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Why Did I Buy This? with Grant Pardee: As Seen On TV Edition

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Grant.Pardee)
at 6:00AM Wednesday April 23, 2014
under Shop Smarter

Sometimes purchases seem like a good idea at the time, whether it's due to clever advertising or simply because it's late at night and you've had too much to drink, and you find yourself awake the next morning wondering how you could have bought such a thing. Recently, I found myself doing some late-night browsing on the As Seen On TV store buying things like the Chillow (a chill pillow), HD Night Vision Lens Glasses (to reduce glare when driving at night) and Bertie the NCIS Farting Hippo (????). You can see me reviewing these items in the video below.

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Pump up your pantry: 10 non-perishable foods to keep on hand for meals in minutes

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Gabi.Moskowitz)
at 9:00AM Monday April 7, 2014
under Shop Smarter

We've all been there. You really did mean to go grocery shopping this week—you even made a list. But then, it just didn't happen. So there you are, staring at a near-empty fridge, debating picking up the phone and ordering take-out.



DON'T DO IT!

Instead, have a wander over to your pantry, and you'll discover that therein lays a world of culinary opportunities. All you need is a little creativity and some super-basic techniques, and you'll be chowing down on some really good (and-much-cheaper-than-takeout) grub. Here's what to have on hand: Read More »

The best return policies in the business

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Megan.Koester)
at 12:00PM Tuesday April 1, 2014
under Shop Smarter

As a former connoisseur of return fraud, (emphasis on former, OK?) I am intimately aware of the return policies of many of the chain retailers cluttering America's once-breathtaking landscape. Some, of course, are better than others. Pretty much all of them are better than Best Buy's, which is god-awful. (That's right, Best Buy! I'm callin' you out!) The ones in this article, as I'm sure you've already gathered by the title, rank among the best. It's hard to find satisfaction in this world, especially when it comes to interacting with big box retailers, but these faceless corporations are A-ok in my book.

Nordstrom
As a peddler of wares for the upper class, it stands to reason that Nordstrom should have the Rolls-Royce of return policies. And boy, do they. Their official policy is, well, that there isn't one. Which means you can return items years after you've bought them–hell, even after you've worn them. Which, naturally, makes Nordstrom a hotbed for fraudulent activity. A friend of mine's mother, who used to work there, has horror stories about gritting her teeth and taking back used underwear. (The customer's always right, after all!) If anything you buy at Nordie's "malfunctions" (up to and including flip flops that fell apart after a summer or eight), you can bring it back for a refund. You don't even need a receipt, just the tag from the item you purchased. Now, before you go hog-wild and return every single thing you've ever bought at Nordstrom, know this–returns negatively affect the commissions of the employees who accept 'em. So have a heart. Please? Read More »

How to haggle without being a jerk

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Cheryl.Lock)
at 9:00AM Thursday March 20, 2014
under Shop Smarter

I think the last time I haggled was when I was in second grade. My neighborhood was having a community yard sale, and three doors down they were selling a righteous used hamster cage that I just had to have. (In an effort to convince my parents that I needed a hamster, of course.)

Anyway, the cage was something like $3, which I didn't happen to have at the ripe old age of seven, and as I was keeping this a secret from my parents (Surprise! I bought a hamster cage … now you have to get me a hamster!), I couldn't just ask them for the cash, now could I? Read More »

Aaron's thinks "Max Your Tax!" is a good slogan. The deal is even worse than it sounds

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Mike.Pearl)
at 1:16PM Friday February 21, 2014
under Shop Smarter

Aarons
via Google Street View

It's not as hilarious as Coke's notorious "Bite the wax tadpole!" but Aaron's "Max Your Tax!" slogan this spring sounds equally unpalatable. The posters and commercials make clear that they ostensibly want you to maximize the value of your tax return. But it's just as well. The misreading conveys what'll really happen to you if you shop at Aaron's when your check from the IRS comes.

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Vine Voices and other reasons to approach Amazon reviews with caution

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Mike.Pearl)
at 9:12AM Friday February 7, 2014
under Shop Smarter

We all know Amazon reviews run the gamut from "insightful" to "worse than reading nothing at all," and we can cope with the poor quality. The inane reviews lend credibility to the rest, making the good ones seem culled from a vast field of "authentic" average consumers. But thanks to some of Amazon's sketchier practices -- especially a program called "Vine Voices" -- you can't even be sure of that. Here's a guide that should help you machete your way through the Amazon. I chose 20 reviews* and dissected them for content and other patterns.

Vine Voices:

2 out of 20, or 10 percent of the reviews I read, said "Vine Voices" next to the review. Vine is a six year-old invitation-only program for serious Amazon reviewers to smooth out their writing process by simply delivering them free swag. Yes, Vine (Which has nothing to do with the video sharing app) mails certain products to the homes of reviewers, and the reviewers agree to send the item back if requested, so it's just borrowed, not a gift. But apparently this rarely if ever happens. In other words, a review with "Vine Voices" next to it isn't a customer review at all. Read More »

How to get free 2-day shipping forever

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Rick.Broida)
at 1:13PM Thursday February 6, 2014
under Shop Smarter

This is an update of a post I wrote nearly a year ago. What was once a time-limited offer is now free forever. Woot!

