Rich Slowly. Whenever I hear back from a previous poster, I’ll share an update so that we can all know what happened. Note: I suspect most of these will…

  • Women and Money: Slaying Stereotypes and Facing Reality (76 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. Do women need specialized personal-finance resources specific to our gender? That’s what some financial advice books seem to imply. Slate writer Hannah Seligson points out that bookseller Amazon.com has a “money management for women” category, but no category specifically for men. Some of the cheekier titles in the category include: Shoo, Jimmy Choo!: The Modern Girl’s Guide to Spending Less and Saving More Does This Make My…

  • A Non-Consumer Christmas: Simple Gifts for Kids and Grown-Ups (48 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. Not sure what to buy for your loved ones this year? Still singing the recession blues? Consider buying nothing at all. I didn’t buy anything on Black Friday, I didn’t buy anything today, and I won’t tomorrow. This holiday season, I won’t be going near a mall. Under our tree, there will…

  • Ask the Readers: Is It Okay to Buy a Christmas Gift from a Thrift Store? (170 comments)

    The holiday season can test a frugal person’s patience: There are so many temptations to spend. Sure, we all want to enjoy the festive nature this time of year, but where do you draw the line? And how fugal is too frugal? Michelle wrote with a terrific question. She has the sort of dilemma I can picture myself facing. Here’s her story: Like you, I am a big proponent of thrift store shopping. It saves…

  • Are E-Books Cost Effective? The Pros and Cons of E-Books (143 comments)

    Yesterday, Google opened its ebookstore for business. The search giant joins Apple and Amazon (and Barnes & Noble) in a fast-growing field. Electronic books will never completely replace paper books, but they’re going to make up a sizable portion — and maybe even the majority — of the market sooner than you think. Naturally, more and more GRS readers are moving to e-books. In fact, I’ve had a couple of people ask me about them…

  • Reader Story: Inexpensive Gift Ideas for Christmas (and Beyond!) (40 comments)

    This guest post from Shelley Turner is part of the “reader stories” feature at Get Rich Slowly. Some stories contain general advice; others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. These stories feature folks from all levels of financial maturity and with all sorts of incomes. They’re coming! Like it or not, the holidays — and all the stress of buying the Perfect Gift — are just around the…

  • The Coming of the Shopocalypse (91 comments)

    This post is from staff writer April Dykman. Brace yourselves — the Christmas-shopping season is upon us. In fact, it’s been upon us since October at least, when I saw an early-bird Christmas shopper guide for the “it” gifts in 2010. Is it just me, or does the chaos seem to start earlier each year? Last night I was browsing the list of Netflix “watch instantly” movies, and I saw one produced by Morgan Spurlock…

  • Cheap Things You Never Use Are No Bargain (70 comments)

    A couple of months ago, I shared some of the things I choose to spend my money on now that I’ve paid off my debts, saved for emergencies, and am funding my retirement. Most folks seemed to get my message: I cut back hard on the things I don’t care about (cable TV, clothes, newspapers and magazines) so that I can afford to spend on the things that do matter to me. As I say,…

  • Using Consumerism for Social Good (24 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. When I shampoo my hair, I’m helping buy bicycles for girls in Togo to get to school. According to UNICEF, in Togo, a small nation in West Africa, about half of the women 15-24 years old can’t read or write, and the numbers are higher for those in rural areas where there’s no access to transportation. Children have to walk 5 to 15 miles, and girls,…

  • Swapping Convenience for Low Costs (68 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. The other day I was walking down the street when a young man approached me and asked directions to the nearest Tube Station. I live in Boston, not London. Our subway is called the T. I happened to be walking to the nearby station myself, so we walked together and got to…

  • Shopping with Confidence, and the Clean Slate (69 comments)

    “Does this shirt make me look fat?” I asked Kris the other day. I was trying on clothes as I packed for our upcoming vacation in France and Italy. I want to limit myself to just four or five shirts for the trip. (Truly light packers would probably only take two shirts.) “Well,” Kris said. “It’s not that the shirt makes you look fat. It’s just way too big on you. It looks like a…

  • How Would Panhandlers Use Free Credit Cards? (44 comments)

    Have you ever wondered what the panhandlers you see on the street would do if you actually gave them a bunch of money to spend? Like many people, I generally give my pocket change to anyone who asks. I figure that if they have to ask, they probably need it more than I do. (Yes, I know that there are just as many folks who think this is ridiculous, and who never give anything to…

  • Why I Buy Local (171 comments)

    Kris and I live in a small, quiet neighborhood south of Portland. When the trolley line ran through here — between 1893 and 1959 — Oak Grove was actually thriving community, with shops and stores and more. (It’s true! I’ve seen pictures!) Now, though, downtown Oak Grove, such as it is, consists of a convenience store, a hair salon, a joint once named “the best dive bar in Portland” — and the home office of…

  • Stopping Shopping Momentum (35 comments)

    This post is from staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. Shopping momentum is the bane of many budgets. You may have a good grip on your money most of the time, but once you’ve opened up your wallet to make one purchase, it’s easy to just keep spending. People sometimes experience shopping momentum during times of stress or transition: when they’re traveling,…

  • Who’s Spying on (and Profiting from) Your Browsing Habits? (37 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. One of the fastest-growing businesses on the Web is tracking data about your Internet use — everything from comments you leave on websites to health information and financial status — and selling it to companies that want to target ads to specific customer profiles. Algorithms are even used to make predictions about you based on your profile, from how likely is it that you’ll repay a…

  • The High Cost of Modern Living (118 comments)

    This is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the adviser for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks. With all the hullabaloo over the release of the iPhone 4 this summer, and having just paid my monthly service bill for my own iPhone (an older version, thank you very much), I thought…

  • What Should You Buy Used? What Should You Buy New? (143 comments)

    Though the Get Rich Slowly community has expanded in the past couple of years, there are still a few folks who have been around since the beginning. It’s always a pleasure when one of them drops me a line. Last week, Vintek — who contributed this introduction to mutual funds nearly four years ago — sent me an e-mail to let me know how he’s doing, and to share a recent article he liked. My…

  • Three Passive Barriers I Use to Counter Consumerism (37 comments)

