Archive for the ‘Shopping’ Category

November 22, 2017

Early Deals

In early November I got in the habit of leaving a separate browser open dedicated to shopping. I was interested in a pumpkin Halloween decoration that was strangely not on clearance sale yet, and considering getting some out door artificial pencil width trees to go on either side of the front door. I had a tab opened to each product I was considering, waiting to see if it would go on sale. While I was at it, I decided to add some tabs for some of the Black Friday things I was considering. I wasn’t expecting a deal yet, but I like to be organized.

Then something strange happened.

We were planning on purchasing a Samsung S8 for Domingo for the Black Friday sale price of $300 off. I calculated the monthly rate to be ~$17. As I was scrolling through my shopping tabs in the morning of the 16th, a full week before thanksgiving, I noticed Bestbuy offering the phone for ~$15 a month, or $350 off. I purchased it without hesitation. Bestbuy had jumped the gun and beaten their own advertised price which was already the best around!

Another deal I was considering was an Artificial tree from Michaels. One of our trees last year quit working thanks to faulty wiring in the plug. I was debating about restring the lights (a deceptively huge endeavor.) At the beginning of November Micheals had some kind of “tree event”. Domingo and I went to the store and really liked on of the trees which was an extremely reasonable price. “Was” being key. The tree was 50% off the day before, now only 25% off. It was still a good price, but not the best price. I often will balk at a purchase if it’s not the best price, regardless of how good it is. A little internet research suggested the price would come back down on Black Friday. Sure enough, when the Black Friday flyer finally came back the tree was once again advertised as 50% off. I opened a tab and was at the ready. The deal started Sunday, a full five days before it was advertised to start.

Then last night I got an email from bed bath and beyond advertising a 20% off an entire purchase for being a subscriber starting that moment. It was exactly the Black Friday deal i wanted to replace our thread bare sheets that i was dreading going in person to get! And they weren’t the only ones. Target also started their Black Friday deals today for people who have a red card (something I only realized when their automated system emailed me to let me know something I was looking at was on sale.)

That’s just three examples. Here we are, the day before thanksgiving and I’ve gotten most of the items off my Black Friday shopping list at the price I was expecting, or better. On the one hand, I will miss the tradition of going out to the store on Thanksgiving night after the kids are in bed. On the other, I look forward to having more time in the evening for our other tradition, trimming the trees up while the kids are sleeping.

October 4, 2017

Black Friday Game Plan

It’s almost that time of year again: shopping season! One again I find myself making a list of deals I’m hoping for to help keep my shopping focused and my splurges to a minimum.

Kids clothes. Nicole has just about out grown her current size, so we’re ready to expand her wardrobe. I’ve purchased her a few clothes so we won’t be suddenly on a lurch, but a blanket sale on kids clothes seems to be a Black Friday staple.
Where I’m looking: Carters or Target

Baby Stuff. No surprise there. Our baby monitor is in terrible shape, which is understandable given it’s age. The video sometimes goes, the signal cuts out and it’s battery life is non existent. I’m also like a new crib and an additional rocking chair. (You can never have too many rocking chairs with multiple kids in the house!)
Where I’m looking: Amazon mostly. I’m expecting to only succeed on the monitor, I’ve never seen the other two as a part of a Black Friday holiday sale.

Kitchen/Home Stuff. There’s nothing big that we need. Our pizza pan is pretty gross at this point, and I’d like to try flexible cutting boards instead of the stiff ones we have now that seem to take up so much room in the dishwasher. Domingo would also like wireless meet thermometers for the right price. New sheets and additional coat hangers would also be nice.
Where I’m looking: Target most likely, Bed Bath and Beyond as a possibility. Target tends to have a spend $X get a coupon for $Y on your next visit promotion. They’re also where our original hangers come from, and no price will make up for them non-matching. I like our sheets from Bed Bath and Beyond, but in order to get the percentage off your whole order you need to be in store by noon and I’m not sure that will be doable.

