Posted on 8/30/2011 16:18 EST
There's something about being the owner of a brand-new piece of merchandise, and often that something is an empty wallet.
Although certain items are better bought new (underwear, mattresses) many can be found second-hand at dramatic savings without any compromise in quality.
You can find good deals when purchasing the following items secondhand:
Boats After an initial burst of enthusiasm, many boat owners realize they just don't have much time to spend out on the water. For this reason, you can often snag a catch for cheap, be it a simple kayak or canoe, standard motorboat, or luxurious cabin cruiser.
When checking out a boat, pay special attention to the hull; that's where the damage will be if the boat has been in a collision or run into an underwater hazard. Always insist on a test ride on the water to check for leaks and to make sure the mechanicals function as designed.
Bicycles Stand in a bicycle shop on the first nice spring day and you'll see customers thick as spawning salmon. By the time summer wanes, though, many of those newly acquired bikes will be gathering cobwebs, victims of good intentions. After sitting for a few years, many end up at garage sales or on Craigslist.
Bicycles are simple mechanical devices that don't wear out quickly even as they lose value, which means they can be had at a bargain, especially in the off-season.
Spin the wheels to see if they whirl true, run through the gears to make sure they shift, and check the tires for wear. If the bike passes your inspection, you're probably good to go at a price that should leave you smiling as you ride.
Musical Instruments Trumpets and trombones and snare drums and violins are often youthful enthusiasms, and as musicians age out of the band scene (rock or marching), their old instruments often end up on the used market. You could score a bargain. But first, look for obvious signs of abuse (such as dents and scratches) and make sure the moving parts move freely.
Exercise Equipment The expanding waistline of the average American inspires many a purchase of elaborate exercise equipment. At some point, though, many owners who have come to use the equipment as an expensive coat stand decide to offer it for sale at a dramatically lower price point. Your gain, so to speak; their loss. Make sure all the parts are included and look for excessive wear on moving parts before carting off your prize.
Cars Surely you know the familiar refrain: the most expensive mile you'll ever drive is that first mile on the way home from the showroom. The depreciation is staggering. But with leased cars coming back on the market and generous guarantees for certified used cars, it doesn't make any sense to eat that depreciation just for the thrill of a new-car smell. You can put an air freshener that will replicate that smell in a used car and save yourself thousands of dollars.
Find a mechanic you can trust to check the car, see what Consumer Reports has to say about the make and model's reliability, and don't forget to consult CarFax, which provides a written history of the car's ownership and insurance claims.
Hand Tools The baby boomer generation is approaching retirement, and many people are choosing to downsize theirhomes and move into condos or retirement villages. This means that potentially thousands of households will be offloading their tool collections, so you'll have a great chance to stock up on tools that never wearout, such as hammers, pliers, planes, chisels, screwdrivers, and the like. Stay away from files and saws, though; these do wear out, although the wear might not be apparent.
Golf Clubs Thanks to the seductive advertising of the golf equipment industry, the average duffer comes to believe that new clubs will magically improve the old swing. This common delusion means excellent quality used clubs can sometimes be had for a relative song, especially late in the season. Make sure the shafts are straight and the heads are solidly attached. If you're lucky, you'll land a set that will surely improve your less-than-ideal swing.
Final Tips Of course, buying used requires that you be on your toes. Before cutting a deal, size up the seller. If other items are for sale, are they well maintained? Does the seller hold to the quoted price? Does the item match the description? Is it offered out of a car trunk in an alley behind a bar?
It's usually impossible online, but never pay before receiving your goods when buying face to face. Be prepared to walk away if a "bargain" doesn't pass the sniff test. In short, trust your instincts.
Posted on 8/24/2011 12:29 EST
Back in September 1998, the non-profit trade association Promotion Marketing Association, Inc., or PMA, held its first Coupon Month to educate on savings. Now 13 years later, September is National Coupon Month, a reminder (welcome or not) that coupons have become a permanent fixture in the consumer landscape.
