smart shopping en-US Replace These 8 Luxury Buys With Their Cheaper, Better Alternatives <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/replace-these-8-luxury-buys-with-their-cheaper-better-alternatives" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="coffee maker" title="coffee maker" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="140" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>Does the price of an item really determine its quality? Well, this depends on who you ask and what you're buying. (See also: <a href="">How to Have an Above Average Life for Below Average Prices</a>)</p> <p>As a savvy shopper, I believe that paying more for certain items is a better buy. It's no secret that some higher-priced items last longer than cheaper versions, ultimately reducing how much we spend in the long run. But this isn't always the case. As a matter of fact, there are plenty of cheaper alternatives that are just as good (or better) than their luxury counterparts. Here are several of my favorites.</p> <h2>1. Mr. Coffee Single Serve Maker Instead of a Keurig</h2> <p>My obsession with Keurig started a few years ago, and I added this item to my list of things to buy that would make coffee-making easier and less wasteful for <a href="">my overnight guests</a> since my husband and I aren't coffee drinkers.</p> <p>As far as hot beverages go, it doesn't get any better than a single serve coffee maker that brews a variety of coffees, plus tea, cider, and hot chocolate. But if you don't want to fork over $99 to $279 for a Keurig (depending on the size and model), a <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B007JNNQ6Q&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=QHP7HPF6SEQ5WDVO">Mr. Coffee Single Serve</a> maker is a low-cost alternative. These single-serve makers start at $59 and do everything a Keurig does for less. I've heard arguments that Mr. Coffee machines are even easier to use than the luxury single serve marker, plus easier to clean and available in a variety of stylish designs to match your kitchen decor.</p> <h2>2. Airbnb Instead of a High-End Hotel</h2> <p>Planning a trip to New York City or San Francisco and thinking about staying in a hotel? You can sleep in the lap of luxury for a few days, but there's a price to luxury. If you're looking to stretch your vacation dollars, using <a href="">Airbnb to book accommodations</a> provides a cheaper, unique vacation experience. Not only can you meet your host and stay in an actual neighborhood, you get more bang for your buck, which generally includes use of a full kitchen, laundry room, free Internet, and potentially much more.</p> <h2>3. Moissanite Instead of a Diamond</h2> <p>They say diamonds are a girl's best friend &mdash; but if your love can't afford to splurge on a huge engagement ring, or if you're simply looking to add to your jewelry collection, moissanite is just as beautiful as a diamond minus the price tag.</p> <p>Diamonds are the hardest mineral known with a score of 10, yet moissanite stones aren't too far behind with a score of 9.25. Moissanite is more brilliant than diamond, resulting in a remarkable sparkle. And since the stone doesn't attract as much dirt as a diamond, it requires less cleaning and maintains its shine longer. If these features don't persuade you to take a chance with this stone, you might sing a different tune after learning that a moissanite sells for a fraction of the cost of a diamond. A 1.5 carat GIA-Certified Diamond can set you back $10,000, yet you can buy the same size moissanite for about $449.</p> <h2>4. Ninja Blender Instead of a Vitamix</h2> <p><a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B0000YRJT6&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=CQ2FEAWTB7JGHHZI">Vitamix</a> is a popular and favored appliance in the health world, with the ability to turn fruits, vegetables, and anything else into delicious smoothies for energy, weight loss, or overall better health. But with a price tag around $500, it's a costly investment. Fortunately, this isn't the only option for drinking your fruits and veggies.</p> <p>The <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B003VWXXXK&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=4VKRW6QLI42CZDW4">Ninja Blender</a> does the same thing, yet has a price tag between $89 and $199. Smaller versions of the Ninja are compact and easily fit in cupboards, which is perfect if you live in an apartment or deal with limited storage space. Also, many models of the Ninja feature a pitcher with a single serve attachment, plus suction-cup feet that keep the blender in place while operating. Seriously, it's the best blender I've ever owned.</p> <h2>5. Concrete Countertops Instead of Marble Countertops</h2> <p>It's the epitome of elegance and luxury, but if you're working with a tight redesign budget, skipping marble countertops and going with a cheaper concrete alternative can save money without sacrificing your vision. I personally love the look of marble in a kitchen, but after pricing this material for my kitchen remodel and learning that prices range from $125 to $250 per square foot, I know firsthand that there are better ways to spend your budget.</p> <p>Concrete countertops are just as stylish and cost as little as $50 to $65+ per square foot. Not only is this material more affordable, it offers matchless strength and durability, it's easy to clean, and you can choose from a variety of colors and designs to give your kitchen or bathroom a custom look.