Cell Phones. I’m not sure why this wasn’t on our last last year, but Domingo’s phone Badly needs to be upgraded. It’s five years old, and doesn’t always charge. Additionally the wireless antenna was knocked lose and sometimes it won’t connect to the internet. This is not a good phone for the parent who travels! He’s pretty flexible, so we’ll be looking for the best android deal we can fine. My phone may also be replaced for the right deal. I’m looking at the iPhone 8 to replace my three year old iPhone 6.
Where I’m looking: All over.

Other. Cheap movies for the kids, more board games for the kids, you know, the things that are always on our list.

In the Bull Pen. At some point a new printer would be nice. I’d like one that can spool requests even if the computer is turned off.

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Addendum. We now have another thing to hunt for this Black Friday: A new DSLR camera. I’ve long since exceeded the expected shutter life on my camera, and every once in a while it’s behavior has been inconsistent. A few weekends ago I swear the camera autofocused after the shutter released, and this summer the light meter was ridiculously off when taking photos of the girls outside. These have been rare issues, usually only effecting one photo in a bunch, so I have so far been willing to over look them. Now the grip is starting to come detached.
Where I’m looking: NikonUSA. Last year they had a sale on the 7000 series line, $200 off a body. That was partly because the 7500 (the model I’m currently coveting) was due out this sprint, but even the newer models were $100 off. I’m hoping to get $100 of the 7500 this Black Friday.

August 23, 2017

Baby Gear, Round 3!

It’s time to start thinking about baby gear! Z3 will be here before we know it.

A New Baby Monitor System. I loved our old monitor, really I did, but it’s showing it’s age and barely functional at this point. The parent console often loses signal and sometimes can’t process the image feed. We’re left with a ghostly white image that lingers on the screen. I’ve gotten used to enough that I can guess what’s going on in the room. Usually. If that’s not enough of a draw back, the night time vision of one of the cameras is about half power, and whenever the parent console is connected to that monitor it picks up an intermittent buzzing that keeps me awake. Since the girls are in the shared big girl room, we’ve just been using the working camera.

A new high chair. I hated our old one. We were going to pitch it and replace it before Alexis was born, but my frugal tendencies took over and saved it from the dumpster. The padding is now ripped, so I think I can finally give myself permission to part with it.

A crib. The old one is ok, but between the teeth marks, and the non standard screws I can make a case why it should be replaced.

A bottle warmer. These things always seem to get so gross. Looks like each kid will be getting her own.

Another rocking chair. One can never have too many rocking chairs. The first one we purchased is downstairs in our living room. We purchased a second one that is currently in the nursery, but that’s in the middle of the house. I’m thinking about getting a third one for the master bedroom since Z3 will probably sleep in there for a few months (I know, it’s a total splurge.)

I’m kind of amazed that the jumperoo is still in good shape, and Alexis’ activity gym given how Nicole destroyed hers. It sometimes feels like those are the only two things that survived. The rock n’ play is doing okay, but the fabric just isn’t as nice as it once was. Alexis’ changing pad is also in ok shape. We recently purchased a new crib mattress before moving Alexis to a twin size, so at least we’re good there.

April 11, 2017

Hallmark 2017

For the first time in three? four? years I’m really excited about Hallmark’s yearly collection of keepsake ornaments. There are a lot of great ones, and not just of the traditional style ornaments I tend to like. If you’ve ever wanted a collection of just Disney, or even just Disney princesses, or just star wars ornaments, this would be a good year to do it.

It’s early yet, and most merchant websites don’t have product pages set up yet. I’ll do my best to link to the item I’m talking about, but that won’t be possible for all of them. If you’re interested, you’ll have to scroll through the dreambook to find the ornaments I’m talking about.

The ornament I’m most excited about it Father Christmas’ Reindeer. It’s similar to last year’s tabletop of the same name and a limited release. I love the old fashioned Santa’s and reindeer. The dream book lists it for $20. Since it’s a limited release I will likely purchase it at full price.

This years’ Snowball and Tuxedo, Cookies for Santa is next on my list. I love the way they incorporated baking, one of my favorite holiday activities. Normally I wait for the after Christmas sale on this series, but I suspect it may not be around if I wait and I’d be sad to miss out on it.