    This video post is by staff writer Adam Baker. Baker previously featured a post on his own blog entitled, Dave Ramsey Vs. Suze Orman. Passive barriers are those small mental impediments that keep us from making smart choices. Things like over-drafting your bank account because you’re too lazy to stop by the bank to make a deposit, or not going for a run because it’s a pain to get your exercise clothes together. But while…

  • Reader Story: Learning to Read the Fine Print (63 comments)

    This guest post from Joel is part of the “reader stories” feature here at Get Rich Slowly. Some reader stories contain general “how I did X” advice, and others are examples of how a GRS reader achieved financial success — or failure. (Note that Joel is the author of the Blog Of Impossible Things, a blog documenting his attempts to live an extraordinary life by doing impossible things.) I recently moved from Chicago to Indianapolis…

  • Don’t Wait for a Discount — Ask for One (67 comments)

    This post is short and sweet and to the point. Folks, I cannot stress how important it is to check all of your accounts for possible savings at least once a year. This includes your bank accounts, your credit accounts, your utility accounts, and more. Basically, you should review every account that involves a financial relationship at least yearly. It’s easy to do this. Just call the customer service number and ask if there are…

  • Save Money by Reducing Subscriptions and Avoiding Long-Term Contracts (48 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Adam Baker. On his own blog, Baker recently shared his 26 life lessons learned in 26 years of living. In continuing celebration of Financial Literacy Month, my GRS contributions throughout April are covering basic techniques to raise your financial awareness. We’ve previously touched on the topics of debt and income. Today we’ll tackle two of my favorite tips for ensuring conscious spending. Purge your subscriptions Subscriptions, even small ones,…

  • Can You Afford to Go Green? (70 comments)

    This post from staff writer Sierra Black is in honor of Earth Day. As soon as you start thinking about how to live more lightly on the earth, your eyes start opening to the myriad ways you can do that. You can eat only organic food. You can bike to work instead of driving. You can insist on high-efficiency appliances. You can line dry your clothes. Some of these lifestyle shifts will save you money….

  • If You’re Going to Buy a Warranty, Shop Around (70 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. I’m writing this post on my brand new MacBook, which I just purchased yesterday. I can honestly say I’ve never been less excited to buy a computer. The reason for my ambivalence is that I already bought this laptop four months ago, replacing a seven-year-old “little iBook that could.” But two weeks ago a water bottle (that I thought was closed) toppled over, splashing water on…

  • The Perils and Pangs of a Pricey Purchase (95 comments)

    This is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the adviser for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks. I must begin this tale of consumer conflict — both internal and external — with four caveats: I’m on the other side of 40, gaining weight, out of shape, and from a family with…

  • Spend Based on Who You Are, Not Who You Want to Be (110 comments)

    Last Thursday, on April Fool’s Day, I wrote about my obsession with gadgets and how much that’s cost me over the years. As always, your comments and stories were more entertaining (and instructive) than the post itself. In fact, a comment from chacha1 gave me a flash of insight. She wrote: The thing that’s a *headdesk* for me is the digital piano in my dining room. It’s an excellent instrument, but at the time I…

  • Do You Get What You Pay For? (108 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. Like many of you, I’m a proponent of quality over quantity. I’d rather buy one good coat that will get me through three seasons and last for years than replace a poorly-made, cheap one every year. But it’s important to consider that expense is not necessarily an indication of quality. And even when the more expensive item is of higher quality, it might not be the best buy….

  • March 20th is the National Day of Unplugging (45 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Adam Baker, who recently shared “3 Lesson I’ve Learned in 3 Years of Marriage.” Technology is a double-edged sword: It has the power to revolutionize our productivity and allow us to achieve feats previously thought to be impossible; but it also has the ability to drain our focus and squander our attention. As a blogger, I’m usually a strong proponent of gadgets that plug in and turn on. These…

  • The Hidden Cost of Spending While In Debt (51 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Adam Baker, who recently released an 83-page guide entitled Unautomate Your Finances. Courtney and I are big fans of what we call “mental filters”. These are simple little tips and tricks that we can use to increase our financial awareness. (J.D. likes to call these tips and tricks money hacks.) For example, I’ve talked before about how we taped a picture of our daughter to our credit cards while…

  • The High Cost of Clutter (81 comments)

    This post is from new staff writer Sierra Black. Sierra writes about frugality, sustainable living, and getting her kids to eat kale at Childwild.com. Last week, J.D. wrote about Stuff; today, Sierra shares her thoughts on the costs of clutter. Do you have piles of papers lurking on your desk? Mountains of laundry looming beside your bed? Shelves double-stacked with knick-knacks? I have a bit of a clutter problem myself. The other day, I spent…

  • How Much Stuff Does One Man Need? (158 comments)

    It seems like every time I travel, I come home committed to win my war on Stuff. This time was no different. I lived out of a single carry-on bag while vacationing in Belize last week, and even that felt luxurious. Now I’ve returned to a house packed with doodads and gewgaws, knick-knacks and baubles. The more I purge Stuff from my life, the more I travel, and the more I see (and read) about…

  • Online Tools for Mindful Consumerism (29 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. For many people, mindful consumerism starts with questioning the desire to buy Stuff. The reason might be to save money or avoid clutter — maybe both. It’s the first part of a journey to differentiate needs from wants and make mindful decisions about where to spend our hard-earned money. But at some point, most of us will consume. We’ll buy food or clothing or household items….

  • Daily Links: Extreme Editing Edition (28 comments)

    Haha. Here I thought that once I finished my manuscript I’d magically have more time to write at Get Rich Slowly. That’ll happen soon, but I’m not there yet. Turns out editing is just as much work as writing — it’s just a different kind of work. I have to edit all 14 chapters of Your Money: The Missing Manual by next Monday, which is a huge task, especially when you consider my goal is…

  • The Best Time to Buy Almost Everything (76 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. My mom has a sixth sense when it comes to bargain hunting. Where I’m thrilled to get 25 percent off and free shipping, she’s finding deals of 70 percent off and getting inside scoop from the salespeople, who probably have her on speed dial should a ginormous everything-must-go-or-we-torch-it clearance sale come along. Okay, so I’m exaggerating, but not by much. The point, however, is that the…

  • Ask the Readers: Do You Buy Christmas Gifts For Your Spouse? (165 comments)

