To Return or Not to Return?

23 Jul

Photo by Jenn Turner via Flickr/Creative Commons

Photo by Jenn Turner via Flickr/Creative Commons

That is the question (whether like it or not).

Despite the convenience of online shopping, I’m still primarily an in-store shopper. I like to touch and feel things, especially clothing. As I work toward changing my relationship with things (and having recently decluttered my closet), I don’t want to feel tempted to keep something I don’t like just to dodge return shipping fees.

And yet, it’s very difficult for me to swallow a $6 or $8 shipping fee when what I order doesn’t turn out as expected. Shipping it back and getting charged a fee is like paying a store for the privilege of trying something on. This is madness and further reinforces why I should stop shopping online for clothing.

What’s even more insane, however, is keeping a $20-$50 garment just to avoid an $8 charge. It’s like loading up your shopping cart with and extra $25 worth of crap to qualify for “free” shipping and avoid an $8 shipping fee.

Seeing that in black and white further proves how preposterous it is, and yet I can’t shake the feeling of being duped. It feels like a scam, one that this store successfully pulled off.

So, even though what I purchased was exclusive to the online store, I opened a live chat on their website and asked if I could return the item to my local boutique. To my surprise, I could return the item to the store and when I did, the sales associate told me they accept all online orders excluding maternity and swimwear. Good. To. Know.

In the end, I was refunded the cost of the garment sans the shipping charge I incurred when I initially ordered it. Returning it to the store only saved me from incurring return shipping charges, but hey, it’s better than nothing. I made it a point to leave the store immediately lest my savings be totally consumed by the clearance rack located strategically adjacent to check out.

The store may have won this round, but I’m getting stronger.

How to Save on July 4th Supplies

30 Jun

I love me some Fourth of July festivities! Every year I join my extended family in SoCal and soak up the sunshine poolside while munching on seven-layer dip and my grandma’s potato salad. Carbolicious!

My nostalgia for this time of year is why I loved sharing savings tips for July 4th essentials with Brooke Wagner and the rest of the Good Day Colorado team. Plus, it offered an excuse to make cupcakes with my mom’s special chocolate frosting recipe. It doesn’t hold up well in the sun as you’ll notice, but it still made for an amazing breakfast. You heard that right — cupcakes. For breakfast. BOOM.

Changing My Relationship with Things

22 Jun

Photo by Annie Mole via Flickr.

Photo by Annie Mole via Flickr.

Hi, my name is Kendal and I’m a Materialist.

I love new things. New clothes, new shoes, new decor, new accessories. I consider shopping a hobby and crave the high I get when I buy something I love. In recent years, however, my attitude about new things has started to change. I’d like to say it’s a natural progression toward maturity, but it’s not — it’s been the result of a conscious effort to enjoy what I already have and save money for less materialistic pursuits that I’ve identified as more important, namely travel and financial freedom.

It’s not been easy and I still struggle with the desire to buy things. To curb impulse purchases, I’ve adopted three primary strategies to help myself focus on my long-term goals.

Focus on what I own vs. what I have yet to purchase.

After reading a book on tidying that prompted me to donate over 50 items of clothing, I found myself content with the clothing that remained. I say “content” because every now and then I feel uninspired by my choices, but feel incredibly good when I create a new outfit I enjoy, anyway. I achieved that feat three times this week and feel a ridiculous sense of accomplishment. Same goes with home decor – when I want to switch things up, I shop other rooms and get creative with items I have around the house to create the look I want so I can decorate for free without adding anything unnecessary to my possessions.

Being honest with myself about what I use.

Intense decluttering requires honesty — there’s no room for “maybes” or “somedays” or “eventually.” As I work my way through my possessions, I’m taking a brutally honest approach about what I use and what I just think/hope/assume I’ll use. I then apply this same discipline when I’m considering a purchase — am I buying this for true utility, or am I buying it because it represents someone I want to be? Typically, the Joneses’ don’t just live next door – they live in your head, and you need to make a concerted effort to keep them out of your decision-making!

Planning my weekday meals better and JUST DOING IT.