I'm addicted to free shipping. I can spend hours in the virtual aisles of an online store, padding my cart with just the items I need, then scouring for a discount code--but if I get to the checkout page and find there's a big ol' shipping charge, forget it.

No sale.

This is especially aggravating when you're buying a single, inexpensive product, and the shipping costs nearly the same as the item!

That's why I like having a subscription to ShopRunner, a nifty service that, among other things, assures you free shipping at more than 80 stores. Even better than that, free 2-day shipping. Read More »

5 marketing tactics that prevent you from being healthy

By DealPro(view all posts by CrystalECollins)
at 8:50AM Monday January 27, 2014
under Shop Smarter

These days we are becoming more and more conscious about the food that we put in our mouths. We want the best for our families and our bodies, so we do the best we can to eat healthy wherever we can.

But what if you were being duped by a marketer into thinking you were eating healthy? Would you feel like you wasted money? I would. Let's talk about some marketing tactics that are preventing you from being healthy.

1. "Sugar Free." 

Most sugar free products contain artificial sweeteners that can actually be worse for you. These artificial sweeteners are known to cause some or all of the following side effects: headaches, fibromyalgia, anxiety, memory loss, arthritis, brain tumors, weight gain, seizures, IBS, nausea, heart palpitations, abdominal pain, vision problems, kidney damage, possible cancer, inflammation, skin irritation, bladder issues, and even neurological disorders. Read More »

Is it time to consider a Surface tablet?

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Rick.Broida)
at 7:49AM Monday January 27, 2014
under Shop Smarter

Microsoft's Surface RT tablets haven't exactly set the world on fire, and with good reason: They suck. Okay, that's just Microsoft hater-speak. But the early arguments against the RTs definitely held water: They're expensive, they don't run legacy Windows programs, and they don't come bundled with that cool-looking keyboard cover Microsoft touts in every single Surface ad and TV commercial.

Needless to say, I've been pretty sour on these devices since they debuted just over a year ago. But during that time, I've heard from lots of Surface RT owners who really (really) like the device. What's more, prices are dropping, especially on refurbished models. Read More »

10 items men cannot be trusted to buy at the grocery store

By (view all posts by Seth.Barnes)
at 6:00AM Friday January 24, 2014
under Shop Smarter

The modern grocery store is a hive of commerce, a 24/7 Superstore selling everything imaginable with almost limitless selection across product categories. Need aluminum foil? Prepare to sort through a spectrum of options starting with the store brand and ending with a technological wonder that could serve as a heat shield for a spacecraft reentering Earth's atmosphere. In short, the grocery store is the last place you should send the average American male, provided you actually want the items on his list.

Calling out gender differences certainly isn't in vogue these days, and as a Dad and husband, I'm hesitant to criticize my own species. But this missive is a cry for help. Based on personal experience, I know no matter how hard I try, I cannot be trusted to accurately buy the items below, most likely due to an evolutionary quirk among my ancestors that makes me blind to the difference between tins of anchovies and sardines displayed in close proximity to each other.

By admitting defeat and articulating the shame I feel about being so massively distracted while food shopping, I'm hoping we can take the first step towards creating a different world for my son to grow up in. A world where he doesn't have a panic attack standing in front of a towering shelf of pickle spears. Please have compassion for us. For we are just men.
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Despite backlash, reusable grocery bags are still the smart (and frugal) move

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Mike.Pearl)
at 12:05PM Thursday January 23, 2014
under Shop Smarter

I'd heard arguments against reusable bags before, but despite having been around for years, I hadn't heard the "reusable bags jeopardize public health" argument until very recently. Now that I've looked into it, it's not very compelling.

Whether it's a dolphin-rescuing triumph, or a mistake spearheaded by wrongheaded liberals, plastic grocery bags are going the way of the dinosaurs they're made of. Yes, extinction is still a ways off, but over sixty jurisdictions in the US have bans on the books, and more are in the works.

With each new jurisdiction to ban the bags comes a new fee structure. You now have to cough up as much as 25 cents each time you forget your bag. That can add up in the long run, especially for large families.

Obviously it's not just a matter of personal finance. 80 million tons of the petroleum product polyethylene are manufactured every year, and its primary use is in the manufacture of disposable bags. They may or may not whiz away to the sea immediately after use, and maliciously jam themselves into the blowholes of orcas, but they do sit in landfills for perhaps a thousand years, by some estimates, or perhaps forever by others. For whatever reason, some find the environmental arguments against disposable bags unconvincing. Read More »

An easy and affordable fix for your TV's terrible speakers

By Guest Blogger(view all posts by Rick.Broida)
at 11:44AM Tuesday January 21, 2014
under Shop Smarter

Talk about irony: Modern HDTVs dazzle the eyes with their gorgeous colors and razor-sharp images, but disappoint the ears with their crap-tacular speakers.

Alas, it's the nature of the flat-panel design. Today's supermodel-thin TVs just don't have room for big, beefy cones. For some reason, though, few people bother to investigate alternatives to those built-in speakers--or perhaps just don't know there are alternatives.

Prepare to be enlightened! You can vastly improve your TV's audio quality by adding an external speaker system. And you don't have to spend a fortune on one. Read More »