    This article is by staff writer Adam Baker. Baker recently listed the Top 10 Money Movies of the Decade. At this point, I hope you’ve done most of your Christmas shopping (and/or making). Only the brave or the foolish have yet to form a holiday shopping plan of attack. *looks around* Alright, so I have a minor confession to make: Courtney and I don’t buy gifts for each other. To put it more bluntly, we just…

  • Comics and Cons: Adventures on eBay (58 comments)

    If you follow me on Twitter, you know that between writing chapters for Your Money: The Missing Manual I’ve been wrestling with eBay “customer service”. Note the quotes. It’s difficult to tell the full story in 140-character chunks, though. Since Robert started the day with a post about his adventures on Craigslist, let’s end it with with one about my adventures on eBay. I’ve been using eBay since September 1998. I’ve bought and sold items…

  • Furniture and Scambags: Adventures on Craigslist (99 comments)

    This is a guest post from Robert Brokamp of The Motley Fool. Robert is a Certified Financial Planner and the advisor for The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement service. He contributes one new article to Get Rich Slowly every two weeks. I’ve already told you how the wife and I weed out our closets every summer and have a yard sale with the results. Last weekend, we did some big off-season pruning because — in…

  • Happy Thanksgiving 2009 (8 comments)

    It’s Thanksgiving Day in the United States — my favorite holiday. I like that we set aside a day each year to be grateful for the things we have. I have much to be thankful for this year — I’ve been very fortunate. A lot of this is because of this site, and because of my interaction with you, the readers. Thank you for making the community at Get Rich Slowly a top-notch place for…

  • The Personal Finance Hour, Episode 28: Thanks. Giving. (6 comments)

    Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. It’s the least-commercialized major holiday, and the one whose message I most appreciate. On today’s episode of The Personal Finance Hour, I’ll join Jim from Bargaineering to discuss two aspects of this holiday season: the things we’re thankful for, and the importance of giving. This show will air live at 3pm Pacific (6pm Eastern). It’s much more entertaining for everyone when you call in to participate. We’d love to hear…

  • Ask the Readers: How Do You Handle Peer Pressure? (207 comments)

    Your friends and family influence you. They affect the way you view life. If your friends are frugal, it’s easier to be frugal yourself. But if they’re wrapped up in consumerism and materialism, and can be difficult to resist the urge to join them. It’s only natural to want to fit in. Rob wrote yesterday to ask how to handle a situation where he wants to lead a simple life, but those around him aren’t…

  • Stimulus Programs: Cash for Buyer’s Remorse? (69 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer Adam Baker. Baker, along with his wife and 20-month old daughter, will be spending the next couple of months exploring Thailand as they continue their recent backpacking journey. Since the start of the economic slump started in 2008, the U.S. government has issued several incentive programs in an attempt to stimulate some positive movement in the economy. First, came the popular $7500 tax credit for first time home…

  • The Anti-Stuff Holiday Gift Guide (84 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. For the past couple of years, my husband and I have not exchanged traditional, wrapped-and-Christmas-bowed gifts. Instead, we plan an experience. We started our anti-Stuff celebrations because neither of us could think of a gift we truly wanted. Then we’d each be scrambling to think of something, anything, since not giving a box with a bow was unacceptable. This way, the pressure is off, and we create memories…

  • The Personal Finance Hour, Episode 20: Spending Smart with Greg Karp (7 comments)

    On this week’s installment of The Personal Finance Hour, Jim and I spent the hour talking with nationally-syndicated financial columnist Greg Karp. Greg is the author of The 1-2-3 Money Plan, which I reviewed last week. We had a wide-ranging conversation about spending smart. Spending Smart One of Karp’s mottos is, “You can’t outearn dumb spending.” Some people believe they can always just earn more money to sustain their lifetyle — but their lifestyle often…

  • Should You Buy It? A Flowchart for Evaluating Potential Purchases (69 comments)

    This post is from GRS staff writer April Dykman. My husband and I are in the process of building a home on 4.5 acres in the Texas hill country. At the moment, we’re still in the planning phase — not quite ready for blueprints. Last month, our architect asked us to start thinking about the make and model of the kitchen appliances we want for our home. Visions of sleek, Thermador cooktops and double ovens danced…

  • Further Adventures in My War on Stuff (102 comments)

    Long-time readers of Get Rich Slowly know that I’ve been waging an ongoing battle against Stuff — the clutter and crap I managed to collect during 20 years of wanton spending and debt. Though I’ve managed to curb my spending (and have slowed the influx of Stuff), I’m still surrounded by constant reminders of my old habits. Last week, Colleen wrote to ask for an update on this seemingly-endless war: I was wondering if you…

  • MousePrint.org Exposes the Pitfalls in Fine Print (16 comments)

    Does fine print drive you crazy? Like me, do you find yourself wading through 63-page credit card agreements — trying to understand the legalese but often failing? Don’t you wish there were a site that highlighted the lunacy of this stuff? Well, there is. Mouse Print is a blog devoted to “exposing the strings and catches buried in the fine print” of all sorts of offers and agreements. Here’s what Edgar Dworsky says about his…

  • Freedom from Mindless Spending (143 comments)

    This is a guest post from April Dykman, an avid GRS reader, and a writer and editor by trade. April is a potential Staff Writer for Get Rich Slowly. April is an active commenter at this site. “People’s complex attitudes toward money often defy economic theory.” — Drazen Prelec, associate professor of marketing at the Sloan School of Management There was a time not so very long ago that I didn’t pay much attention to…

  • Impulse Spending: The Present and the Past (56 comments)

    I had a wave of nostalgia on Friday. My brother called to tell me that there was a problem with the computer network at the box factory. Though I no longer work for the family business, I’m still the company’s computer guy. So, I drove out to the office, tinkered with the network, and ended up having to make a run to Fry’s Electronics to pick up some parts. Not so long ago, Fry’s was…

  • The Spending Habits of the Average American (106 comments)

    Last week, Diane dropped a line asking for information about the spending habits of the average American. She wrote: I am trying to find sites that will provide average spending habits — such as how much an average person spends on food per week or how much a family spends on entertainment, that sort of thing. I am hoping to see where my habits line up with someone of similar means in the same part…

  • Saving Money and the Environment: Where Green and Frugal Meet (62 comments)

