Savings Tip: Mind Your Assumptions

26 Aug

Photo by Denise Kreb via Flickr

Photo by Denise Kreb via Flickr

When you’re in need of a new pair of athletic shoes, JCPenney isn’t exactly the first store to come to mind, at least not for me. The last purchase I made from JCPenney was a pair of sale slippers, which I found later for several dollars less at TJMaxx. It’s in those moments where my bias against department stores is reinforced, and I assume they never have the best prices.

Well, that assumption can be costly, as I learned recently during a shopping trip with my mom.

We met up at DSW recently in search of comfy, supportive sneakers. Her old New Balance faithfuls were just that: old, and leading to pain in her ankles and knees. She purchased them several years ago from Ross for a whopping $12. Those were the good ol’ days when our local Ross was a hotbed of incredible bargains. Now, it’s a hot mess of merchandising, requiring serious tunnel vision and absolutely no expectation of finding something.

She tried on several pairs of shoes – New Balance, ASICS, Ryka, Dr. Scholls, Saucony – and put them all to the test: pacing between mirrors, lightly jumping up and down, trying on different sizes to compare comfort. Turns out, shopping for athletic shoes is a workout in itself!

After some deliberation between a black pair of New Balance shoes and a lesser-priced pair of ASICS, she opted for the former pair. Priced at $65, the New Balance sneaks were higher than some of her other options, so I fired up my RedLaser app and started scanning. The ASICS could be found for $5 less online, but the New Balance was priced at $55 over at JCPenney. Encouraged, I went to JCPenney’s website to see if the shoes were available at our local store. My patience waned thin as my phone slowly loaded JCPenney’s page and navigated to the shoe page. My waiting paid off – they had a pair in stock.

We braved 5 o’clock traffic in pursuit of savings, and were rewarded with a well-stocked shoe department including the coveted New Balance kicks. At checkout, I showed the cashier a coupon for an extra 15% off, a bit of a gamble since the coupon only applied to “select items.” One of those items was athletic shoes, so no extra discount for us.

All in all, we saved $10 by taking a few minutes to compare prices. Even the cashier was impressed by the cost difference.

I never thought we would end up at JCPenney to buy athletic shoes, but I’m glad I didn’t let my assumption get in the way of savings. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: it pays to compare!

Sunshine (On My Blog) Makes Me Happy

19 Aug


I was surprised recently by a direct message from one of my favorite bloggers, Kristin Wong over at Brokepedia, telling me she’d just nominated me for a Sunshine Blogger Award. Whaaaa!? Warm fuzzies broke out everywhere, my friends!

What is the Sunshine Blogger Award, you ask? Well, I would try to top Kristin’s description, but why mess with perfection?

It’s more of a movement than an official award. The Sunshine Blogger Award is a networking tool to get bloggers to connect, support, and get to know each other. Nothing wrong with that. There’s a lot of solid, useful content out there, and the personal finance blogging community, in particular, is pretty stellar.

Well said, Kristin! As her post suggests, I need to:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated me. THANK YOU KRISTIN!!
  • Answer her questions.
  • Nominate other bloggers.
  • Create a list of just as many questions.
  • Notify the nominees.

Easy enough. Here goes!


What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done to save cash?

I once returned something within minutes of purchasing it. My hubs and I thought we wanted a Wii gaming system, but after swiping my card for over $400 in charges, we instantly regretted it. The electronics department at our local Target is located at the back of the store, and we walked directly to customer service at the front of the store to return it. We felt silly but realized the sick feeling we both shared was a strong indication of a bad buy.

What do you love most about blogging?

I love writing and engaging with people on shared topics of interest. Not everyone in my immediate social group wants to hear about my latest shopping and saving exploits (shocking, I know), so blogging offers an outlet to engage with others who enjoy nerding out about saving money. I’ve also always loved writing, and the ability to create stories and be inspired by others’ styles and experiences is a true joy.

