Shopping Column


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 Shopping 
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Free layaway: Is it a good deal?

Is free layaway actually a good deal?In the next few weeks, stores and online retailers will be bombarded with holiday shoppers. In an effort to encourage spending, some stores are offering free layaway programs.

Toys ‘R’ Us, for example, boasts, “No upfront fees!” on their website. And in August, Walmart introduced “free layaway with no opening fee,” according to a press release.


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 Shopping 
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Precise offers and the art of haggling

Specific offers might make haggling easierNegotiating prices is an important skill to have, and not just for those times when you visit countries where haggling over small purchases is common practice.

While most day-to-day purchases aren’t negotiable in this country in the same way they are in Latin America and Asia, most of the really significant ones are. In many cases, skillful haggling can knock thousands of dollars off the price of a car and tens of thousands off the price of a house, which can have long-lasting effects on your finances. And when you’re sitting down for an interview with a potential employer and talking salary, you’re really negotiating arguably the most important price out there: the price of your labor and, ultimately, your time.
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 Shopping 
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Before buying something on sale, know the flaw

Sales can be dangerousI promised myself I would never write a post about an airline travel experience because lots of journalists do it and it’s mostly really annoying. But promises are made to be broken, so here it goes.

When booking a last-minute flight recently, I went to pick out my seat and saw a whole row of plum front-of-the-plane seats still available. It almost felt like finding something on sale; instead of having to pay the “price” of booking early, or shell out extra money for an exit-row seat, I was getting the perks of being one of the first to exit the plane for free. Huzzah!

But after takeoff, I realized I’d picked a lemon.
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 Personal Finance, Shopping 
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How to Overcome Buyer’s Remorse

buyers remorseChances are that at some point you have made a purchase that you regret. You spent money on something, and later came to realize that you didn’t actually want it. Now, you’re stuck with something you don’t want, and you’re out the money you paid on top of it.

“Buyer’s remorse is a complicated topic, and one that comes up in my practice with people who struggle with anxiety and impulsivity,” says Alicia Clark, a licensed clinical psychologist. Even if you aren’t terribly impulsive, you can still occasionally feel the pangs of buyer’s remorse.

So, you can you get over your buyer’s remorse and avoid it in the future? Clark has a few ideas:

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 Shopping 
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Big Box Retailer Return Policies

Wal-MartOne of the more popular posts on this site is Costco’s incredible return policy where you can basically return anything non-electronic whenever you want. It can be open and you may have lost the receipt, but they’ll take it back. It’s one of the most liberal policies and one of the reasons why we shop there (in addition to the great prices) – why worry about returns when you know you can return anything. Even the recent change, of limiting electronics to six months, didn’t dissuade us. Six months is forever!

That made us wonder – how does that compare to other retailers? A lot of folks shot at the likes of Wal-Mart, also for their low prices, so how do other big box retailers compare? Their policies weren’t as good and their list of exceptions can often be a mile long.

Check out the nifty table Brandon put together comparing Wal-Mart, K-Mart and Target. There’s 3 tabs that show more detail of each retailer’s policy.

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 Shopping 
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How To Get a Free Smartphone

smart phoneSmart phones are becoming increasingly popular — and no wonder. With a smart phone, you can carry everything you need in the palm of your hand.

Your smart phone can act as a camera, GPS device, and do so much more than just allow you to talk to others. You can check email, complete banking transactions, and update your social media statuses.

But smart phones can also be expensive. I know. I finally ditched my prepaid cell phone and got a smart phone on a family plan with my husband. We didn’t want to lock in to a two-year plan, and we found that the contract-less deal offered by T-Mobile would save us money in the long run — even if we did buy the phones up front.

Others, though, are more about the cash flow than the long-term savings. And that can make sense if you aren’t prepared to shell out between $350 and $600 for a smart phone.
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 Shopping 
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What Does Your ZIP Code Say about You?

Data crunchingEvery few months, I receive coupons for baby formula in my mailbox — despite the fact that my only child is now 10 years old. I also receive the random copy of America Baby. And, until recently, I had no idea why Family Circle started showing up at my house monthly.

Now, though, after reading stories on CNN Money and NBC News, I suspect that these are attempts at marketing based on my ZIP code.

You probably already know that information in your credit report is used to market items to you. Credit card issuers, personal lenders, and insurance companies all use information garnered from your credit report to send you marketing mail. But your ZIP code can also provide information to marketers that use “big data” to get information about you and your habits.

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 Shopping 
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How much house can I afford?

Home for SaleI still remember when I bought our first house, which we still live in today, and if you read the blog back in 2005, you probably remember when I bought our first house too. (the wonders of blogging!) It was the biggest financial decision of my life up to that point, whether to sign my name to buy a house nearly five times my salary. We purchased the house for $295,000 and my salary that year was something like $65,000 (math geniuses will surely note that it’s closer to 4.5 times). I still remember going to the bank and getting the certified check and how I’d never seen a check with a number that big before and how crazy it was to spend that much money at one time.

I think it’s a rite of passage. While I don’t consider it the point at which I “grew up,” I certainly grew up a lot after ponying up that much cash for one single thing. Here’s the crazy part… the check wasn’t the part I should’ve focused on. It was the thirty years of payments I was agreeing to pay. Three hundred and sixty payments. I hadn’t even been alive that long.

Looking back, I think we made a good decision (despite home prices) but knowing how much house you can afford is an important step in any home buying process. Here’s how you determine how much you can afford.

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