Shopping Column


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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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 Personal Finance, Shopping 
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When Should You Buy in Bulk?

Buy Bulk and SaveOne of the common admonitions that consumers often hear is to buy in bulk. When you buy in bulk, the reasoning goes, is that you get an overall discount for buying large quantities.

In some cases, this works well, providing you with a lower per-unit cost on items that you purchase regularly. Sometimes, though, it doesn’t make sense to buy in bulk.

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 Shopping 
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Watch Out for These 5 Holiday Scams

The scam truckAny time there is a lot of money going being spent, scammers present themselves, ready to take advantage of our desire to get the best deal. There are all types of scams out there, from investment scams to other types of fraud. During the holiday season, scammers are on the prowl, looking for those whose judgment might be a little impaired.

As your quest for the perfect holiday season gets underway, it’s important to stay on the alert for scams. As always, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is. Here are 5 holiday scams to watch out for:

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 Shopping 
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4 Ways to Get Free Shipping with Your Online Purchases

Free ShippingOne of the reasons that many people hold back from making online purchases is the cost of shipping. What’s the point of saving $5 on a purchase when shipping will cost you $7?

The good news, though, is that free shipping is becoming easier to come by. Indeed, I rarely pay for shipping anymore. If you want free shipping on your online orders, here are 4 strategies you can follow:

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 Shopping 
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Organic Food: What Do the Labels Really Mean?

Produce MarketOrganic food is a large industry that is growing every year. According to TIME, “Americans spent some $16.7 billion on organic food last year, up from $13.8 billion in 2005–and sales are expected to rise by 20% this year.”

If you buy organic foods, you know that the price is often substantially higher than the price for conventionally grown foods. Before you put down your hard earned cash to buy organic foods, make sure you understand what you are actually buying. Here is a guide to organic labeling.

According to The Huffington Post, “organic fruits and vegetables must be grown without the use of: synthetically created pesticides; synthetically created chemical fertilizers; sewage sludge; genetic engineering which appears to introduce novel proteins, allergens, viruses, and toxins into crops; irradiation.”

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 Frugal Living, Shopping 
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Generate Some Cash for the Holidays by Selling “Stuff” on eBay and Craigslist

InternetThe stores have been marketing Christmas to us since at least October, though they really ramp up their efforts in November and December. They have to. Many retailers “depend on the last two months of the year for up to 40 percent of their annual sales” (Syracuse.com).

While consumer shopping is expected to be up 4.1% in November and December, that is slower growth than the previous two years (Syracuse.com). There are many reasons why shoppers may be holding tight to their purse strings this year, including the looming fiscal cliff.

However, if you have a basement (and closet and bedroom) full of stuff, economic uncertainty can help you pad your bottom line because more and more shoppers are looking for a good deal.

Where do they look? Often on Craigslist and eBay.

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 Shopping 
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Make the Most of Your Holiday Shopping

Holiday ShoppingYou know you’re going to spend money this holiday season. For most of us, it’s one of life’s inevitabilities. Just because you know you are going to spend, though, doesn’t mean that you can’t make the most of the holiday shopping season.

If you are smart about your shopping, and if you are careful about what you buy — and how you go about buying it — you can actually reap some benefits from holiday spending:

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