A “Stupid Costs Money” Guide to Smarter Buying

I’ve gleaned the personal finance columns and come up with suggestions on a combined theme of  “things not to buy when your personal economy sucks” and “things not to buy to avoid being stupid.” Here are–10 things you shouldn’t pay for and 10 things you shouldn’t buy new:

10 Things You Shouldn’t Pay For

(h/t: Money magazine and CNN)

  1. Cell Phone — The service plan may be expensive, but the phone itself doesn’t have to cost a thing. Most major carriers will give you a free phone, even a free smart phone, with a two-year contract.
  2. Water — Besides the monthly utility bill, there’s no reason to shell out money for every bottle of water you drink. Bottled water is so last decade anyway. We’re over it, and into tap, filters, and reusable water bottles. It’s cheaper and healthier for you and better for the environment.
  3. Books — There’s a cool place in your town that’s renting out books for free: the library. Remember that place? Stop by and put your favorite book on reserve. And if you don’t feel like getting out, visit www.paperbackswap.com and find your books there (small shipping fees apply).
  4. Pets — There are likely many pets down at your local animal shelter that could use just as much love as the pure-bred types. There may be a small fee due to the shelter for shots and basic care, but you’ll have your pet home without paying a mini-fortune.
  5. Shipping — If you like to buy online, you probably use coupons to get a percentage off of your purchase. Take your skills to the next level and look for coupons or promotion codes that offer free shipping. If in doubt, visit a site like www.freeshipping.org.
  6. DVD Rentals — Did you know that you can rent DVDs from RedBox locations for $1 a night? And better yet, if you use one of the coupon codes from www.insideredbox.com you can avoid the $1 charge. Free DVD rentals! Most libraries now have free DVD rental as well.
  7. Basic Computer Software — Thinking of purchasing a new computer? Think twice before you fork over the funds for a bunch of extra software. There are some great alternatives to the name brand software programs. The most notable is OpenOffice, the open-source alternative to those other guys. It’s completely free and files can be exported in compatible formats.
  8. Your Credit Report — You don’t have to pay for your credit report. You could sign up for one of the free credit monitoring services online to get a quick look at your credit report. You just have to remember to cancel the service before the end of the free trial. Or you could do one better and visit www.annualcreditreport.com, the only truly free place to see all three of your credit reports for free once a year
  9. Many Household Items: The Freecycle Network, a nonprofit community group with an environmental mission, lets users “recycle” unwanted items by posting ads on local online bulletin boards. If you see a chair or a computer that you’d like, respond to the ad. The site is a great way to acquire a perfectly good coffeemaker or piano while doing your part to reduce waste. What’s the Catch? You’re responsible for getting the stuff home.
  10. Photos:  In addition to photo sharing and online albums, Dotphoto and Snapfish provide 15 to 50 free prints when you sign up. You have to pay for shipping, which usually isn’t more than a few dollars

 10 Things You Shouldn’t Buy New

(h/t:Yahoo)  

  1. DVDs and CDs: Used DVDs and CDs will play like new if they were well taken care of. Even if you wind up with a scratched disc and you don’t want to bother with a return, there are ways to remove the scratches and make the DVD or CD playable again.
  2. Books: You can buy used books at significant discounts from online sellers and brick-and-mortar used book stores. The condition of the books may vary, but they usually range from good to like-new.
  3. Video Games: Kids get tired of video games rather quickly. You can easily find used video games from online sellers at sites like Amazon and eBay a few months after the release date. Most video game store outlets will feature a used game shelf, as well.
  4. A lot of your clothes: While you can’t find everything (shoes are tough), you can buy an amazing number of clothing items (especially in this hyper-casual era) at a Salvation Army Thrift Store or at Goodwill. This is especially true of Special Occasion and Holiday Clothing and Maternity and Baby Clothes:.
  5. Games and Toys: How long do games and toys remain your child’s favorite before they’re left forgotten under the bed or in the closet? You can find used children’s toys in great condition at moving sales or on Craigslist, or you can ask your neighbors, friends, and family to trade used toys. Just make sure to give them a good wash before letting junior play.
  6. Musical Instruments: Purchasing new musical instruments for a beginner musician is rarely a good idea. (Are you ready to pay $60 an hour for piano lessons?) For your little dear who wants to learn to play an instrument, you should see how long his or her interest lasts by acquiring a rented or used instrument to practice with first. Unless you’re a professional musician or your junior prodigy is seriously committed to music, a brand new instrument may not be the best investment.
  7. Home Accent: Pieces Home decorating pieces and artwork are rarely handled on a day-to-day basis, so they’re generally still in good condition even after being resold multiple times. If you like the worn-out look of some decor pieces, you can be sure you didn’t pay extra for something that comes naturally with time. And don’t forget, for most of us, discovering a true gem at a garage sale is 90% of the fun!
  8. Office Furniture: Good office furniture is built to withstand heavy use and handling. Really solid pieces will last a lifetime, long after they’re resold the first or second time. A great used desk or file cabinet will work as well as (or better than) a new one, but for a fraction of the cost. With the recession shutting down so many businesses, you can easily find lots of great office furniture deals.
  9. Cars: You’ve probably heard this before: Cars depreciate the second you drive them off of the dealership’s lot. In buying a used car, you save money on both the initial cost and the insurance. It also helps to know a trusty mechanic who can check it over first. This way, you’ll be aware of any potential problems before you make the purchase.
  10. Sports Equipment: Most people buy sports equipment planning to use it until it drops, but this rarely happens. So when sports equipment ends up on the resale market, they tend to still be in excellent condition. Look into buying used sporting gear through Craigslist and at yard sales or sports equipment stores.
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About Jim Jewell

I am a writer and consultant on faith and public life, active for many years in management and communications in the evangelical community. I now work as the director of the nonprofit practice at The Valcort Group (www.valcort.com). Everything on this blog, however, is my personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. Opinions, conclusions and other information expressed here do not necessarily reflect the views of Valcort.
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