Good-Bye Shop To It

Saying good-bye to an old friend is always tough. And I'm afraid this is yet another tough good-bye. This is Shop To It's final blog post. Together we have tried to figure out this crazy world of retail since October 2007. As I write this farewell, it's only appropriate that I look back on all the valuable advice we've exchanged over the last 18 months. Here are a few of my favorite reader tips:

Tip #1: When it comes to keeping the clutter under control, reader FinallyOrganized shared with us a household rule that "if a new something comes in the house, something old must go." I think this is especially important when bringing in new toys, right kids?

Tip #2: Anyone who's buying furniture should heed the advice of McLean. Measure out the dimensions of the piece of furniture you're considering buying with masking tape on the floor of your room to see how the piece will actually fit. Great advice because furniture always looks bigger or smaller in the store than in your own house.

Tip #3: Not much would get Shop To It readers going like groceries. Anytime I wrote about food shopping, the comments just came pouring in. I especially liked the words of wisdom dispensed by Apostrophe, comparing the per-ounce costs of bigger sizes of items to the smaller ones. "...often, two or more of a smaller size on sale will be much less expensive than the huge 'economy size' package of the same product." Very true. Sometimes even bulk items at places like BJ's and Costco are more expensive per item than just buying the normal sizes at the grocery store.

Tip #4: Chass also had a great suggestion for grocery stores when it comes to their loyalty cards. "Wouldn't it be nice if, in return for allowing the store to collect all this information on our buying habits, if once a year they offered us patrons a copy of our annual purchases? It might be incredibly enlightening to see an annual aggregation of all of your purchases." I agree. You could pick out the items that you spend the most on and see if there are ways to save.

Tip #5: Many Shop To It readers skip right over the green products I mentioned in my recent Earth Day post and head straight to natural, make-at-home cleaners like vinegar, baking soda, lemon juice and borax. If they work, then they definitely would be a better bargain than some of the big-ticket green products on the market. Hey, we all want to save the planet but saving our bank accounts is a more immediate concern.

Tip #6: A few readers had some tips on buying house paint. If you like a designer color, take the paint chip to a place like Home Depot and Lowe's and ask them to match it. That way you avoid paying designer paint prices.

Tip #6: LBH219 had a good way to solve the dilemma of buying cheap versus buying quality. Stuff that's used for the short term can go cheap but the stuff that gets heavy-duty use should go the way of quality even if it's more expensive.

Tip #7: One of my favorite experts is Jeff Yeager, who introduced us to the concept of a fiscal fast. You may recall we spent a whole week without spending a single dime. It was a fun experiment and one that I actually continue to do from time to time. I do a Target fast every other month. Have you noticed a drop in their stock value since I started doing that?

Whether you're an environmentalist, a frugalist, a spender or a saver, my best piece of advice for this recession and any time after that is to think about each purchase before making it. Do you really need it? No, seriously. Do you really need it? Be honest with yourself. Because one thing I've learned about myself in the last 18 months is I buy too much. This blog was never about excessive shopping. It was always about making the right shopping decisions. And sometimes, just sometimes, that decision is to not buy, even if you have a coupon.

So farewell, dear readers. Thanks for all your valuable comments and the lively discussions. If you see me at Target or bump into my cart at Wegmans, say hi and show me the deals you've found.

Editor's Note: For more ways to save money, check out our new blog, Small Change.

By Tania Anderson |  April 30, 2009; 12:00 AM ET General Interest
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Comments

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Best of luck to you! There have been good things here over the past 18 months.

Posted by: BadMommy1 | April 30, 2009 6:04 AM

Wishing you all the best. But someone there must pick up the gauntlet and continue the good fight, maybe taking this blog to a new level, such as "frugal 101".

The only way the WaPo readership can benefit from each others collective knowledge on saving money, is to have this discussion continue.

Posted by: ziggyzippy | April 30, 2009 7:18 AM

I also wish you all the best! Not happy at all that this blog is going away. It's a useful tool and I don't even live in the DC area!

Posted by: MILW | April 30, 2009 8:15 AM

I guess we'll never find out how using coupons worked for you!

Posted by: subwayguy | April 30, 2009 8:29 AM

Aw, man. I'll miss your writing.

Posted by: csdiego | April 30, 2009 10:06 AM

I'm still working on my relationship with coupons subwayguy. I have been using a few coupons for my grocery shopping, but only for things that I normally buy. I don't think coupons are of any use when you end up buying things just for the thrill of using a coupon, which I think is a trap that people get into. I would love coupons more if I could find some for fruits, vegetables and meat. How about a buy one apple, get a second free coupon? Or a couple dollars off flank steak? So my conclusion...we need better coupons!

Posted by: ShopToIt | April 30, 2009 10:09 AM

Amen on that! Not buying things that you don't need because you have a coupon is a critical issue! Also, often the coupon won't drop the brand name below the per-ounce price on the store brand: also a no deal.

But that said, I keep a section of my coupons called "staples." Oatmeal, sugar, flour, coffee, tea -- all of these go in there, and I do get coupons for those items. I also like coupons for frozen vegetables. They keep infinitely longer, and then there is no pressure to eat broccoli by a certain drop-dead date. I like a little more flexibility in choosing which veggies to present to the kids for rejection. ;)

Lastly, I do sometimes use fruit coupons. These come in the form of pre-packaged fruit. Some are sections in juice, convenience cups of fruit in juice (which, when they get cheap enough, become a splurge item for lunches), that kind of thing.

So there are definitely a ton of unhealthy, overly processed items in the coupons. But I still do very well on items I will use in cooking from scratch, or will use in lunches. This week might I recommend the triple coupons at Harris Teeter? Also, lots of packages of Wholly Guacamole have a $1 coupon on the front that is a "use now." Considering that most of the avocados I buy are destined to be pulverized, that gets the premade guac down to a price I couldn't reach buying fresh avocados.

Posted by: BadMommy1 | April 30, 2009 12:16 PM

Sorry to see you go! Best wishes...

Posted by: marshas19 | April 30, 2009 2:34 PM

When buying paper products like TP, paper towels and tissues, buying in bulk at BJ's and Costco's is no bargain. The price per unit is much much cheaper at Target and Wal-Mart.

Posted by: signof4 | April 30, 2009 4:46 PM

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