Next are the mini ornaments. I like Petite Penguins and A Creature was Stirring (the one with a mouse reading a book). Guessing I will get those at full price as well.

Penguin Express, the unofficial Kris’ Penguin’s series ornament, is on my list, but likely as an after Christmas sale. It’s adorable, but I’m not very excited about trains in general. I’d like to have it on my tree, but I won’t be heart broken if it’s not.

Welcoming Wreath, and Beary Festive (Mary’s Bears Series) are also in this category. I’m more inclined to spend the time to hunt down Welcoming Wreath and Beary Festive than Penguin Express at an after Christmas sale. I like them, I’d like to have them on my tree, but they’re also generic and I’m sure they’ll be another one in the series that I like just as much should I miss out on them.

I’m underwhelmed with this years Season’s Treatings (Cherry pie) and Cookie Cutter Christmas. A good deal, or a plea from Domingo could entice me.

The only ornament I’m really disappointed with is Inside Story. I became aware of the three ornament series when I saw a black and white sketch of this year’s version. I thought I would love it. Since it’s only three ornament series I decided to go ahead and try and collect them all. Normally I only collect the ornaments of a series I like, but a three ornament series doesn’t have much wiggle room I purchased the 2016 version at a slightly higher price than I would have normally done off ebay fearing a price increase. That yellow color of the 2017 ornament? Cannot stand it. Would not put it on my tree if it was free. That will teach me to purchase early. I feel like I wasted my money.

At least my overall love of Hallmark has been rekindled.

Edited to add better links

Despite not having a list, Domingo and I decided to go out black Friday shopping. We went out Thursday after the kids had gone to bed for some hot cocoa and to enjoy the atmosphere, and then took the kids out on Friday when the kids’ cabin fever forced us out of the house, but rain kept us away from the parks.

Turkey, Shmurkey

We arrived at Target about 2 hours after it’s initial opening. It was crowded, but not over overwhelmingly so. While we were waiting in line for those hot chocolates we couldn’t help but notice how many families were sitting down with sandwiches, pizzas and pastas. The barista commented that in those two hours since opening they had already sold more sandwiches than they sell in a typical day. I know that an early dinner on Thanksgiving day is probably more typical than not, but it appeared as though a large group of people may have opted out of the traditional meal altogether and in to a quick dinner at target once their shopping was complete.

Perhaps it’s because I’ve been thinking about the class divide of late, but I couldn’t help but wonder if skipping the meal was less about desire and more about necessity. Popular culture likes to caste black Friday as rampant consumption on luxury items that aren’t needed, but for people of limited means it’s sometimes black Friday or never. Surely one can make the use case that a laptop or computer is not necessary a luxury item in today’s digital world?

TVs in Threes

The hot item this year was clearly the 50″ and 55″ TVs. We saw person after person walking out with two or sometimes three large TVs. Apparently Target was selling 3,200 televisions per minute nationwide. If TVs are meant to be gifts, these shoppers are way more generous than I am. If they’re meant to be personal, I’m amazed at the size of the houses they must have. Domingo’s hypothesis was a spare TV for elderly parents.

TVs weren’t the only thing we saw bought in, for lack of a better word, bulk. We walked passed one couple that was dividing laptops between their two shopping carts to get around the “2 per person” limit. (Large family looking for laptops for the kids, maybe?)

I know it’s been a while since I’ve visited a store in person on Black Friday, but I was stunned by all I was witnessing.

The good news if you’re looking for a deal next year: 2 hours after opening, Target was still bringing out TVs and laptops in shifts. It didn’t appear that anyone who wanted one was going without.

We are Black Friday Small Potatoes

I did end up with the Costco laptop a month ago, otherwise I would have done the replacement with the same specs and saved myself another $150. Sigh. Can’t control when these things break, I guess.

We took advantage of the $4 and $6 sale of DVDs, as well as half priced board games for the kids. We also bought their winter wardrobe at 30% off.

