Category Archives: bargains

The pros and cons of Black Friday madness

We’re all guilty of it. Wanting to find that perfect holiday gift for friends and family. Or maybe just finding a great deal for ourselves. Either way, our society is one heavily built on the idea of gift-giving, and we consider shopping something that isn’t necessarily needed for survival, but one that is required to find some pleasure in life. We are a society that feeds off of the latest, greatest gadget or the newest wave of trendy clothes. Everyone has to be one step above their friends. Everyone has to have the best of the best, even if it means spending rent money on the newest iPhone when you already have the one that came out right before it. Most importantly, we like to find good deals. Most of us will feel a tiny pang of guilt when buying something we want, rather than need- except those few who don’t even know the balance of their checking account it’s so high. We contemplate putting it back on the shelf, and we even think about turning it over to the cashier once we get in the check-out line. But in the end, we always swallow our guilt and self-indulge anyway. When there are guaranteed good deals on a variety of material things, it’s hard to turn your back and say “no thanks.” But is the madness and chaos, and the staying up shopping until 8:30 a.m., really worth it in the end? Here are some pros and cons I’ve found over the years of Black Friday shopping.

Most of the insane deals are limited. Stores like Best Buy and Radio Shack usually offer incredible deals on TVs and gaming

"No way." The 12 a.m. insanity at Target was too much for me.

systems for those who arrive right when the store opens, and who are lucky enough to get one of the few available. All I could do was laugh at the line of people waiting to get into Target at midnight. I wanted a really good deal on Weeds season 6- a boxed TV on DVD set for $8? yes please- but there was no way I was stepping foot in that line. By the time I got in, they’d probably be gone anyway, and it just wasn’t worth it. ‘While supplies lasts’ is an issue to begin with, but when combined with the added insanity of shoppers camping out in line, there’s virtually no guarantee you will ever get your hands on those unheard of deals. Unless you commit to popping a tent and sleeping on the ground for a few nights, you won’t find a spot in line nearly close enough to the front door to promise any sort of doorbuster deal.

Found a 2-piece ottoman set for half-off. Score!

There’s a sense of satisfaction involved. Most stores only offer a low percentage off of their inventory, and more times than not it doesn’t help- Express had a measly seven-hour, 40% off deal that hardly reduced the prices of their expensive picks. But buying anything on sale, no matter what it is, leaves us with a “job well done” outlook, a sort of figurative pat on the back. Black Friday shopping may make us want to pull our hair out- or may make us actually pull our hair out- but the excitement and the rush of finding a good deal is enough to make all the chaos worth it.

It’s a lot of work. Especially for those who don’t nap before heading out for the late-night/early-morning shopping- my first mistake this year- forcing your body to function at such a weird hour has its consequences. Instead of giving our bodies the good night’s rest it so desperately craves, we force them to operate above normal levels. After all, plowing down little old ladies and clawing some guy’s face off to get that last, free Xbox is no easy feat. And don’t forget the standing in line part. Even if you make it through the store’s front doors without hassle, finding a register that doesn’t have a line out the door is impossible. Most likely, you’ll crowd together in one giant line with half the people in your town, all of you waiting to pay and get to the next store. With wait times up to, and over, an hour, be prepared for stiff knees and a sore back.

Black Friday may mean great deals, and could be the way you cross everyone off your Christmas list. But with all the chaos, and the notion that most sales will last through the weekend, it just doesn’t seem worth it. In the end, go to bed after Thanksgiving is over. Get a good night’s sleep and wake up at a reasonable hour and go out and spend your day shopping. If you don’t get there right at midnight, the world will not end. There will still be plenty of great sales when you show up the next day, at a normal hour, well-rested and ready for the long-haul.

Although I doubt I’ll follow my own advice come next year…

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Filed under bargains, Black Friday, community, Couponing, Entertainment, family fun, Money, Pro/con, Savings, shopping

Thou shalt not pay retail

I’m officially obsessed with the most ridiculous show on TV (and I’ve seen a lot of them).

TLC’s ‘Extreme Couponing’ proves that people will stop at nothing to get a bargain, but at what point does this lifestyle become addictive?

How about when you’re 1,000 tubes of toothpaste in. Or when you have enough diapers for a year- and you don’t even have kids.

I could understand stockpiling specific items, like toilet paper and paper towels. Things you will always need and you don’t have to worry about expiring or going bad.

But when you’re buying 30 bottles of mustard just because you can, I think it’s safe to consider yourself an addict.

I will hand it to one extreme couponer; though his personal stockpile is out-of-control, he spent $27.04 for almost $900 worth of items to send to U.S. troops abroad.

But aside from this one exception, most couponers seem to be in it just to prove how much money they can save.

The amount of time and calculation required to be a dedicated couponer (one mother spends 20 hours/week to plan her 4 weekly shopping trips) almost leaves no time to have any other hobbies- and I use the term ‘hobby’ loosely for this obsession. It’s hard to imagine they don’t become all-consumed by it.

I will admit, though, I’m envious of the savings these couponers are able to earn. The most jaw-dropping amount I’ve seen to-date was one family of six’s single food shopping trip of $2,756.94.

