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Monday, November 3, 2008

"The only way to not think about money..."

" to have a great deal of it." A painfully true statement from novelist Edith Wharton, in House of Mirth.

That means most of us, right now, are thinking about money - being careful with what we have and, yes, wondering about sensible ways to earn more.

I thought about money yesterday when I noticed a large "bed and bath" store plastered with "Going Out of Business" signs. I wandered into the store and felt a tinge of sadness, seeing rows and rows of new Christmas decorations - the store opened a year ago and had obviously planned on being around a lot longer. The current state of the economy can stir other emotions as well. A few weeks ago, I bought a simple beauty tool online. It came highly rated by other purchasers and was featured on a blog I like,
Truth In Aging. At $22 plus shipping, it seemed overpriced, but heck, if it works, right? Wrong. This weekend I accompanied a family member to one of those dollar stores, where, lo and behold, I found not only the same tool but a higher quality version! For a dollar plus sales tax. Talk about feeling like a fool.

What are you doing to save money right now? Are you a coupon-clipping fiend? Do you scour the Sunday ads for the best deals? Are you using public transportation instead of driving? Are you just "going without" at times? Share your tips here and help out your neighbors in the community. To get you started, I'll share some of mine and some ideas from the Library, too.
  1. First one's easy -- check out books, magazines, DVDs and CDs from the Library instead of buying! I love getting some new songs on my iPod without adding another charge to my credit card, and buying magazines often seems truly frivolous. Use our BookChecker tool if you often browse the online booksellers -- with one click, you will know if we have access to the same book, saving you the anxiety of an "impulse" buy.

  2. Use the Library's Consumer resources & "Savvy Shopping" guide, found on the page, "Research Databases by Topic."

  3. Do the math (and that's tough for me, being an English major!). Don't let big, bold "SALE" signs fool you into getting less for more. For example, most supermarkets now post a "price per ounce" or similar information on the shelf. I was recently buying Parmesan cheese, and discovered the sale price of the smaller package was still more per ounce than the larger package. A sad fact - many of the world's poor not only lack the ability to read and write but also this kind of "consumer literacy," which allows a person to calculate if the larger package is a better value than the small. Two-for-one sales are a great value if the product has a long enough shelf life and you use it on a regular basis - I look for these on my favorite hair and bath products all the time.

  4. Also for those items you use all the time -- buy when the sale is hot, and don't wait until you run out! I make this (dumb) mistake all the time with items like contact lens cleaner and solution. I pick up the bottle and it's empty, and my only option at 10:30 PM is the local grocery, where those items cost $2-4 more than they would at, well, you know - the store with the big red bullseye. (I want to avoid recommending any specific stores here, as I don't think that's appropriate for the Library.) As long as the product won't spoil and has a practical use, it's often smart to shop ahead.

  5. Don't forget to think about the long-term cost of your purchases, too. You might be offered a great deal on a gas guzzling SUV -- but add in the cost of filling the tank and the cost to the environment and it's no deal at all. Some big box discounters fill their shelves with inexpensive items -- made overseas in factories with no labor standards and unhealthy work conditions. Purchasing one of those "bargains" can have a lasting, negative effect on the economy and the lives of ordinary workers. The urge to buy, buy, buy can leave your home cluttered and unwelcoming, and then your next step might be to throw away that unwanted stuff, clogging up a landfill.
So -- what are you doing to save money and be a wiser consumer? Write in your tips and comments below and share your wisdom with the community!

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