Our biggest purchase was a new Keurig ($65). The cheap ($35) off brand one I bought over the summer was a huge waste. After a few months it broke and would spew water allover our counter top. It was under warranty but I still had to pay $10 shipping to replace it. The replacement only lasted a few weeks. Domingo didn’t feel like spending (wasting?) yet more money on coffee machines. I can understand that sentiment, but I know how much he enjoys his coffee and I feel like a little guilty being so often the beneficiary of our spending. Domingo is always way more willing to spend on money for extras for me (like my new lens, which was way more expensive). I put the Keurig in the shopping cart joking I wanted to take up coffee. Don’t worry, he saw right through me. I’ve never had a cup before in my life, and likely never will, but he is enjoying his daily cup.

We would have saved an additional $15 had I been able to figure out the cartwheel app in time. We got stuck in line behind a two college age kids buying three laptops and an ipad who were also opening a credit card to get an additional 5% discount. I used the time to download the app, but didn’t realize I had to select the relevant coupons. I am still miffed at myself about that.

There’s a part of me that misses the Black Fridays atmosphere. Domingo and I used to take our time going to the stores, meandering in mid-afternoon, and still get deals we were after. These days it’s a lot harder to get away to go to the store, and when we manage it we rarely get the deals were after. So this year we’re thinking of just staying in.

Domingo and I started thinking about our list and came up rather empty. We went through most of our home setup costs last year, so there really isn’t anything on that front. We could use another rug, I guess. Additional ornaments are always a possibility. The kid tree was pretty barren last year (not that they mind). I also still need a new laptop (I’ve been needing one since 2013), but Costco’s every day price on the one I like is pretty good. Mobile and tablet sales have been eating into laptop sales, driving the prices pretty far down. I’m just waiting for this one to kick the bucket first. It’s casing is cracked and it’s missing a screw, but still chugging along.

That’s the kind of stuff that’s always on our list. What’s new this year?

I need to get Alexis’ baby book printed. We’ll probably do MyPublisher again for that, since that’s who I used for Nicole’s baby book and I like to keep things ridiculously even. I looked through my email inbox and it looks like the best coupon I can hope for is 60(ish) off. Last year it came in October and just before Christmas. (Score one for team never-deletes-an-email.)

I also have two large frames I want filled. mpix is the only place I’ve found that can print to the right size. They currently have a 10% off coupon, but I’ve found a 25% off flyer in my mail box from September. I’ve also found a 25% off your entire order flyer. I haven’t been a customer long enough to have a long mailbox history with them, so I can’t predict when that sale will come back again. At least I know the kind of sale to target!

We’re pretty settled on the idea of Santa bringing Nicole a toy camera this year. We’re less clear what he’ll bring for Alexis. One of the joys of being the younger sibling is there are always tons of toys for your developmental stage. (One of the drawbacks is that finding those toys can be challenging!)

Looks like we’ll be spending this year in. Depending on how those printing coupons line up, we may pass on Black Friday all together.

I have been price watching some furniture for our new home for almost a year. With the holidays approaching, and plans for get togethers, I was thinking of biting the bullet rather than keep waiting for a sale that might not happen in time. I started searching outside my usual retailers to find the best current price on the items I wanted. My searches once again landed me on Jet.com

In my experience Jet.com often price matches Amazon, but when it doesn’t it tends to be more expensive. For some of the items I was hunting, much much more expensive. However, if your eligible for new customer coupons you can still come out ahead. One of the unusual things about Jet is those new customer coupons can span multiple orders. Before this shopping experience I had two such offers still attached to my account. I’m not sure if these types of discounts will continue to be available for new customers when the dust settles from the recent buyout. If you’re thinking about joining Jet, I’d start now and lock in that deal.

threeshelforganizer
The closet maid storage shelf I wanted. I was definitely being picky. Target had a taller one for cheaper, even after the discount, but I liked the fact that this one had a complete backing, and the left over shelf space was the perfect size for the cutting toy.
I still really need to paint the playroom.

In addition to the storage shelf above, I purchased end tables (so we can finally get those living room lamps off the floor), an entrance way bench with shoe storage and cushion.