They paid $187.69.

I’d be interested to learn how many of the items bought in bulk by these obsessive couponers actually see use. The way they stock up on perishable goods makes me wonder if most of their savings end up in the garbage.

Tune in for the season premiere tonight at 10pm and let me know what you think.

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Filed under bargains, Couponing, Money, obsessions, Savings, shopping

The pros and cons of yard sales

Over the years, we amass such a collection of knickknacks, mismatched housewares and random odds & ends it’s no wonder yard sales have become an American institution. How else would we unload ourselves of our unwanted possessions, or stock up on someone else’s discarded treasures? As a somewhat minimalist, I’m more for having the sale then prowling local neighborhoods in search of unique and oftentimes quirky finds, but that doesn’t mean filling your yard with clutter comes without it’s annoyances. It may seem like more of a chore than it’s worth, but knowing what your in for ahead of time makes it easier to be successful.

Plan ahead. Check the weather in advance for the day you plan to hold your sale. There’s nothing worse than setting everything up only to have it rained on, and nobody wants to buy someone else’s soggy leftovers. If it’s going to be a hot day, and you plan on sitting outside awhile-you should plan on about 4-5 hours for your sale, more if a steady flow of people continue coming-make sure you have plenty of water and food to keep you energized. I recommend sitting in a shady area, or putting up an umbrella to hang out under while people shop your goods. This also gives you a chance to keep an eye on everything while staying cool. There are going to be lulls in your traffic- people seem to either come all at once or not at all-so you want a comfortable place you can relax and keep an eye on the road while you wait for the next wave of customers.

Depending on how much stuff you’ve accumulated, set-up could be a pain in the butt. You need to make sure you have plenty of table space to set your things out on display, and you want to make sure the sale is visible from the street. This is especially difficult if your yard is hidden from view or your house just isn’t in a good location, but proper signs directing people to your sale will help increase intentional traffic; the likelihood of passers-by simply stumbling upon you might be lower, but don’t get discouraged, they will come. Putting signs out and taking them back down again can also get annoying, but if you have others helping you run things, planting signs can be quick and painless. Just make sure you have someone manning the sale while you run around, because the second those signs go up, people will start stopping by. And don’t forget to take them down again when you’re ready to call it quits. For serious yard-salers, an end time on your sign is not going to deter them from coming anyway. I recommend taking the signs down first, then packing up.

If you can, host a multi-family yard sale. As far as yard sales are concerned, the bigger, the better, and the more friends you get to add their junk to your collection, the more enticing it is for passers-by to stop and browse. It also tends to be easier for everyone involved to host one collective sale instead of several individual ones. Not only is it more desirable for shoppers, who have more choices in a single location, it’s more effective for you. The bigger the sale looks from the street, the more customers you get, making it easier to sell most of your things.

Stay organized. If you do host your own sale, try and recruit a few friends to spend a few hours of their day helping out. Having a few extra hands will make things a lot easier on you, especially when it’s time to deal with customers. Most times, you’ll have several people inquiring about items at once, so you want to make sure they have more than one person they can go to.

It’s also a good idea to keep your money in a central location, especially if you have more than one person helping you sell. Keep it in a lock box, or even an old pencil case. You can get them at Office Depot for a couple bucks, and they come in handy for other uses as well. Make sure you start the day with some change, too (not everyone walks around with a pocket full of singles). Twenty or thirty dollars in 1s and 5s should be plenty, just something to get you started before you start raking in the dollar bills.

Be reasonable. It isn’t necessary to put price stickers on every single item you have out, or even at all. Sometimes it’s in your favor not to have stickers, because most people will get deterred if they see a specific price, and might walk away from something they were about to buy or at least inquire about. It’s a good idea to have prices in mind for certain things, and if you have friends helping, even making a list of your items with tentative prices will be helpful when they’re negotiating with customers. Always start a little higher than you know someone’s willing to pay- a buck or two higher will suffice- because most shoppers are professional bargain-hunters, they know how to play the game and they’re going to do everything they can to bring you down on your price. And that’s okay. Just remember to negotiate fairly; this is, after all, a yard sale, not an auction house, so expect most things to go pretty cheaply. If you have something you just can’t bear to sell without getting a specific amount for, label it as such. Anyone who really wants it will be willing to inquire and work out a deal. Or, just keep it out of your sale altogether. There are other avenues you can use to get what you want for it, like eBay and craigslist.

Just remember, no matter how much or how little you sell, you will have less things by the end of your sale, so packing back up will be much quicker. You can put the things you don’t sell away for future sales, or if you’re feeling particularly charitable, there are plenty of organizations that need and accept donations of any kind. Bigger orgs, like Salvation Army and Goodwill, will even make house calls to pick up your donations, making it easier to get rid of some of your bigger items, like furniture.

In the end, it’s a bit of a commitment to hold a yard sale, but if you don’t do anything with your stuff, it’s just going to continue collecting dust in the back of your closet or garage. You may no longer have any use for your things, but, like they say, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

It also doesn’t hurt to put a few extra bucks in your pocket, too.

Happy selling!

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