Shopping Column


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How to buy furniture you like without spending too much money

In February 2013, I moved back into my house. Yes, moved back in.

I bought the place in 2007 and turned it into a rental property when I moved in with my then-boyfriend.

The relationship went bust at about the time my tenants were moving out, so I decided to go back home, and used that transition as an opportunity to finally create the home environment I always wanted.

First, I stripped out the carpets, refurbished the hardwood floors and painted the interior walls. That was easy. The harder part was finding furniture to fill the house without going broke.

I like older furniture that’s solid wood instead of pressed board, so used was always my first option.

But I didn’t just take anything that came my way.

Here’s what I did.
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Online coupons and discount codes can save lots of money, at lots of stores, on lots of stuff

Although I’m a frugal person, I’ve never been a couponer.

Cutting out and organizing paper coupons takes a lot of time. I saw my mom do this when I was a kid and it looked like an exhausting way to save a couple bucks.

So beyond checking out the ValPak that comes in the mail (there, I get $1 off at the local bagel shop and $7 off an oil change), I don’t clip.

But I still want to get the best possible price. That’s why I check for online coupons and discount codes before shopping almost anywhere, for almost anything.

Here are three sites that can help you with that, no scissors required.
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How to return a terrible gift without letting the giver know how much you hated it

It's not so easy to return a gift without a gift receiptAmericans will spend an average of $737.95 each on the holidays this year, according to research from the National Retail Federation, and a substantial portion of that will no doubt be spent by very nice people — with the best of intentions — on truly terrible gifts.

Yes, many of us will participate in the annual post-holiday ritual of hunting through the boxes that brought us that Big Mouth Billy Bass or unfunny novelty t-shirt, desperately trying to find some kind of clue about where it was purchased so it can be returned as quickly as possible before anyone sees it.
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Discounts at many stores are 1 part real price cutting, 3 parts BS

There’s something deeply satisfying about getting a good deal that goes beyond the actual amount of money you saved.

Walking out of a department store having saved 60 percent thanks to coupons and a big sale may make people happy, but most of it is B.S.
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5 ways we waste money on the holidays

Just say no to these ways you waste money on the holidaysBetween gifts, food, travel and parties, we spend hundreds of dollars on the holidays each year. The most recent Gallup holiday poll estimates the average American consumer plans to spend $704 this year.

While that number is down from last year, it’s still a heck of a lot, and it leaves many Americans much worse off financially after the holidays. Here are some costs that may feel a little Scrooge-esque to cut, but will actually hurt no one and leave you better off on Dec. 26.
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3 ways to avoid becoming a consumer victim during Black Friday shopping

Avoid becoming yet another victim of Black Friday shopping.It seems like such a good idea: spend a few hours on a day you’d otherwise just be sitting around in a turkey-induced stupor to knock out your holiday shopping at a fraction of what you’d normally pay.

Yes, Black Friday is billed as one of the biggest shopping days of the year, and has a reputation as the time to get the best deals on toys, clothes, electronics and everything else on your holiday shopping list.

But is Black Friday really such a good time to score deals? How much are you truly saving when you drop everything to try for a doorbuster?
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Rent-to-own sucks and you should never, ever do it

Rent-to-own is a terrible deal for consumers and you should avoid it at all costsThere’s no disputing the appeal of buy now, pay later. I myself can attest to the temptation to get the latest and greatest without having to bother with figuring out where the money will come from.

Nowhere is that kind of thinking more dangerous than with rent-to-own. Usually rent-to-own outfits advertise nothing more than a weekly payment — pay us $20 per week and you can have rent this large and desirable item until you finally own it. A measly $20 a week? Sure!

The problem is, long-term wealth is often won or lost in small increments like that. Did we learn nothing from Superman 3? Even tiny fractions of a penny taken from us enough times amount to huge thefts.

And so it is with rent-to-own.


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Do e-gift cards sent on social media make good holiday gifts? Not always

Giving e-gift cards doesn't mean your gift can't be personalizedOver the last couple of decades, gift cards have become the gift of choice for many. It’s not hard to see why: They are convenient to give, and recipients often enjoy them more than a gift you’d pick out for them, since it allows them to get what they want.

Gift giving is even easier now, thanks to the fact that it’s possible to send e-gift cards through social media. Over the summer I sent an Amazon gift card to my brother-in-law via Facebook. It was a huge hit, since he loves shopping on Amazon, and we keep up with each other through Facebook. It was the perfect way to send him a birthday gift he could use. But Facebook isn’t the only social media gift source. Now Twitter has gotten into the act, allowing users to send Starbucks e-gift cards to other Twitter users.

But what do e-gift cards mean for etiquette? Do we run the risk of alienating friends and family by sending gifts through Facebook and Twitter?


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