On a side note, I’d love a space where I could not only write about money but also about other topics of interest, including minimalism, yoga, wanderlust and others. I’ve been mulling over a plan of attack for this and hope to have something in the works soon.

What’s the hardest part about maintaining your own blog?

I have several other writing-related responsibilities that keep me from updating my blog as often as I’d like. That’s hardly an excuse in this community, as I know several full-time freelancers who manage to keep their blogs up-to-date while also showing up practically everywhere else on the Interwebs sporting unique content. Props to all you hustlers – you inspire!!

I also struggle with coming up with new, interesting angles about which to write. There’s only so many times you guys want to hear about my exploits at TJMaxx, after all. When I feel like I’m in a rut, I visit my favorite bloggers’ sites and am often inspired by a post or experience which then leads to a unique story of my own.

What’s your favorite book?

Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. Before you roll your eyes for my lack of originality, hear me out. I read this book once every couple years and every time I’m struck by the language. Thanks to working on the Internet all day, I’ve become a skimmer – I have to consciously remind myself to slow down and absorb what I’m reading. With Austen, this is a necessity, not an option. To access the full value of the experience, it must be read slowly and with purpose. You’re rewarded with a beautifully constructed jab, reprimand or insight that more often than not brings a smile to your face. At least for me. I fall in the love with the English language when I read Pride & Prejudice: it inspires me to be a better writer, to expand my vocabulary and to create a more precise-yet-polished way to convey my ideas.

In essence, this novel “bewitches me body and soul.” Muah! Plus, there’s a lot more sarcasm and snark than you might expect, delivered with such eloquence that you can’t help but respect it.

What’s the best money advice you’ve ever received?

Hmmm…I’m going to break the rules and offer two. First, from my mom: earn your own money. Second, from my husband: debt is evil. The first lesson helped me avoid financial dependency, and the second helped me reign in my spendthrift habits. I’m grateful to everyone who has influenced my money habits and while I have a lot to learn, I’m incredibly blessed to be where I’m at financially.

Now, on to my nominations for the Sunshine Blogger Award!


  • What first prompted you to start a blog about personal finance?
  • What’s your top piece of advice for driving blog engagement?
  • Describe the best deal you ever scored, and how.
  • What was the last TV series you binge-watched?
  • What app are you using a lot these days?

Another BIG THANK YOU to Kristin for nominating me! I look forward to reading what my nominees create and finding new bloggers to follow.

That Time I Wore Alpaca

13 Aug


I need to work on my model smile, apparently.

On my way up to the set of KDVR’s Good Day Colorado this morning, I was asked by a Colorado’s Best guest to help model her designer alpaca clothing.


While I had back-to-school bargains on the mind, I thought it might be fun to do a little twirling in a material with which I have zero experience.

You can view my segment with Good Day here, where I discuss stocking up on loss-leader supplies, comparing prices, requesting price-matches (especially from Staples, who is currently offer a 110% price-match guarantee), and buying gently-used clothing and electronics. With school supplies increasing in price, it’s important to save as much money as you can!

Now, back to the alpaca threads. Northern Colorado dwellers can attend the second-annual Suri Strut Fashion Show at Embassy Suites in Loveland, Colo., starting tonight at 5:30pm. Admission is just $5 plus you can get autographs from this gorgeous Colorado celebrity. Interwebs, meet Cody the Alpaca!

I could never pull off those booties. You go girl!

I could never pull off those booties. You go girl!


Isn’t she fabulous? Apparently she is one of the smallest surviving alpaca babies, weighing in at just 6.5 pounds when she was born (compared to the average alpaca birth size of 15 to 20 pounds). She was very weak and very sick, but a dedicated ranch owner nursed her to health and eventual fame – she’s now a children’s book author! You can read more about Cody here.

Aaaaand that’s a wrap. I never imagined sharing the green room with an alpaca, but I’m pleased to have met Cody and hope the fashion show goes well tonight!

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

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?