I’ve always been a brown-bagger and typically prefer leftovers to any fast food joint near my office. However, when the leftovers run dry, I’m left to making lunch on my own and have recently fallen short. So much so that I’ve been eating out more which means I’ve been spending $6 here, $8 there on work lunches. LAME! I have all the time in the world to meal plan and get food and ingredients prepped for lunch, but laziness has been sabotaging my good intentions. When I kick myself in the butt and get things planned and prepped, I feel a lot better about myself and my week ahead. That’s priceless, and exactly what I focus on when couch time is all I want.

How do you keep yourself from allowing spending to sabotage your financial goals?

Mother’s Day Gifts & Savings Tips

8 May

I had the pleasure of visiting The Windy City earlier this week and sharing Mother’s Day gift recommendations and savings strategies with Chicago viewers. This clip is from the Your Money Matters segment on WGN-TV — enjoy the big smiles and head tilts exhibited by both me and the anchor.

There’s truly something for every Mom on this list, and I plan to use some of them personally before Sunday! Are you ready for Mother’s Day?

That Time I KonMari’d My Closet

23 Apr

krpdrawer
This past weekend, while many of you were being social or enjoying the outdoors, I was holed up in my bedroom, organizing. Specifically, I was applying the KonMari Method, a strategy created by Japanese tidying guru Marie Kondo, to my clothes. You see, I’m increasingly overwhelmed by the sheer volume of stuff I own, and I’m turning to self-help literature to get it under control.

After reading the first few chapters of The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I’ve been giddy with excitement to get started. I literally kept myself awake at night last week pondering the process, looking forward to the moment I could remove everything from my closets and get started.

On Saturday morning, the fun began. I emptied everything from my drawers and closets and organized them by category on my bed and bedroom floor (stopping half-way through to vacuum so my clothes wouldn’t get overtaken by dog hair and rawhide shrapnel). After everything I owned was in its rightful pile, I counted each garment and placed a notecard with the total on each section.

In total, I had 142 items of clothing to my name.

Honestly, I’m surprised by this number not because it’s big, but because it’s smaller than I thought it would be. In fact, I actually hoped it would be closer to 300 so I could purge 75% of it and feel really good out myself. But, 142 pieces is nothing to sneeze at and I was ready for the next step.

Deciding what to keep and what to donate proved harder than anticipated. I started with the tee shirts and immediately hit a road block. I’ve received several new tees over the last few months, but honestly most of them do not “spark joy” as advised by the KonMari Method. They were comfortable and functional to be sure, but did I feel a sense of pleasure when I recalled the last time I wore them? No, but the idea of parting with them led to guilt, which completely undermined my process. Instead of getting defeated, I moved onto another category in hopes of having more success.

Altogether, some categories were easier to purge than others. I struggled most with tees, cascade sweaters and long-sleeved button-up blouses. In fact, after I made my initial selections and had my rejects sitting in bags, I dug through them to retrieve a recently-purchased chambray button-up and v-neck tee. I also paraded around in a mint cascade sweater before wadding it up and throwing it back in the bag.

This is what's left of two closets full of clothes.

This is what’s left of two closets full of clothes.

In total, I filled two garbage bags with clothing rejects, and my husband joined the fun and discarded a full bag himself (though he didn’t take my meticulous approach). In addition to my bedroom closet, I cleaned out my guest room closet which once stored off-season clothing. I also got rid of outerwear from the entrance closet, as did my husband.

Now, the drawer that once contained a mess of wadded up casual clothing is a dream of KonMari-style folded sweaters and loungewear. The guest room closet is free of clothing and the entrance closet has never looked tidier. And my bedroom closet is so empty that I’ve requested a custom shoe, scarf and bag storage system from my husband, the design for which he whipped up in AutoCAD on Sunday.

My biggest regret? Not photographing the process for this blogpost. I was so excited that I powered through the task, partly out of excitement and partly out of fear that I would lose steam if I stopped to snap photos. However, my journey has only just begun and there will be more opportunity to better document my progress. Clothing was the easy part — next up is home decor, books, gadgets, and all the miscellany currently cluttering up my junk drawers and decorative baskets. Wish me luck!

Disclaimer: Ms. Marie Kondo did not pay me or compensate me in any way for this post. I’d love to meet her someday – I think we’d get along swimmingly.

Your Money: March Best/Worst Buys

3 Mar

I barely escaped a snowstorm driving back from this segment today, making the topic all the more ironic. Even though Northern Colorado’s weather doesn’t want to admit it, spring is just around the corner, and that means a new season for deals! I talk best and worst buys in March with Good Day Colorado’s Brooke Wagner.

eBay: Better Late Than Never

20 Feb

You're welcome for this awkward angle.

