Category Archives: Spending

What Was The Last Thing You Bought In A Store?

I am a huge fan of online shopping, so much so that I am trying to remember the last item I bought in a store. A real store with humans inside, not a kiosk or a vending machine.

Supermarkets don’t count because everyone needs food and until we are getting all our food delivered to our doors, this one isn’t going away. I got a haircut last Friday (so I figure I have another week until it stops looking awkward), but since I didn’t come out of there with an item, that doesn’t count either.

My Recent Online Purchases

I can remember my last few online purchases. I bought a $44 router on Amazon so that I can stop paying Time Warner $4 a month (and I hear they are increasing the rental cost to $6/month next billing cycle). That should pay for itself pretty quickly and reduce our cost of cable and internet slightly.

I also bought an ankle brace recently (also on Amazon, I love Amazon Prime and their free 2-day shipping!) because I rolled my ankle pretty badly playing basketball and want to prevent it from happening again. It’s a little awkward, but for $16 I can’t complain. And I definitely feel more stable with it.

My Most Recent In-Store Purchases

I had to look up my most recent in-store purchase on Mint. Now that I see it, I remember (and also see why I didn’t remember it) It was $1.73 for a two-pack of Advil at the airport 10 days ago. Pretty unforgetable. I had a huge headache and didn’t want to sit on a plane ride in discomfort. While paying $0.87 per pill isn’t my idea of a bargain (turns out you can get them for less than 5 cents per pill. Thanks San Francisco), I didn’t really have much of a choice.

Before that, my last purchase was nearly 3 weeks ago, picking up some medication at CVS (I have only taken 2 sick days over the past 2 years, so having two medical related purchases in a month has to be a record for me).

I Am Reliant On The Internet

I have no problem with how much I rely on the Internet to get me what I want and need. There are lots of reasons it’s better than having to go places to pick up. It’s easier, more convenient (I can shop from anywhere), and saves me a lot of time. Plus, it’s a lot easier to return an item if it doesn’t fit right or something. No more trips to the store just to return one item.

What was your last in-store purchase? How many online purchases have you made since then?

Who Is On Your Christmas Shopping List?

This is a guest post by Libby, who writes for Modern Tightwad.

Each year, I start out with a plan, a budget for the holiday season. On my shopping list you’ll find the usual suspects – my kids, my husband, my parents – and then things start to get a little hazy. One by one, I start to evaluate everyone in my life, wondering if I should buy Christmas gifts for them, and whether they’ll be buying something for me.

Just because someone has been nice doesn’t mean there’s room for them on your list. Buy for everyone, and your Christmas budget will haunt you well into the New Year. Limit your list to only your nearest and dearest, and you could be labeled a Scrooge. So what’s a well-meaning shopper to do?

Christmas Gifts for Friends

My friends and I have a policy: friends don’t let friends buy Christmas gifts for each other. The reason is simple. If I buy a gift for Friend A, he will likely feel compelled to buy a gift for me, even if his Christmas budget doesn’t have the room for it. If he listens to his financial instincts and doesn’t buy a reciprocal gift, he may feel guilty about accepting my well-intentioned present. And since guilt leads to bitterness, and bitterness leads to resentment, nothing good would come from the one-sided exchange.

Instead, most of my friends and I made an agreement long ago – in some cases, an unsaid but still very-well understood agreement – that we wouldn’t exchange gifts. Sometimes, there have been exceptions, but in those rare occasions, the other party and I have hashed out the details well in advance of the actual gift-giving.

Christmas Gifts for Colleagues

Christmas shopping for your coworkers is probably one of the most difficult types of shopping around. Sure, you work with these people 40, 50, even 60 hours a week, and you know which kind of K-cup they prefer, but how well do you know them off the job? If the answer is, “Not very well,” then you don’t really need to add them to your shopping list.

Check with your human resources department to see if there’s a written policy about gift giving at work. Some companies actually have a policy against it, for a variety of reasons. Others leave it up to department heads, so check with your manager if you’re unsure. I work from home, so this is a moot point for me, but my husband – who is a sheriff’s deputy – works for a department that puts the kibosh on holiday gift exchanges.