I didn’t do enough research on the end tables. The original ones I wanted were 50% more expensive so I went with the secondary option I was considering. Turns out that was an accent table and not an end table, so it’s a bit taller than I would have liked. Good news, the table is of excellent quality so when ever the price does decide to drop on my first choice I’m sure I’ll be able to find a good use case for them.

Another way Jet is a little unusual is that when you add an item to your cart, the price on some of the items already in your cart may drop. It’s not much of a difference but watching those prices drop is addicting. Sometimes I’d add an item just to watch the price drop. I could see how easy it would be to spend more because you think your saving (spaving.) Admittedly I was guilty of spaving this time. I bought a Christmas Cd I didn’t realize I could get for free with Amazon Prime Music.

I know a home is never done – there’s always another project – but we’re getting closer to at least feeling fully furnished. I’m still looking for a bookshelf to turn into a toy shelf for the playroom. And living room furniture. As much as the kids like the big empty room, I’d like to fill it with something. Alternatively, photography studio equipment would be cheaper than a new couch. All I’d need is the lighting equipment. Decisions, Decisions.

June 4, 2016

Not So Savvy Shopper

Evidence that Sarah is not always as good a shopper as she thinks she is:

Christmas for me isn’t confined to December. I usually purchase new Christmas Ornaments year round. As of a month ago I had purchased four new ornaments. The smart thing to do would have been opening up those nondescript brown shipping packing boxes as they arrived and inspected the contents. In my experience “mint in box” and “never opened”, usually mean “used – like new” with the occasional “used – very good”. Rarely it’s “used – ok.” Once an ornament arrived with a break that could only have been during use, not shipment. Yes, opening the boxes would have been the smart thing. Life was busy. Some of the deals I was getting were very good – good enough to be worth it, even when the ornament in question’s condition wasn’t quite perfect. Good enough to not be worth the hassle of the return. So I let the boxes accumulate in the corner.

Today I sat down to open those boxes and discovered this.

cozies

It turns out I purchased Cozy on Ice once off ebay in February, and another time off Amazon in May. (Yes, that also means I had a package for 4 months before finally getting around to open it.) Oops. Neither purchase was an exceptionally good deal. I paid $13 and $15 including tax and shipping respectively. You can get it off of ebay right now for under $10, although the $13 price is more typical. While I generally don’t mind have a back up ornament, I prefer to only get a back duplicate if it’s a couple of dollars. An extra $15 probably won’t break the bank, but it’s still annoying. At least I really love the ornament.

Can’t Wait to Skate was ok. The pom-pom on his hat looked to be partially torn off. I can probably fix it, but I’m also debating about removing it entirely. It was a fine purchase at $5. I didn’t like Making Mom & Daughter’s Memories as much in person as I did online, especially after discovering this year’s version which I like much better.

Not my finest shopping moments. Oh well. Perhaps I should refrain from online shopping for a little while.

May 7, 2016

Hallmark 2016 Plan

Where did the time go? It’s already May! Time to think about Christmas ornaments.

All kidding aside, I think I forgot about Hallmark this year partially because I haven’t been enjoying collecting the keepsakes as much the past couple of years. I didn’t set foot in a hallmark store last year. Penguin Tales was the only ornament I wanted at the premiere, and I could purchase it off Amazon for the same price. I did get Cozy on Ice and Can’t Wait to Skate on eBay in an after Christmas sale. I spent too much time on eBay and purchased Making Mom & Daughter Memories which I don’t remember seeing in last year’s dreambook.

My current 2016 plan:

A Tasty Treat – That’s a big old yes. I was so disappointing Hallmark stopped the unofficial gumdrop series last year. They may have been mini ornaments, but they were my favorite. (Miniature prices didn’t hurt either!) This new series could fill the void. It has that same cuteness + sweetness combination. I’m a sucker for designs based on sugar.

That’s a Wrap – It’s cute, but I’m on the fence. My gut reaction was to want it, but I’m worried I’m letting the fact that I already own many of the other pieces in the series influence my decision. I don’t think I would purchase it if it was a stand alone ornament. My concern is that it looks less detailed than most of the other ornaments. Usually when the photo looks less detailed the ornament disappoints in person. I’ll have to wait to make the final decision.