You’re welcome for this awkward angle.

I’ve finally discovered eBay.

I know I’m a couple decades behind, but I’m lazy. And skeptical. I’m afraid of getting scammed so I’ve tended to avoid eBay entirely. That is until necessity and desperation forced me to discover the wondrous world of online auctions.

This past Christmas was an epic fail from a gift-buying standpoint. I put everything off until the last minute and found myself in a pickle on Christmas Eve, when the e-gift card function on TOMS Shoes’ website was malfunctioning. I tried to place an order several times over a three-day period, and then found the company eliminated the e-gift card option all together. Lame.

Before sending my sister-in-law cash for Christmas, I checked Gift Card Granny for any available discounted gift cards to TOMS. They had one, and it was listed on eBay. It happened to be for the exact amount I wanted to spend, so I decided to go for it. I was in a bidding war with someone else but ended up winning the auction for $2 less than face value.

And just like that, Christmas was saved — albeit a week late.

Fast forward to winter clearance time and I find myself in Banana Republic, falling head-over-heels for a hacking jacket that’s way overpriced. Even in the bargain section it’s priced over 50% higher than I’m willing to pay. As I’m ruminating over my options, the saleswomen are hounding me with credit card offers and new arrivals since they know everything I carried to the dressing room was from the clearance section. Come now, ladies — do I look like I pay full price?

I left Banana Republic empty-handed — actually, I ran to escape the clutches of the overly aggressive saleswomen — and turned to eBay out of curiosity. Sure enough, the exact blazer I tried on was available for $80 on eBay. Still more than I wanted to spend, but I started “watching” a few listings just to keep them in my radar.

After a few days, a gray/blue version of the jacket became available for $32. It’s not NWT and the seller describes it as “some wear,” but it looked decent in the photos and the seller also offered free shipping. I got an email earlier this week telling me the jacket was being offered for 15% less, totaling a little over $28. SOLD!

The jacket arrived in my mailbox last night and it is PURR-FECTION. I’m wearing it as a I type this, feeling super chic and way too proud of myself for finally getting on board with something frugal shoppers have been doing for years. Better late than never, right?

How to Cut V-Day Spending in Half

4 Feb

Photo by me.

Photo by me.

 

So…what the heck happened to January?

The first month of the year evaporated for me despite being totally relaxed compared to the hectic holiday season. It’s already February and I’m busy outlining travel plans for the year and stuffing my face with heart-shaped confections. Does anyone else get excited about holidays purely for the candy?

I was reading the spending estimates for Valentine’s Day the other day and am totally floored by the amount people dish out for Feb. 14 festivities. According to the National Retail Federation, guys will spend an average of $190 on flowers, candy, jewelry and dinner out. Women, on the other hand, will spend about $95. Overall, total spending is expected to exceed $18 billion.

I thought it would be fun to calculate how much typical Valentine’s Day gifts cost and offer ways to cut that cost in half. What do you think? Is this about right or am I totally off base?

FLOWERS
One dozen red roses in a clear vase runs about $55 on 1-800-Flowers. Get it delivered on Valentine’s Day and you’ll add another $17.99. Factor in tax and your total is close to $80.

Cut it in half: Opt for a bouquet of 50 Peruvian Lilies and deliver them on Feb. 12. This way, you avoid the Valentine’s Day delivery fee and provide public adoration for your sweetheart. Use a coupon code for 20-percent off and pay a little over $40 total.

CANDY
A 1-pound heart-shaped box of See’s Candy will run you $30. Add a Hallmark card and supermarket bouquet of flowers and you can increase that to about $45.

Cut it in half: Buy an 8-ounce heart-shaped box for $12.50 instead, which contains plenty of sweet treats and doesn’t sabotage your sweetie’s New Year’s resolutions. Add a dollar-store card for $0.50 to that supermarket bouquet and you’ll spend about $23 total.

JEWELRY
I’ll assume you’re not going to pop the question on Valentine’s Day and opt for something less significant, albeit thoughtful. A trendy bar necklace in white 14K gold, for example, runs about $350 from Jared.

