Shopping Column


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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.

(click here to continue reading…)

 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.

(click here to continue reading…)

 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:

(click here to continue reading…)

 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.”

(click here to continue reading…)

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