</p> <h2>6. Night Therapy Instead of Tempur-Pedic</h2> <p>Tempur-Pedic has a generous selection of memory foam mattresses that conform to your body and promise the best night's sleep. But seriously, who really wants to pay $3,000 or $4,000 for a mattress? <a href=";camp=1789&amp;creative=390957&amp;creativeASIN=B007I81EQG&amp;linkCode=as2&amp;tag=wisbre03-20&amp;linkId=XQUIMXCDFVWI5SMR">Night Therapy</a> might not be a luxury brand, but this entry-level memory foam mattress has a <a href="">comfort rating of 82%</a>, thus it's an excellent contender if you're looking for a mattress to provide support and reduce back pain. And with a price tag of $400 for a queen-sized mattress, you can get nine or ten Night Therapy mattresses for the price of one Tempur-pedic.</p> <h2>7. A Used Fancy Car Instead of a New Fancy Car</h2> <p>As much as I love a brand new car, there's no denying that used cars are often a better deal. Not only because &quot;a new car loses 11% of its value the moment you leave the lot,&quot; reports &mdash; but because you get more for your money with a used car.</p> <p>If you have your heart set on a fancy car, used is definitely the way to get behind a fancier set of wheels without going broke. With improved technology, buying a used car doesn't necessarily mean that you're inheriting another person's car issues, either. Some people enjoy driving a new car every couple of years, thus used fancy cars are readily available; and since they're shelling out big bucks for luxury, they're more likely to take care of these vehicles.</p> <p>Also, styles in the luxury car market rarely undergo drastic changes from one year to the next, which means a two-year-old Acura on the dealer's lot could easily be mistaken for a newer model at first glance. Luxury features such as GPS, surround sound stereo, dual temperature control, leather seats, and wood trim are standard in fancy cars. Buy used and you can enjoy these features while paying $5,000, $8,000, or $10,000 less, depending on the year of the car.</p> <h2>8. A Small House Instead of a McMansion</h2> <p>Some people work hard and save a long time to purchase their dream house &mdash; which is usually a mini mansion with amazing views of an equally impressive back yard. To each his own.</p> <p>Rather than give into the notion that bigger is better, consider the benefits of a small house. Everything is cheaper when you go small from the mortgage to maintenance. Living in a smaller space also forces us to get organized, plus lower expenses translate into more disposable income, and who doesn't enjoy this? The key is choosing a square footage that's right for your family without feeling overly cramped. (See also: <a href="">This Is How You Downsize Your House and Start Living a Better Life</a>)</p> <p><em>Can you think of a luxury item whose cheaper alternative is better? Let me know in the comments below.</em></p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="Replace These 8 Luxury Buys With Their Cheaper, Better Alternatives" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Mikey Rox</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Lifestyle Shopping cheap alternatives luxury shopping smart shopping status Tue, 05 Aug 2014 21:00:04 +0000 Mikey Rox 1174404 at 10 Smart Things to Do With $25 <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/10-smart-things-to-do-with-25" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Man counting money" title="Man counting money" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="150" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>So, you&rsquo;ve got $25 burning a hole in your pocket. Or, you just found it in an old pair of jeans. Maybe it represents the contents of your piggy bank, or a check you got from an aunt in another state for your birthday. However you came by this $25, you&rsquo;re trying to figure out how to spend it without blowing it.</p> <p>Here then are 10 ideas, some fun, some serious, that will help you make the most of your 25 buckaroos. (See also: <a href="">15 Fun Things to&nbsp;Buy for Under $5</a>)</p> <h3>1. Go on a Goodwill Shopping Spree</h3> <p>The bargains I find at Goodwill never cease to amaze me. I recently purchased a mint-condition, sealed <em>Sopranos</em> jigsaw puzzle for $2. I sold it for $10 just a few days later. OK, not a lot in the grand scheme of things, but if you could do that with $25 worth of Goodwill stuff, you turn it unto $125. Rummage through the collectibles and glassware, and check out all the pictures, CDs, and garments. Every Goodwill store holds gems, you just have to know where to look. And remember, the money you spend in there goes to a very good cause. It&rsquo;s win-win.</p> <h3>2. Adopt an Animal That Needs a Good Home</h3> <p>We recently adopted two kittens from our local animal shelter. We were shocked at how cheap it was to do this. They had so many cats, dogs, and other animals to care for that they were almost giving them away. It was sad to see a sign like &ldquo;buy a kitten, get a grown up cat free,&rdquo; but I guess tough times call for new ideas. The price for the adoption of the two kittens, plus inoculations and spaying/neutering, came in at less than $25. We gave the shelter double that because we know how much they rely on donations. But, if you want to do some good with your $25 and make a friend, spending it on a new pet could be just for you. As always, <a href="">don&rsquo;t do it on a whim,</a> and don&rsquo;t buy a pet as a gift for someone else (unless they come with you). Animals need loving homes. If you can provide one, get down to your local shelter.