    This is a guest post for Earth Day from Beth H., who writes about saving time, money, and the environment at Smart Family Tips. Going “green” has a bit of a bad rap. As soon as marketers realized it was profitable to be green, suddenly all sorts of products flooded the marketplace with eco-friendly claims. It can be overwhelming. Is it really necessary to buy all this “stuff” to be green? Are these products really…

  • Economic Stimulus and the Marginal Propensity to Consume (99 comments)

    This is a guest post from Kevin, who writes about getting and staying out of debt at No-Debt Plan. Previously at GRS, Kevin wrote about the power of attentive spending. Many Americans will begin receiving a few extra dollars in their paychecks this month. Thanks to the latest round of economic stimulus from the federal government, the monthly take-home pay of most workers will increase by about $50. Economists and politicians hope that this is…

  • The Subtle Power of Product Packaging (88 comments)

    I get frustrated when I meet people who don’t think advertising affects them. Advertising does affect you. And, in fact, I’d argue those who believe they are immune are probably most likely to be influenced. How powerful are advertising and marketing? In 2007, I shared an excerpt from Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink in which the author describes how product packaging affects our perceptions. In front of us was the beverage section. Rhea leaned over and picked…

  • Product Specifications Influence Consumer Preference (35 comments)

    When you make a major purchase, how do you choose between competing products? Do you buy solely on price? Or do you consider features, quality, and brand reputation? A new study in the April 2009 issue of Journal of Consumer Research reveals that our purchasing decisions are susceptible to the influence of external descriptions. When we shop, we may spend too much when we base our decisions on product specifications. The researchers found that “even…

  • When Consumers Cut Back (49 comments)

    Over the weekend, Kim C. pointed me to an article about the dangers of thrift. There’s been a glut of these pieces lately, most of which just make me tense. They seem as if they’re cheerleading conspicuous consumption. But this one is interesting. Writing for The New York Times, Hiroko Tabuchi describes what happened when consumers cut back in Japan during that nation’s “lost decade” after its bubble economy burst. Tabuchi writes: The economic malaise…

  • Learning to Live Modestly (36 comments)

    J.D. is on vacation. This is a guest post from Gail Vaz-Oxlade, a Canadian financial writer and host of the television series ‘Til Debt Do Us Part. Frugality is all the rage. And a good thing too. With the economic situation as it is, we had better learn to take pleasure from the simple things if we want to keep our sense of balance and be able to sleep at night. The rise of materialism…

  • December 24, 1958: A Six-Dollar Christmas (21 comments)

    I’m on vacation. This is a guest post from my aunt. It’s sort of a real-life “Gift of the Magi”. My aunt and uncle (who is called “Pop” in this story) celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary this past October. On Christmas Eve 1958, I had been married two months and seven days.  We were sixteen and eighteen — young but in love.  Pop had a good job in a mobile home factory. The pay was $2.10…

  • The Good Consumer (36 comments)

    In my favorite section of David Mitchell’s brilliant Cloud Atlas, Sonmi-451 is a clone who works in a fast-food restaurant in near-future Korea, a society ruled by corporcracy (a government of corporations). In this seemingly utopian world, citizens are consumers, and their purpose in life is to spend. Commonplace items are known by their brand-names: a theater is a disneyarium, a video display is a sony, a vehicle is a ford. Television is not TV,…

  • The 3-Day Cooling-Off Period: Myth and Reality (48 comments)

    In 2001, I bought some magazine subscriptions from a couple of college students who were selling them door-to-door. I’d had my own miserable experiences trying to sell things to strangers, so I had a policy of buying from any kid who wanted to sell me something. I let the young man and young woman come into the house, and I listened to their pitch. I browsed through a glossy brochure that listed a bunch of…

  • Black Friday — Or Not? (82 comments)

    This weekend will be important for U.S. retailers. They’ll be counting their pennies carefully. With retail sales already down sharply from 2007, merchants are eager for a strong start to the holiday shopping season. The day after Thanksgiving — now dubbed “Black Friday” — has become something of a ritualized cultural experience, and one of the biggest shopping days of the year. Many people view the day as a chance to grab stellar deals on…

  • A Do-It-Yourself Christmas: 34 Great Homemade Gifts You Can Make (204 comments)

    Last month, I asked readers to share their favorite frugal Christmas ideas. You responded with over a hundred fantastic tips. One common theme for saving money and adding meaning during the holiday season was to make gifts yourself. My wife and I are lucky to have many crafty friends. Every year, I’m delighted to see what they create for the holiday season. I drew on our own experience, pulled some of your best tips from…

  • Confess Your Shopping Sins with Spendster (3 comments)

    Spendster is a new site that allows users to share video stories about impulse buying, over-spending, and wasting money on Stuff they don’t need. These video confessionals are fun to watch (I would never buy that) until you realize just how much junk you probably have in your own life. This embedded widget should show you one such story: Add Spendster to your page According to the site, “a spendster is someone who in a…

  • Gift Cards and Bankruptcy: What To Do When Stores Go Broke (16 comments)

    This is a guest post from Kwame Kuadey, CEO & Founder of GiftCardRescue.com, a site for selling and swapping gift cards. Kwame is also author of GiftCardBlogger.com, a blog about gift cards. What would you do if you purchased a gift card today and found out next week that the gift card issuer had gone bankrupt? The current economic meltdown has driven some well-known companies to file for bankruptcy: The Sharper Image Linens ‘n Things…

  • Ask the Readers: Favorite Frugal Christmas Ideas? (126 comments)

    I made a trip to Costco yesterday to buy index cards. (Believe it or not, index cards are the building blocks of this blog.) The store didn’t have any, but it did have four long aisles stocked with Christmas supplies: lights, laughing Santas, and artificial trees. “Are people thinking about the holidays already?”, I wondered. Turns out they are. In the Get Rich Slowly discussion forums, Samantha is asking for frugal Christmas ideas: We sat…

  • Ask the Readers: Smart Shopping for Big-Ticket Items? (56 comments)

    Shopping for expensive items can be a tense, frustrating experience. You’re never sure you’re choosing the best product or getting the best deal. Jason recently wrote looking for help: After reading some Consumer Reports blogs, particularly about vacuum cleaners, I came across a comment about “staying within your budget” when you’re trying to decide what vacuum to buy. My question is: How do you budget for occasional necessary expenses? You had a post recently about…

  • The Never-Ending War Against Advertising (90 comments)