Cookie Cutter Christmas – I’m going to pass on this one. I’m not a fan of the mitten shape. I think I’ll even pass if I see it in an after Christmas sale.

Playground Pals – I normally collect the penguins, and it’s a cute concept, but I think I will pass. If I didn’t know that was supposed to be a marry-go-round from the description I’m not sure I would have guessed it.

Comfy and Cozy – It’s adorable, but what’s with Mary Hamilton’s Bears series price tag? I bulked at the nearly $20 price tag last year, then snagged it for $5 shipped on Ebay back in February. I’ll wait for this one as well. I hope I can get it cheaply too. Then again, finding ornaments from a series cheaply on eBay is not a good sign for the series’ longevity.

That’s 1 yes, 2 no‘s, 1 most likely pass and 1 only if I can get it in an after Christmas sale. Not a lot of reason to go to the store, is there?


There’s another ornament I want! I somehow missed the 2016 Baking Mom & Daughter Memories, which I like way more than the 2015 Making Mom & Daughter Memories. The 2016 Season’s Treatings is finally a Cinnamon Rolls theme. Cinnamon Rolls have special significance to me, but I’m on the fence about the design.

My willingness to spend money has increased the past couple of years. I hemmed and hawed about purchasing the the wine bottle wall art that decorated our dinning room walls with when Domingo and I first moved in together. Domingo had to convince me that it really wasn’t that expensive to buy both the white and red pieces. A few years later I lamented not having purchased a backup set. Sadly, they broke in our move not two years after that, thank you movers who put them in a box without wrapping them first.

The ‘I should get a back up set’ (or ‘should have gotten’ in this case) is the good I-wish-I-spent-more feeling. Lately I’ve had a few of the not so good I-wish-I-spent-more feeling. The reading chair we purchased for the office came cheap from Amazon. Sadly it both looks and feels as cheap as it was. I wish I had purchased a different chair, a nicer one. The deck furniture was similarly disappointing. It’s already has some rust after just one season of use. I can’t really bemoan the purchase of the Ikea couch. We got it at a basement bargain price for the apartment. We weren’t sure where we were likely to move, and I didn’t want to spend a penny more than I had to on something that might not work in the new place. It was the cheapest couch I could find, and meant to only be temporary.

Then there were the good purchases. The Mainstays table for the kitchen was a steal. The initial table I bought that arrived broken, only had two chairs and cost more. Our dinning room table was another great purchase, though the shipping and handling surcharge eat into the discount a bit. And, of course, I ended up liking our Christmas trees that were a bit of a gamble. I’m glad I didn’t spend one penny more on those items because it’s hard to imagine a different table or tree that I would have appreciated measurably more.

Reflecting on past purchases has me thinking about price points, and whether mine is at the right point. The lower the price point, the greater the chance of being disappointed with the product. (In general at least, price and value may be interlinked but they’re not interchangeable). The higher the price point the less likely to be dissapointed, but the greater the chance that another product may have been equally good for less. The greater the risk of over paying. There’s a trade off between paying as little as possible, and being happy with one’s purchases.

dissapointed missingout
Probability of being disappointed as a function of price point, and probability of missing out on a deal as a function of price point.

happiness
Putting the two charts together to get an idea of overall happiness.
Minimizing the probability of being disappointed means maximizing the probability of over spending and vise versa. The trick is finding the sweet spot where the both probabilities are in the acceptable range for your sensibilities.

I could lower my price point, but it means more back and forth. More returning items I’m really not happy with. More accepting items I’m marginally happy with. I initially assumed my batting average wasn’t that great. I’m starting to think my price point might be just about right after all. I certainly wouldn’t go lower. I don’t have as much patience as I once did, or time, to handle more returns and more calls to customer service. But I’m happy I’m not spending more too. A penny saved, and all.

This weekend we purchased a new set of patio chairs. I spent a bit more than I typically do. Here’s hoping I don’t regret it.


patiochairs

I don’t regret it!

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