In general, I think it’s absolutely fine to skip Christmas gifts for your colleagues, with these two notable exceptions:

1. If you’re a manager, giving a small gift – even a $10 gift card – can be a symbol of your thanks for a year of hard work; if you’re going to give this type of gift to one of your workers, however, you need to do it for everybody. It’s Christmas, after all, not their annual review.

2. If your office participates in a “White Elephant” or “Dirty Santa”-type gift exchange, you should probably participate. These gift exchanges typically have limits – maybe $20 or less – so they won’t do too much damage to your Christmas budget; plus, if you decline, your coworkers may call you a cheapskate behind your back.

Christmas Gifts for Extended Family

Buying presents for family members you don’t see on a routine basis is one of the most complicated conundrums of the holiday season. One of my friends still buys gifts for all her nieces and nephews – all seven of them – even though they’re all adults now; she’s simply doing it out of habit. I still buy presents for my “baby” cousins… who are now almost all in college.

My rule is this: not all family members – and our relationships with them – are equal. You may have a cousin with whom you are really close, and another cousin whom you only see at family reunions. You shouldn’t feel obligated to buy Christmas gifts for someone with whom you don’t have a personal relationship; this advice holds true for everyone you’d consider shopping for.

Drawing names can help solve this problem. Suggest putting the names of all your relatives into a hat, and have everyone draw out a name. This age-old solution can keep your Christmas budget in check, by letting you buy something for one person instead of the entire family.

What’s your policy on Christmas shopping? Who’s on your list – and who isn’t? Why?

5 Things We Need To Buy, But Hate To Spend Money On

In life, there are needs, and then there are wants. I need to pay my rent, my utilities, and buy food; and while you might debate what constitutes wants vs. needs, I could survive without spending money on my iPhone (and the accompanying data plan), a gym membership, and dinners out.

In life, there are things that just about everyone spends money on, whether we like to or not. These are the types of expenditures many of us forget about or even resent. Here are things I consider to be the worst offenders on this “need to buy” list (whether I currently need them or not).

1. Tires

If you own a car, then at some point you’re going to have to replace your old tires. Even the cheapest tires for a small sedan cost around $50 each – then you have to pay for installation and disposal of your own tires. Buying these low-grade tires – with a lifespan of maybe 20,000 miles – will virtually ensure that you’ll need to buy them again sooner rather than later. Suck it up and get a good pair of tires and you won’t have to worry about them again for awhile.

2. Insurance

Car insurance is a must, and you don’t want to get in an accident and suddenly owe thousands of dollars because you didn’t get full coverage, so I don’t suggesting getting just the minimum.

You don’t really need to buy life insurance if you’re single; even if you’re married, it’s not a necessity. But once you start a family, having a life insurance policy moves squarely into the “needs” category. What’s worse than spending hundreds of dollars a year to insure your own life, knowing that in order to cash in on the policy you’d have to die? Talk about a buzz kill…

3. Passport

Admittedly, you don’t have to travel outside the United States. But if you do, you must secure a passport from the U.S. State Department before you go. The fees for this document are rather astounding. First-time applicants who need a passport book and card must pay a $140 application fee and a $25 execution fee, a grand total of $165. Then, you’ll have to pay another $140 in fees to renew your passport every ten years, whether you used it during that time or not, whether you changed your name (like through marriage or divorce) or not, whether you changed your address or not.

4. Expensive Drinks at a Bar

I don’t go out nearly as much as I used to, but that doesn’t mean I’m able to avoid every happy hour or birthday party that takes place at a bar. And while I don’t mind spending $10 for a 6 pack to bring to a friend’s house when we watch a game, the thought of dropping $10-$15 on a single drink at a bar makes me cry a little on the inside.

I’m not going to be the cheap person who holds out (or brings a flask to a bar), so I pony up and sip that beer so it lasts just a little longer so I don’t end up getting too many of them. But looking at the menu will always make me cringe. Maybe the best idea is to order blindly and not look at the final bill?

5. Gas

I drive about 15 miles each way to work. I end up filling up my tank about 3 times a month, that’s another $130-$150 a month that I need to spend. It’s a bad feeling paying $45-$50 and putting something in my car that I know is so temporary. This one definitely feels like wasted money, but it’s absolutely a necessity. Without it, I’d be going on a grueling bike ride for about 4 hours a day. Not a realistic option at all.

Reader, what things do you hate to buy, even if you “need” to?