    I spoke with a reporter the other day. She was looking for ways to fight the urge to shop. “My top tip is to avoid advertising,” I told her. “That sounds nice,” she said, “but how do you actually do that?” I talked about how I used to read comic book blogs and participate in comic book forums, and how doing these things led me to increase my spending on comics. When I stopped visiting…

  • Marvelous Magazine Ads from 1904 (33 comments)

    This post contains many scanned images. Click on any detail to see a larger version. I believe that one of the best ways to reduce spending is to limit your exposure to advertising. Marketers employ powerful persuasive techniques to circumvent our rational minds, encouraging us to spend our hard-earned money on things we don’t really need. This isn’t anything new. Advertising has been a pervasive part of American culture for more than a century. I…

  • A Momentary Lapse of Reason (69 comments)

    I used to have two responses when faced with stress: spend more or eat more. I still sometimes struggle with stress-eating, but stress-spending hasn’t been an issue since I started this blog. My mother’s recent health problems, however, have brought a whole new meaning to the word “stress”. “I can’t believe this makes me so tense,” I told Kris. “I know Mom’s in good hands. She’s going to be fine.” “It’s understandable,” Kris said. So…

  • Why I Fought to Save Three Bucks (and Why You Should Too) (201 comments)

    This guest post comes from Donna Freedman, a blogger at MSN Money’s Smart Spending blog. Donna is one of my favorite personal finance writers. This is a reprint (with permission) of one of her recent pieces. On Friday I visited Office Depot for school backpacks at the killer price of $2.99. Along with other loss-leader school supplies, they’ll be donated to a local social services agency. At the checkout, I handed over a “20% off…

  • The Story of Stuff (131 comments)

    Every time I write about Stuff, readers point me to The Story of Stuff, a 20-minute video about where Stuff comes from and where it goes. Until today, however, I’d never taken time to watch it. According to the web site: From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. The Story of Stuff is a…

  • Five Tips for Effective Consumer Complaints (26 comments)

    I hate big corporations — they’re bureaucratic nightmares. Three years ago, Verizon claimed that our family business had signed up for a $37.20 monthly listing in their telephone directory. We had not. I spent nearly six months battling their customer service department to get the charges removed. I made phone calls and sent registered letters, but still they insisted we’d signed up for service we’d never requested. Eventually, through internet sleuthing, I found the e-mail…

  • A Glimpse at the Spending of the Average American (41 comments)

    On Saturday, The New York Times published a brilliant chart illustrating the spending of the average American: “Each month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics gathers 84,000 prices in about 200 categories,” the paper writes, “like gasoline, bananas, dresses and garbage collection.” These numbers form the Consumer Price Index, one common measure of inflation. And this graphic makes that information accessible. This chart is neat for several reasons: The circle itself represents 100% of the average…

  • Wedding Registries: A Love-Hate Relationship (150 comments)

    This is a guest post from Betsy Teutsch, who writes about socially responsible investing, savvy consuming, and sustainable living at Money Changes Things. The practical side of me loves wedding registries, and the values-driven side of me has grown to loathe them as brides and grooms seem ever bossier. Registries are nothing new, of course. We registered for gifts in 1973, and as a result received two lovely sets of china and ten place-settings of…

  • The Outrageous Cost of Storing Stuff (110 comments)

    I have too much Stuff. Odds are, you do too. In fact, Americans own so much Stuff that they don’t have room to store it all. Our basements and attics are full. Our garages and workshops are overflowing. Our passion for Stuff has spawned a growing industry devoted to providing space for all of the crap we own. This afternoon on NPR, Marketplace featured a story about the recession-proof self-storage industry. Reporter Andrew Phelps originally…

  • Money and Values: The Ecology of Commerce (66 comments)

    Over the weekend I posted a flippant note about saving money on milk. I hoped to spur conversation about unit pricing, but it led instead to a comparison of milk prices around the U.S. and Canada. This discussion was more interesting than the one I had intended. “Wow,” I said to Kris after reading some of the comments. “Can you believe anybody would pay $6 a gallon for milk.” “But it’s organic milk,” Kris said….

  • Round & Round: Capitalist Propaganda from 1939 (6 comments)

    Here’s a short-film produced by General Motors in 1939 called “Round & Round”. It’s a brief look at the free market system. It feels like it was produced for first-graders: This is a factory. This is a machine in the factory. This is the workman who tends the machine in the factory. And this is what the workman makes on his machine in the factory. This is a widget. Inside the widget factory, there are…

  • How to Turn $500 into $7 the Hard Way (91 comments)

    Back in our young and foolish days, Kris and I bought an encyclopedia set from a door-to-door salesman. This was in 1995, at the very cusp of the digital age. We had been on the internet for about a year, but we had no way to know that one day very soon the World Wide Web might make printed encyclopedias obsolete. So we bought an encyclopedia set. Naturally I charged the $500 to my credit…

  • How to Handle a Door-to-Door Salesman (183 comments)

    On Saturday morning, a young man knocked at our door. He wanted to sell us new windows. Kris tried to brush him aside gently, but he was persistent. He didn’t leave until he’d scheduled an appointment to give us an hour-long in-home presentation about his company’s product. “We do need storm windows,” Kris told me after he’d gone. “That’s true,” I said. “But I don’t like buying from door-to-door salesmen.” The worst job I ever…

  • An Angel on One Shoulder and a Devil on the Other (45 comments)

    We received a Costco coupon book in the mail today. Costco — a membership warehouse store — has very low prices and generally does not take coupons. A few times a year, though, they send out flyers with special discounts. Kris flipped through the book first, clipping coupons for kleenex, cat litter, and ziploc bags. When she was finished, I picked it up to look for things she’d missed. On the first page, I nearly…

  • Daily Roundup: Christmas Eve Edition (13 comments)

    As you may have noticed, I’m taking a little time off for the holidays. I do have some posts planned for the next few days, including a review of The Ultimate Cheapskate’s Road Map to True Riches, but things will be sparse around here until after the first of the year. Here are a few articles I’ve collected, but will forget to share if I don’t do so now: Ben Stein warns that all play…

  • The Four Things Children Really Want for Christmas (53 comments)

