Holiday Hangover?

Written by Sam on February 5, 2010 – 4:44 pm -

The dust has settled from the holidays, the bills have come in, and the damage has been done. How did you fare financially during the holidays? Did you overspend or did you stay on budget?

After reviewing our holiday spending we actually came out almost exactly on target. That’s not to say we spent exactly as we’d planned. We overspent on gifts for some and underspent on others. It definitely helped to have a plan because we would have grossly overspent without one. This year our plan was a little more casual than other years. My wife and I did a quick and dirty plan one evening, but we’ve had enough experience creating these plans that we were able to implement effectively with only one short meeting.

In December I posted about strategies to reduce spending during the holidays. One strategy we relied upon this Christmas was that of buying items on the fly if we found a good deal, but then returning the items that were over our budget or that just weren’t as compelling as gifts. A couple of days before Christmas, we laid out all the gifts on the kitchen table (after our sons were asleep) and sorted through them decided which were really worth it and which could be returned.

This process was so useful and actually had an unexpected benefit this year. As we looked at the gifts all together, it gave us a great overall sense of “too much stuff.” We realized that we simply had too much stuff for our son. We’ve experienced over and over at Christmas the point of diminishing returns where each additional gift just doesn’t add that much. A 5 year old can only really enjoy a small handful of gifts. More than that and you start entering that spoiled mode where the child is like “is that all there is?” “Aren’t there any more gifts?”

By looking at all the gifts at once we could very clearly see how many gifts constituted “too much” and how many were just right.

So what was the result on Christmas morning?

I’m happy to report that this Christmas was probably the most rewarding in terms of enjoyment-per-gift for our son. Not only did our activity of looking at all the gifts at once lower our Christmas bill, it also resulted in a happier and better-balanced child. There was virtually no spoiled response and our son had just enough a variety of gifts that he was thrilled.

So how is your holiday hangover? Did you have one or were you able to remain sober?

Posted in Budgeting, Shopping | Comments Off on Holiday Hangover?

9 ways to overpend this Christmas

Written by Sam on December 3, 2009 – 9:11 am -

1. Don’t set a budget

Budgets put such a damper on holiday spending. It’s much more enjoyable to not be constrained by a well-thought-out plan.

2. Don’t budget any money for giving gifts to anyone but immediate family

Sure you’ll end up buying gifts for the office party, all your friends, and neighbors, but it’s too hard to think of all those people ahead of time.

3. Don’t worry about debt

You still haven’t paid off last year’s Christmas so what’s the point in letting that ruin this year’s Christmas. You’ll still be in debt either way right?

4. Don’t even think about re-gifting

Re-gifting is embarrassing. It’s much better to store the many un-needed gifts from friends and neighbors in the closet.

5. Put off your shopping until the last minute

By waiting until the last minute you won’t be able to worry about how much you’re spending and don’t have to fuss with finding sales because there’s just not enough time to do so.

6. Make sure your kids have enough gifts

The last thing you would want is to short-change your kids by giving them only a few thoughtful gifts. Quantity is king at Christmas.

7. Buy a lot of those “gift”-type items

People love those “gift” items found at department stores. Who doesn’t like a few good knick knacks?

8. Don’t worry about price. You need to get it while you can.

You can’t afford to wait when you find an item you want. It might be gone forever if you wait.

9. Don’t coordinate with your spouse about gift giving.

It’s way too much of a hassle to coordinate with your spouse. Plus you don’t want to put a damper on each others’ gift giving.

Posted in Shopping | Comments Off on 9 ways to overpend this Christmas

Supercharge your Sunday circulars to find local deals

Written by Sam on December 2, 2009 – 12:56 pm -

One of the challenges with finding the best sales locally is the amount of work it takes. Sunday circulars – the mini-catalogs you find from local retailers in your Sunday newspaper – are a great way to find deals. However, there’s one big weakness with them – it’s hard to find specific items. You can spend hours pouring over the circulars looking for a specific item of interest. solves that problem by putting the Sunday circulars online. You can browse through the actual circulars page by page or search by item. Once you search for an item you can refine your search by brand, price, or even store.

I use ShopLocal very frequently for items that I don’t want to pay shipping on or that I want right away. I will also buy locally vs online when I want the option of returning the item to the store if I have problems or aren’t satisfied. I find that I can often find prices at local retailers as low as I can online.

Check out this brief screencast showing you how ShopLocal works.

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Posted in How to, Shopping, Videos | 2 Comments »

How to shop and find amazing deals using RSS

Written by Sam on November 24, 2009 – 11:23 pm -

Yesterday I wrote several posts containing video tutorials on how to use RSS. Today the fun begins! I’ll show you how to use the same technology to be notified of amazing deals online. But even better, you can use RSS to be instantly notified when the EXACT ITEMS you want to buy go on sale or get discounted. The techniques I’ll be showing you in this post could literally save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars over time.

As an example, my sister bought a Yamaha piano – the digital kind that will play itself – using these techniques and saved thousands of dollars. She paid $2,500 for a piano that sells used on the market for $8,000. I wrote about her experience in a post about using RSS to buy items on craigslist.

Even if you use RSS all the time, I would encourage you to look at the 2nd and 3rd videos. They might just blow your mind and are only a couple minutes each.

What is RSS?

If you don’t know what RSS is, please view these posts from yesterday:

How to shop via RSS using preset feeds

In this video you’ll learn about using preset RSS feeds to find great discounts and sales. In this video I refer to a post post I wrote called RSS shopping site guide containing a list of shopping sites with RSS capability as well as links to their preset feeds. In this example I use the sites and

How to shop for the EXACT items you want using a customized RSS feed

In this video I show you how to create a CUSTOMIZED RSS feed that will instantly show you when the exact item(s) you’re looking for go on sale or are discounted. If you’re looking to buy a specific item at a great price, this is a MUST WATCH video. In this example I use the RSS feed builder from

How to shop for the EXACT items you want on Craigslist using a customized RSS feed

In this video I show you how to create an RSS feed from a specific search on Craigslist. Looking for a great deal from someone selling an ipod? You’ll get an instant update within seconds when someone posts an ipod for sale in your area.

How to receive instant notifications about discounts on item from your Amazon wishlist

In this video I show you how to create a customized feed using RSStalker to give you instant updates whenever there’s a price change on an item in your Amazon Wishlists.

Additional Resources

Lazy Man and Money also wrote about this topic and has a list of some additional deal sites you can check out.

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Posted in Shopping, Technology, Videos | Comments Off on How to shop and find amazing deals using RSS

How to organize your RSS feeds

Written by Sam on November 24, 2009 – 11:17 pm -

This next video in a series of videos about RSS shows you how to organize your feeds in Google Reader so it’s easy to keep track of feeds as they accumulate.

Posted in How to, Shopping, Technology, Videos | Comments Off on How to organize your RSS feeds

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