Cut it in half: At Macy’s, a similar style bar necklace in sterling silver is currently priced at $120. Using a coupon code, you can reduce that by 15 percent to just over $100. Meanwhile, Nordstrom offers a similar style for $68, and Etsy offers several hand-made styles for less than $30.

DINNER
The Cupid’s Combo package at The Melting Pot in my area features a four-course dinner with a bottle of either Chardonnay, Merlot or Cabernet, plus a “Touch of Romance candle and petal package dressing the table.” Cost: $125 per couple, or $150 when you factor in 18-percent gratuity.

Cut it in half: My husband and I could share an appetizer, two premium sushi rolls and two local craft brews at our favorite sushi restaurant for $50 (including the 18-percent gratuity). We could then head to The Melting Pot for dessert fondue, which costs about $10 per person. Total damage: $72.

How much do you plan to spend this Valentine’s Day?

Your Money: Costs Rising in 2015

27 Jan

Happy New Year!

I know, I’m about a month late with that sentiment. What can I say, recovery from the holiday season takes time.

This year, I’m transitioning from blogger at Hassle-Free Savings to Savings Expert with Coupon Sherpa. That doesn’t mean I’m abandoning this blog — I still plan to make monthly updates and posts — but it does mean I’ll be spending a bit more time promoting the “Himalayan Haggling He-Man of Bargains” in upcoming media spots.

My latest segment on Good Day Colorado is a fascinating one, at least from a research standpoint. In addition to the products and services featured in this clip, prices on bourbon are also going up. Why? Hipsters. Egg prices are on the rise due to California’s requirement that hens get more space in their pens, and if you do nothing else with this topic today, read this incredible story about “blood” avocados in Mexico.

Conquer Fear in Customer Service

23 Dec

A not-so-scandalous experience.

A not-so-scandalous experience.

I had a great customer service experience recently and have been meaning to share it with you all. The holiday season had other plans. I’ve been go-go-go since October it seems, and I’m still scrambling to get ahead. I’ll be one of those poor schmucks shopping on Christmas Eve, desperately looking for that perfect gift for the remaining people on my list. Wish me luck!

My positive retail experience occurred after a Black Friday purchase of a truly extravagant self-gift — wine glasses. Specifically, Crate & Barrel wine glasses often featured on the show Scandal. Judge me if you will, but my husband and I both drooled after those glasses the first time Olivia took a sip while ruminating on the crisis de jour. With free shipping and a coupon code, I ordered both red and white wine glasses (though I’m really just a red girl).

I received the glasses and was happy to find the red ones as stunning in real life as they are on screen. The white glasses? Not so much. They seemed oddly small and disproportionate. The foot of the glass was the same diameter as the bowl, which for some reason made them appear poorly designed. Understanding the red wine glasses have a whopping capacity of 23 oz., I compared the white wine glass to the ones I have in my cupboard. Even compared to an average white wine glass, these glasses looked comically undersized.

Long story short, I wasn’t satisfied. And this left me in a pickle since I’m 60 miles from the nearest Crate & Barrel store, and my whole purpose in ordering during Black Friday was to dodge the $18 shipping fee. Return shipping fees would no doubt eat into my refund, and after complaining about it my money-savvy friend, she suggested I contact customer service and ask them to waive the return shipping fees.

My initial reaction was “yeah, right.” Why would they? After all, I’m not a regular Crate & Barrel shopper. This is the second item I’ve ever purchased from them, and I did so at a discount. I was afraid of having my plea rejected and feeling even more foolish. Despite my reservations, I placed the call and figured it would be a good example in future stories and segments if it worked out in my favor.

The first person I spoke to seem genuinely concerned that I didn’t like the white wine glasses. She immediately transferred me to customer service where another rep listened to my story and responded with a version of this:

“Tell you what. Because I’m feeling good today and because you’re likely a fan of Scandal, I’m going to send you a prepaid FedEx mailing label for you to return the white wine glasses.”

We then talked about the show and its ability to make us crave red wine and popcorn at inappropriate moments during the day. Apparently Crate & Barrel could barely keep these glasses in stock last year all thanks to their near-constant cameos on Scandal.

By conquering my fear of rejection, I was able to avoid exorbitant return shipping fees and have my faith restored in customer service. This experience is definitely a bright spot in an otherwise hectic holiday season.