    Kris and I have been reading Unplug the Christmas Machine by Jo Robinson and Jean Coppock Staeheli. This book urges readers to escape the commercialism of the holiday season, to make it a “joyful, stress-free” time for the family. In a chapter entitled “The Four Things Children Really Want for Christmas”, the authors write: One concern voiced by most parents is that of shielding their children from the excesses of holiday commercialism. While adults can…

  • The Pros and Cons of Gift Cards (76 comments)

    There’s always a lot of fuss this time a year about gift cards. Some people love them, and some people hate them. I’m sort of in the middle. On the one hand, I continue to believe that anything a big company wants you to purchase is probably not in your best interest. That is, if a mega-corporation is all fired up to sell gift cards, you can bet they’re a profit center, which probably means…

  • Brief Thoughts on Modern Entertainment (30 comments)

    Over the past week, readers have sent me a lot of comments and questions related to a trio of products: the Amazon Kindle, Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited, and the Wii Virtual Console. Though none of these is itself worth writing about, taken as a whole they make an interesting combination. They represent part of a paradigm shift, a move toward on-demand digital entertainment. Amazon Kindle Earlier today, Jeff Bezos announced the Amazon Kindle, the latest…

  • Weekend Update: Christmas is Coming Edition (5 comments)

    Here are some recent stories I liked from the Money Blog Network (and other personal finance bloggers): I’ve written about my quest for paperless personal finance. At 43 Folders, Ryan Norbauer has a guide to a (mostly) paperless life. I’m still enamored with the paperless concept, but actually changing how I do things has proved to be something of a problem. I have familiar routines. Changing these is difficult, so I’m stuck in some sort…

  • Want to Save the Environment? Buy Less Stuff! (71 comments)

    A few weeks ago I wrote about my realization that I have too much Stuff. For two decades, I had been a willing participant in our consumerist culture, buying books and magazines and video games and compact discs and George Foreman grills. After twenty years of this, all I had to show for it was a mountain of debt and a home filled with Stuff. Recently, Kris and I have been working to purge our…

  • The Smell of Money: Marketers Use Scent to Encourage Spending (29 comments)

    When you shop, you are manipulated in myriad subtle (and not-so-subtle) ways. Everything from store layout to background music to package design is carefully planned to make you more likely to part with your hard-earned dollars. New Scientist reports that marketers are now learning to “recruit smell for the hard sell“: Scent, marketeers say, is the final frontier in “sensory branding”. Of all our five senses, smell is thought to be the most closely linked…

  • The True Cost of Souvenirs (65 comments)

    As you read this, I’m wending my way back from New York to Portland. I probably have some souvenirs with me. In this guest-post from Nina at Queercents, she discusses why souvenirs aren’t a good idea. “Souvenirs are perishable; fortunately, memories are not” — Susan Spano Last weekend, Jeanine and I cleaned the garage. We still can’t get two cars in the two-car garage, but it’s a two-part project to be continued this weekend. We…

  • Good Customer Service Still Exists (40 comments)

    This is a guest-post from my wife, who recently had a great customer service experience. I brown-bag my lunch on workdays, often making enough dinner to have leftovers for the next day’s lunch. As such, I wanted to invest in some quality microwavable dishes. About three years ago, I splurged on a set of six “Rock n Serve” Tupperware containers of various sizes. They’re perfect for microwaving lunches, with a pop-up vent in the top…

  • Convenience Store Economics (64 comments)

    I stopped by the 7-11 yesterday for the first time in years. I was thirsty and wasn’t willing to wait until I got home for a glass of water. I grabbed a $1.59 bottle of Aquafina and headed to the checkout stand. A woman and her two teenage daughters were in front of me. They were purchasing three Big Bite hot dogs, a Slurpee, and a couple pieces of candy. From the way they acted,…

  • Christmas in June: Save Money with Homemade Gifts (17 comments)

    This is a guest-post from my wife. Each December, I put together gifts for friends, co-workers, neighbors and family. My list is long, and I don’t want to break the bank. Homemade gifts go the extra mile to express my affection to the people in my life, while also allowing me to save some money. If you’re thinking about making gifts from summer’s bounty, and are willing to put in some elbow grease in a…

  • PF LOLCAT (12 comments)

    How can I not post this? For the uninitiated: lolcats. [via the always-awesome English Major]

  • The Completely Consumed Increment, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Used Stuff (14 comments)

    I’ve written before about how paying for quality can paradoxically sometimes be the cheapest option. In this guest entry, Handworn explains how his hobby — antique collecting — helps his finances. Collecting made me an investor. I started by collecting coins. As I grew up and my interests changed, I had to do something with my collection. I sold it. My collection of coins became a collection of license plates and street signs on the…

  • How to Fight the Urge to Splurge (42 comments)

    Today I stopped by the local electronics store to look at microphones and headphones. I didn’t intend to buy anything, but after a half hour browsing I found myself in line holding $170 of gadgets. I had fallen into an old trap: I was about to buy on impulse. Back in my salad days, I was the Master of Impulse Shopping. If I stopped at a store, I left with more than I had intended….

  • Scary Story: Billed for Service I Never Received (43 comments)

    While cleaning cruft at my personal site, I found this little gem from 2005. It belongs here. In the middle of December I received a bill for $5.30 from Sprint. There’s nothing remarkable about this except that I’ve never had a Sprint account! I immediately called the customer service phone number on the bill. It only took a few moments to reach a live operator. “There must be some mistake,” I told her. “Why am…

  • The Cost of Customer Loyalty (21 comments)

    For the past few months, I’ve made a point to buy gas at a nearby Chevron station because they gave me a customer loyalty card. After I fill up my tank ten times, I’ll receive a free “gold” car wash (a $5 value). By my calculations, this loyalty card ought to save me $.50/tank, or roughly five cents a gallon. But I noticed something yesterday. While this Chevron is charging $2.66/gallon for regular unleaded, the…

  • Reader Survey: Shopping Malls or Thrift Stores? (40 comments)

    When I was young, I loved to go to the mall. In high school, if I needed to shop for clothes, I shopped at the mall. If I wanted to buy books, I went to the mall. If I wanted new records or tapes (remember those?), I made a trip to the mall. The mall was a magic wonderland filled with fabulous prizes. In college, when I began to use credit, the mall became even…

  • Five Fantastic Frugal Tips for Christmas (13 comments)

