th8 7 more kick ass spending tips.My non-traditionally coiffed blogging buddy J. Money applauded another writer’s “Two kick-ass spending tips” – or, rather, his non-spending tips, as they’re designed to curb impulsive buying.

The Stranger Test: Imagine a stranger holding the item you want to buy in one hand and its price – in cash! – in the other hand. Which would you choose?

The Urgency Test: You’re wondering whether to buy something. Ask yourself, “Would I wear this out of the dressing room right now if I could?” If the answer is “yes” and you can afford it, go ahead.

These are the “only two saving/budgeting ideas that I actually follow these days,” the anonymous blogger, Zee, notes on his site, Work To Not Work.

Good ideas both – although I do think the Urgency Test should be tempered with a bit more questioning, e.g., “How often would I actually use this?” (especially as regards things like hand tools and kitchen gadgets) and “Will this make a big enough difference in my life to spend the money?”

Put another way: There’s a reason you see new or practically unused stuff at yard sales. That reason is often, “It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

I do like Zee’s viewpoint, though — and I’ll see his two basic tips and raise him seven more ways to help avoid overspending.


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th11 150x150 Getting winter off your feet.When I was a kid we got one pair of sneakers each year – always in the springtime, and always a size too big so we could grow into them. Invariably they were either red or blue, because black was considered a “boy” color and white sneakers would get dirty too quickly.

While researching this month’s post for Retail Me Not, I learned just how big a fashion statement sneakers can be. To paraphrase the poet, April may be the coolest month when judged solely (pun intended) on the stylin’ sneaks of today – especially since they’re among the best deals of the month.

I also learned about the existence of vegan sneakers. And here I thought vegan condoms were startling.


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th7 How NOT to cure boredom.Today’s press release from Ebates bothered me a good deal. The cash-back shopping site recently surveyed 1,000 people and learned, among other things, that 49 percent use mobile devices to shop while waiting in line.

Apparently it “cures boredom.”

All the Internet at your fingertips – the chance to download millions of e-books for free, listen to amazing music, view more cat pictures than anyone really needs – and you decide to kill time by shopping?

Couple of things, here:

  • How long are the lines in which you’re waiting?
  • How’s your budget holding up under this anti-boredom tactic?

I understand that even five minutes in line can feel endless. It isn’t, since you do eventually get to go home. Even if it turned into half an hour of waiting, is there no other way to occupy your mind? (See “cat pictures” et al., above.)

Possibly some of these folks aren’t actually buying, just shopping – the equivalent of window-shopping in place. After all, some people can walk through a store and look at lots but leave empty-handed.

But the Internet is superb at creating need where none exists. Oh, that funny T-shirt would be perfect for your brother. A skin-care shop is having a sale on products in your favorite scent. What an interesting herbal tea sampler, and your tisane-loving BFF could use a little pick-me-up….

Throw in free shipping and you’re gone. As is a chunk of your budget.


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th3 150x150 How much does your suitcase weigh?I sure learned some interesting things about luggage while researching my latest piece for Retail Me Not. My favorite factoid was how light the bags are getting. Modern bags can weigh as little as 3.3 pounds – much easier on the arms, and also providing more wiggle room as regards an airline’s 50-pound luggage limit.

Randy MacKenzie of Edwards Luggage, a family-owned store since 1946, does monthly “how to pack” seminars in the family’s four San Francisco-area stores. Packed for two weeks of travel, today’s lightweight carry-ons can weigh in at 21 pounds. (Hint: That gives you room for 29 pounds’ worth of souvenirs before you start to pay extra.)

A few of her favorite manufacturers:

  • Rimowa: Lightweight and incredibly durable, this manufacturer offers colors that won’t embarrass the business traveler – “an absolutely gorgeous chocolate brown, a beautiful navy blue, a very dark purple.”
  • TUMI: Lightweight with “some really spectacular colors.”
  • IT Luggage: These semi-deconstructed, very basic bags weigh as little as 3 pounds and come “in all the colors of the rainbow.”
  • Swiss Army: These “youthful-looking” bags are less expensive but still wear well.

I love my own Delsey case, but if and when it ever gives up the ghost I’ll be looking for lighter luggage — from Delsey or someone else.

Just FYI: Large bags are still available if you’re heading for a cruise that requires formal wear or some other special garb. (Fun fact: Cruises exist for fans of nudism, Elvis, Shakespeare and “Star Trek.”) But a carefully packed medium-sized bag will generally do just as well, according to MacKenzie.


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th 1 Got a credit card? Get another one.In the past month or so I’ve had four credit cards compromised. Notice of the latest breach came via e-mail this morning: Some thieving bastard(s) purchased hundreds of dollars’ worth of stuff from Walmart.com and then tried to spend hundreds more at a different online company.

The other three credit cards weren’t part of the latest Target breach, in which as many as 40 million people had their data stolen. But that theft should help convince people to come around to my way of thinking: that you need at least two credit cards. Suppose you were on vacation or traveling on business and found your plastic didn’t work?

Which is exactly what happened to me: I’m currently in Phoenix, about to celebrate Christmas with my daughter and son-in-law. The card that got hacked is now kaput. What if I wanted to go shopping, or needed to pay for a van ride back to the airport?


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