</p> <p><img width="263" height="350" alt="" src="" /></p> <h3>3. Buy Previously Viewed Movies and Games</h3> <p>DVD rental stores have hit on hard times. It doesn&rsquo;t bother me too much, because I remember being charged ridiculous prices for new releases and having to pay horrendous late fees. The rental stores had to adapt, and they also had to find a way to make extra money. By selling off previously viewed DVDs and pre-played games, they&rsquo;re recouping some of their losses; and you get yourself some sweet bargains. I picked up movies including <em>A Serious Man</em> and <em>A Nightmare on Elm Street</em> for just 99 cents. I also recently bought Blu Ray copies of <em>Inception</em>, <em>Horrible Bosses</em>, <em>Machete</em>, and <em>Predators</em> for around $7 a piece. That&rsquo;s way below the price of a new copy, and they play just as well. Some discs look untouched. These stores have dozens of copies of the popular movies, so many of the discs are played just a few times. And they all come with at least a seven-day guarantee. Bring it back if it&rsquo;s scratched or doesn&rsquo;t play, they&rsquo;ll replace it for you. Now that&rsquo;s smart.</p> <h3>4. Start a College Savings Plan</h3> <p>With $25? Well, it&rsquo;s $25 dollars more than if you don&rsquo;t have a plan right now. And if you have young children, the price of college by the time they reach 18 will demand every penny you can amass. By investing $25 a month for 18 years with a 7% rate of return, you&rsquo;ll have over $11,000 in that account. True, it&rsquo;s probably not going to cover a lot by then, but it&rsquo;s better than nothing at all.</p> <h3>5. Hit the Sales at the Grocery Stores</h3> <p>If you want to grab yourself some real bargains, go and buy the food that is &ldquo;going off&rdquo; in the stores. It&rsquo;s often heavily discounted because it has reached its sell-by date. But that&rsquo;s an arbitrary date set to protect stores from lawsuits and ensure you get the freshest food. So much of that food is still very good, and you can get it really cheap just before it hits the dumpster. Your $25 could easily get you $75-$100 worth of food. Pop whatever you can in your freezer, and bring it out when you need it.</p> <p><img width="605" height="454" alt="" src="" /></p> <h3>6. Loan It to a Farmer or Entrepreneur in a Third-World Country</h3> <p>One of the best non-profit ideas I&rsquo;ve seen in a while is <a href=" "></a>. It&rsquo;s based on the principles of &ldquo;microfinancing,&rdquo; which basically means you can donate a sum as small as $25 to the fund. The borrower will make a request for funds, and if successful, he or she will get a loan funded by the more than 500,000 lenders around the world. The borrower then makes repayments, so if you put your money in, you will get it back at a later date. But in the process, you have helped someone realize a dream who normally wouldn&rsquo;t have a chance to.</p> <h3>7. Hop the Farmers Markets</h3> <p>An article I wrote in the past warned of <a href="">things to avoid at farmers markets</a>, and that resulted in a lot of angry letters and comments wondering why I was against them. That, I am happy to tell you, is not true at all. I love farmer&rsquo;s markets; I simply wanted to point out a few pitfalls. But when it comes to fresh fruit and vegetables, these markets can&rsquo;t be beat. So take your $25 to a local farmers market, get some good quality food for less than supermarket prices, and support a local farmer.</p> <h3>8. Buy Some Original Art</h3> <p>You may think $25 will not buy you much of a work of art, but you&rsquo;d be mistaken. Yes, granted, if you&rsquo;re looking for a 6 ft. canvas by a well-known painter, you&rsquo;ll be out of luck. But if you are willing to look around local art shows, search on <a href="">Craigslist</a>, or even peruse the walls of local eateries and record shops, you will find amazing prices on original works. These are from artists who want to be discovered and also want to cover the costs of materials. Who knows, in the future that piece you buy for $25 could be worth six figures.</p> <h3>9. Get a Free Massage or Haircut, and Tip $25</h3> <p>Students who are enrolled in massage or haircutting courses will often <a href="">give away their services for free</a> (or very cheap) to practice. You&rsquo;ll find ads for free massages or haircuts on Craigslist and in newspaper classified ads. But while they are free, or very cheap, these people do deserve a tip. So, for the complete price of $25, you help a student with their studies and get a service for at least half of what you&rsquo;d regularly pay.</p> <p><img width="605" height="454" alt="" src="" /></p> <h3>10. Take a Music Lesson</h3> <p>So many of us have guitars, old pianos, or other instruments just lying around. Maybe we bought them decades ago and gave up on them, or they were gifts. They could be hand-me-downs. Either way, why not see if it&rsquo;s really something you want to do. <a href="">Playing an instrument</a> is a great way to release stress, and it&rsquo;s a wonderful hobby. For $25, you can usually get a 30-minute to 1-hour lesson for a variety of instruments. Some charge as little as $10 for a 30-minute lesson.