    In my recent Christmas article, I asked you to submit your favorite ideas for saving money during the holidays. Your suggestions were great. Among the best were these (which I’ve edited slightly): Samuel’s tip: “Give your ‘favorite things’ as gifts. Find items you love and use everyday, then share these with others. By giving favorite things, the focus is on sharing things you like rather than how much you spent. For example, my ‘favorite thing’…

  • The Amazing Frugal Christmas Savings Spectacular! (52 comments)

    Look for the first-ever Get Rich Slowly contest at the end of this entry! HO HO HO! I had intended to post a series of articles on how to save money at Christmas, but they’ve taken longer to write than I expected. Now it’s a little late to leak them out one at a time. Instead, I’ve bunched the information together into a colossal tip-filled extravaganza! Here are some great ways to save money while…

  • Black Friday vs. Buy Nothing Day (13 comments)

    This weekend will be huge for U.S. retailers. The day after Thanksgiving — now dubbed “Black Friday” — has become something of a ritualized cultural shopping experience. Many people view the day as a chance to grab stellar deals on Christmas gifts. But others scorn it as a crass display of commercialism, antithetical to the spirit of the holiday season. Some go so far as to celebrate the day after Thanksgiving as “Buy Nothing Day”….

  • My 3 Cents: Consumer Reviews (3 comments)

    People love to complain about lousy products and crummy customer service. Last week, I complained in this very space about my Ford Focus. My3cents.com bills itself as “the leading source of real consumer advice.” It’s a place to share your experiences with others. Visitors come to learn, interact and voice opinions regarding companies, products and services in our open community. Learn from other consumer experiences, and help others learn from your own personal consumer experiences….

  • Personal Finance Breakdown: New iPod (24 comments)

    Personal finance is a journey. Each of us makes wrong turns along the way. Nobody’s perfect. We all have weaknesses — one of mine happens to be technology. Yesterday I succumbed to a long-term urge: I bought a video iPod. I had been resisting this impulse for months. I don’t need a new iPod — my old iPod mini works fine (though its battery life is rather weak). But when my wife said she wanted…

  • Basic Tips on Tipping: How Much and To Whom? (465 comments)

    Every time I get my hair cut, I’m faced with a dilemma — should I tip the barber or not? I usually get my hair cut in a small-town shop. I tip $2 on a $12 haircut. If I get to hear stories about Vietnam or histrionic political rants, I tip $3, even if I don’t agree with the barber’s viewpoints. (I tip because I’ve been entertained.) Sometimes, if I don’t have enough cash, I…

  • O, Cruel Fate, Why Do You Mock Me? (17 comments)

    In a twisted irony, the CD drive on my PowerBook just choked. The machine is two years old. I don’t have an extended warranty. Some sort of gasket inside the slot-loading drive seems to have come loose and worked its way inside with the CD that I was using to install a wireless keyboard. Now I may need to have this machine repaired. Will the repairs cost more than the extended warranty would have? Possibly….

  • Unwarranted: Why You Should Avoid Extended Warranties (30 comments)

    A Get Rich Slowly reader pointed to a Washington Post article about extended warranties. “Unwarranted” discusses the psychological reasons consumers buy these products, explores industry profitability, and emphasizes that most experts recommend against purchasing extended service contracts. The decision to buy an extended warranty [...] defies the recommendations of economists, consumer advocates and product quality experts, who all warn that the plans rarely benefit consumers and are nearly always a waste of money. “The things…

  • The $20 Theory of the Universe (7 comments)

    In his most recent I Will Teach You to be Rich newsletter, Ramit Sethi shared a link to an article entitled “The $20 Theory of the Universe” [pdf | html]. Author Tom Chiarella’s premise is: A twenty, placed in the right hand at the right moment, makes things happen. It gets you past the rope, beyond the door, into the secret files. The twenty hastens and chastens, beckons and tugs. The twenty, you see, is…

  • Just Say No (to Patronizing Ads) (22 comments)

    Here’s the headline from a circular that came in the mail today. “You need to post this at Get Rich Slowly,” Kris told me. She’s right. It would take me fifteen minutes to reach the nearest Applebee’s. It would cost me several dollars in fuel, not to mention the cost for the meal. For less money and the same time I could fix a fantastic meal of steak and risotto. (Accompanied by a frosty adult…

  • How Retailers Lure You to Shop and Buy (5 comments)

    Think you’re exercising free will when you go shopping? Think again. Retailers are using an expanding arsenal of psychological weapons in the battle to part consumers from their money. In May I reviewed Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. Underhill describes how stores construct an environment that subtly encourages customers to spend money, and to spend as much as possible. Last week USA Today published a feature entitled Just browsing at the…

  • Survey: What Does Money Mean to You? (44 comments)

    Get Rich Slowly is the final entrant in JLP’s Question-of-the-Day Marathon. There have been many thought-provoking questions over the past month; I hope you’ve had a chance to contribute at some of the participating sites. My question is: What does money mean to you? When I was a boy, my family was poor. Money then meant necessities to me. It was the key to obtaining essentials, especially food and clothing. Sometimes it opened other doors,…

  • Money and Values: Voting With Dollars (12 comments)

    My high-school history teacher refused to buy bananas. We thought he was crazy, but he didn’t care. “You don’t understand the conditions bananas are picked under,” he told us. “Those people are like slaves.” This was my introduction to “voting with dollars”. As part of the personal finance Question of the Day Marathon, Penny at Money and Values asks: Do you involve your values in your money decisions? If so, what are some examples? If…

  • Pennies from Heaven: the MegaPenny Project (0 comment)

    Pennies get no respect. Their mineral composition fluctuates — they’re mostly zinc now, though they’ll return to bronze in 2009. People treat them like trash, often tossing them on the ground rather than keeping them. But some people know that pennies are treasures. Sure you can make spiders out of dollar bills, but you can build towers from pennies. BIG towers: Kokogiak Media has created a fun exercise using pennies. Visualizing huge numbers can be…

  • The Ridiculous Infomercial Review (1 comment)

    Have you seen the shameless exaggeration, the tasteless products, and the pure hokum dispensed by all those infomercials that clog up the late night airwaves? Welcome to the Ridiculous Infomercial Review, the website that gleans laughs from the tacky world of television infomercials. All sorts of infomercials are featured here, old and new, famous and obscure — the more ludicrous the item and the lamer the sales pitch, the better. This is a hilarious site….

  • Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford (11 comments)

    Live from New York! It’s Saturday night! Okay, it’s really live from Portland, but here’s a skit from Saturday Night Live that features excellent personal finance advice. The best personal finance advice. You can watch the clip for free at Salon, or you can just read the script below: Scene: a typical American kitchen. A husband (Steve Martin) and wife (Amy Poehler) are puzzling over their finances. Wife: Oh, I just can’t get these numbers…

  • Lattes, iPods, and Masterworks: New Ways to Look at Money (6 comments)

    My brother is selling his house. To get it ready for market, his family has been packing stuff in boxes. When it came time to pack his wife’s shoes, the kids were amazed. She had sixty pairs of shoes. “How much did these cost?” my brother wondered. “Only about $75 each,” his wife told him. Their kids are still a little young to understand money, so my brother tried to translate this for his oldest…

  • Plan a Weekend of Bargain-Hunting with GarageMaps (2 comments)

    Garage sales are a fun way to exercise your frugal impulses. Instead of heading to the mall on a weekend, take some time to cruise the sales in your city, looking for deals. To make it easier to plan your outing, Get Rich Slowly reader Fraser is building garagemaps.com, a web-based garage-sale mapping tool. He writes: My wife and I are garage sale junkies, heading out to search for bargains every Saturday morning. She used…

  • Turn Your Loose Change Into Lattes (0 comment)

    ParentHacks says that you can turn your loose change into lattes for free with a promotion from Coinstar.

  • Ten Financial Urban Myths (33 comments)

    MSN Money has a list of ten financial urban myths. Do you believe any of the following? If so, it may be time to change your mind. You can float a check longer if you use red ink. The color of ink makes no difference. Besides, if the bank can’t read the check, it’ll be returned an you’ll be charged extra fees. You don’t have to pay income tax — it’s illegal. I’ve heard variations…

  • The Hidden Fee Economy (11 comments)

    The Boston Globe published an interesting article on what they term “the hidden economy”, the proliferation of unexpected charges that catch consumers unaware. [The printer is] one of the most common peripherals in the computer age and so cheap — at first blush, anyway — that stores often give them away when you buy a PC. Yet how many people realize, when they walk out of CompUSA, a nice $99 inkjet model tucked under their…

  • Price vs. Ethics: Is the Best Price the Best Choice? (3 comments)

    Cribcage took exception to a comment I posted yesterday. In the further discussion of things your supermarket won’t tell you, I quoted a Digg-user who works at a grocery store: Since I have started changing prices I have noticed a lot of tricks that Safeway uses. [...] Everything at a grocery store is close to double the price of Walmart or Target. Aside from the fact that it is pure hyperbole, this statement reveals a…

  • Ten Things Your Supermarket Won’t Tell You (18 comments)

    Howdy, Cracked.com visitors. SmartMoney has altered its URL structure since I posted this more than two years ago. Using the Wayback Machine, I’ve managed to dig up the source article in two parts: part one, part two. Thanks for visiting, and thanks for noting the correction. SmartMoney has a list of ten things your supermarket won’t tell you. Though this was first published five years ago, it’s still informative: “We trick you into paying higher…

  • How is a Canadian Art-Pop Singer like a Bagel Salesman? (0 comment)

    The Freakonomics blog has a feature on user-determined pricing. It’s a fascinating glimpse at the future of online economics.

  • Why do Tipping Rates Keep Rising? (3 comments)

    An AskMetafilter user wonders: why do tipping rates keep rising?

  • How to Win Something from a Claw Machine (17 comments)

    And now for something completely different… While waiting for my wife to finish an errand today, I found myself staring at a claw machine. You know the ones: brightly-lit cabinets filled with stuffed animals and a dangling claw to grab them. Though I’ve never used one, I began to wonder how you’d go about beating it. The internet has an answer for everything. photo by spookyamd Here’s an actual guide to winning something from a…

  • More Lessons from ‘Why We Buy’ (3 comments)

    As promised, here are some final thoughts on Paco Underhill’s Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping. In my previous entry about using this book to learn to spend less, I discussed how the more time a person spends in a store, the more money he’s likely to spend. Remembering that, check out the following stats: Here’s the actual breakdown of average shopping time from a study we performed at once branch a national housewares…

  • How to Spend Less – Lessons From ‘Why We Buy’ (13 comments)

    Do you want to spend less at the store? In Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, author Paco Underhill gives some indirect insights into how consumers can win the retail battle. Here are some easy changes you can make to help reduce your spending: Spend less time in stores. Underhill writes, “The amount of time a shopper spends in a store (assuming he or she is shopping, not waiting in line) is perhaps the…

  • 10,000th Shoplifter Gets a Parade (1 comment)

    Here is one way not to get ahead: shoplifting. A Dutch store owner, sick of shoplifters, decides to give the 10,000th shoplifter a big prize, including party hat, cake and an in-store marching band. Get rich slowly through legal channels, please. [via The Consumerist]

  • Money Changes Everything (2 comments)

    Yesterday’s New York Times style section featured an article by Jennie Yabroff entitled Money Changes Everything (NYT registration may be required). If, as Samuel Butler said, friendships are like money, easier made than kept, economic differences can add yet another obstacle to maintaining them. More friends and acquaintances are now finding themselves at different points on the financial spectrum, scholars and sociologists say, thanks to broad social changes like meritocracy-based higher education, diversity in the…

  • The Stuff We Do and Don’t Buy For Ourselves (1 comment)

    Earlier this week I posted an entry about how to buy nothing. At his wonderful 43 Folders, Merlin Mann has shared his technique for fending off mindless purchases. I have a [...] “buy me stuff” capture device, but more for the purpose of outgassing my brain’s frequently mindless consumer pollution. My file is called “crap I just don’t need.txt,” and I have fended off many ridiculous purchases just by parking the desired item there. Just…

  • The Best Time to Buy (0 comment)

    When is the best time to buy a house? A car? Airline tickets? Did you even realize there were best times to buy certain items? According to CNNMoney, you can save a lot if you know the best times buy certain popular items. For example: Airline tickets Buy on Wednesday. Buy domestic tickets at least two weeks in advance, and even earlier for international flight. If you can’t wait, then buy tickets just a couple…

  • Free User Manuals For Electronic Equipment (1 comment)

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