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="10 Smart Things to Do With $25" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">Paul Michael</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href=""> articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Frugal Living Investment college savings pets smart shopping Spending Money Mon, 06 Feb 2012 11:36:26 +0000 Paul Michael 886207 at 8 Timeless Tips for Resisting the Upsell <div class="field field-type-filefield field-field-blog-image"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> <a href="/8-timeless-tips-for-resisting-the-upsell" class="imagecache imagecache-250w imagecache-linked imagecache-250w_linked"><img src="" alt="Store cashier" title="Store cashier" class="imagecache imagecache-250w" width="250" height="166" /></a> </div> </div> </div> <p>The art of upselling is regarded in the sales world as one of the easiest ways to increase sales, and that's why you encounter this tactic often. A waiter may try to sell you a nice bottle of wine when you order a steak dinner, a car salesmen may try to sell you paint protection packages when you buy a car, and the McDonald's cashier will always ask &quot;Would you like to make that a meal today?&quot; They ask because in the moment, most people don't think about the additional expense and just see the additional benefit. If you want to save some money this holiday season and beyond, know these rules that will help keep those add-on costs down:</p> <h3>1. Think twice before you give out your contact information.</h3> <p>From signing up for email newsletters to flat-out leaving the other party with every conceivable way of reaching you, providing your contact information allows salespeople to contact you and pitch products and services again and again. Last week I got a call from a dealership pitching a maintenance package for my car. If even car dealerships have started doing this, you know every company can potentially spam you with these calls.</p> <h3>2. Do your research ahead of time.</h3> <p>To avoid spending more due to the hoopla of the shopping experience, try to figure out exactly what you need to purchase before you ever step out the door. Many people go to a restaurant because they are hungry or walk into Best Buy because they would like a new TV. The more prudent buyers know that they actually want a nice rib-eye steak because of its flavor, or that they want a LED TV from Samsung for Christmas.</p> <h3>3. Have a clear understanding of why you want it.</h3> <p>When you are able to articulate the reasons why you want to purchase a product, you can find the best place to purchase it. When you know exactly why you want a certain product, it's also much easier to tune out the sales pitches that will surface during the buying process.</p> <h3>4. Have a budget.</h3> <p>Most people should have a budget anyway, but it can be especially helpful in avoiding an upsell. Have a strict budget for items you want to buy, and if the price of an add-on still falls within budget, you can buy it. Otherwise, forget about it, no matter how useful it seems at the time.</p> <p>Be mindful of setting too loose a budget though. When there is a limit, it sometimes becomes a game of &quot;How close you can get to the limit without going over.&quot; Set the budget to $300? You will spend $297. Set it to $500? You will likely end up spending $485, even if you are trying to buy the same type of product. That's why research is so crucial.</p> <h3>5. Learn to say no to time limits.</h3> <p>It's easy to spend more at the time of purchase because you're drowning in the happiness of buying something new. When salespeople add a time limit on those add-on offers, they can suddenly become must-haves. In reality, almost no discount is ever a once-in-a-lifetime deal, so just say no and decide whether you really need it when you are in a more relaxed environment.</p> <h3>6. Try the 30 day rule.</h3> <p>This is just taking the &quot;say no&quot; rule up a notch. Basically, you limit yourself to not buying anything that wasn't planned or isn't needed until 30 days later, when you are past the time that you will likely act on impulse. If you still want it after 30 days, then you can have it!</p> <h3>7. Always find a way to self-serve.</h3> <p>I love self-service because of its convenience, but there's another benefit &mdash; the lack of upsell. Sure, computers can be programmed to ask questions in an attempt to get you to buy more, but they will never compare to a highly trained salesperson. And when the choice is presented by a computer, you also have a bit less pressure and thus can spend more time thinking about the offer.</p> <h3>8. Don't shop as much.</h3> <p>If you don't want to pay more for an upsell, then reduce the chances that you are being sold to. The less you are in the checkout line, the fewer small purchases you will see. The less you eat out, the less you will buy a premium beverage to go with your entree. The less you buy, the less you will pay more.</p> <p>Learn the rules, and you will spend less. Really.</p> <a href="" class="sharethis-link" title="8 Timeless Tips for Resisting the Upsell" rel="nofollow">ShareThis</a><br /><div id="custom_wisebread_footer"><div id="rss_tagline">Written by <a href="">David Ning</a> and published on <a href="">Wise Bread</a>. Read more <a href="">Consumer Affairs articles from Wise Bread</a>.</div></div> Consumer Affairs Shopping balanced spending frugal shopping research smart shopping Thu, 16 Dec 2010 14:00:21 +0000 David Ning 385317 at