The lingering recession has only reinforced the use of coupon clipping and printing, a tactic shoppers and retailers champion as a means of reinvigorating sluggish consumer spending. Indeed, PMA says you can save $1,000 a year by devoting 20 minutes a week to clipping coupons.
The National Coupon Month web site
offers tips that educate on savings, including how to make the most of your coupons. Other sites and companies are jumping on the coupon bandwagon, as well. Couponsherpa.com, for example, has posted 30 savings tips on its Ilovecouponmonth.com site
. Shopping deals site Buxr.com
is hosting a $50 coupon trivia giveaway until August 29.
Cheapism also lists several resources that educate on savings. Check them out now -- Coupon Month begins in a few days and expires 30 days thereafter.
What are the best coupon sites?
Coupon Apps for iPhones, Android Phones and Blackberrys
Costco vs. Sam's Club Credit, Sam's vs. Costco Club Coupons
Mommy coupon sites
New York pizza coupons
Coupon clipping a waste of time -- and money -- for some
Take grocery coupons to the next level
Best coupon websites for grocery savings
Social couponing: 4 tips for local bargain hunters
Dining on a Dime: Free Appetizers, Wine and Other Restaurant Coupons
Posted on 8/24/2011 6:01 EST
Frugal parents seeking a one-stop shop for back-to-school will find it at Sears, which carries a wide selection of cheap kids clothes. On the other hand, those looking for cheap school uniforms will have better luck at JC Penney.
And those who simply want the cheapest choice? Well, that's Walmart (no surprise there).
Those are some of the findings of a survey by Cheapism.com, the only review site dedicated exclusively to finding quality, low-cost products. Cheapism's team visited seven stores and checked the prices on hundreds of items to find the best cheap back-to-school clothes.
Cheapism's shopping cart test compared the cost of outfitting a boy and a girl between 7 and 10 years old at Target, Kmart, Walmart, Sears, Old Navy, JC Penney, and Kohl's. The list at each store included shirts and hoodies, jeans, dress pants and dresses, uniforms, shoes, pajamas, and underwear. All that and more came to $218.36 at Walmart, compared with $705.13 at Kohl's, the most expensive store. Cheapism's kids clothes comparison chart details the prices of all the items at each store.
The comparison takes into account not just price but also factors such as the stores' selection, clothing quality, coupons, and return policies. Higher prices at Kohl's are tempered by frequent sales and a unique, hassle-free return policy. Old Navy delivers high quality across the board and proved the best bet for cheap kids shirts, while Target is Cheapism's pick for cheap kids shoes. The online buying guide includes a "winners chart" that breaks down the best kids clothes stores in each category.
Check out or post on more ways to save money on school supplies and other necessities.
Posted on 8/23/2011 18:06 EST
We recently updated our buying guides for cheap dishwashers and exercise bikes. We scoped out new products and checked out what users and experts say about them. Read our reviews if you're considering one of these major purchases this fall.
As most frugal consumers know, a dishwasher is a saving grace for busy families that barely have time to get dinner on the table, let alone clean up afterwards. That means you want a model that's reliable, leaves dishes and utensils spotless, and doesn't decimate your budget. You may have to forgo a few frills, like near silent operation and less flexible loading options, to keep the tab under $500. But our research found that the sacrifices are relatively minor. Even the lowest-cost
appliances come with some perks, such as adjustable racks and multiple wash settings. Better yet, they clean dishes just as well as their pricier cousins. The best budget dishwashers have at least two spray/wash arms to attack grime from under each of the racks and water that shoots out from different levels.
We also found that dishwasher manufacturers are increasingly responding to environmental concerns when designing new models. The best dishwashers on our list, the Bosch Ascenta SHE5ALO2UC and Whirlpool DU1301XTV, come with an electronic soil sensor that controls the cleaning action based on how dirty the load is. All the dishwashers we like are Energy Star qualified, meaning they meet or exceed the standards for consumption of water and electricity set by the federal government. For more information on how to save this fall -- monetarily and environmentally -- read the complete dishwasher guide
We also updated our guide to cheap exercise bikes
, which will help you save this fall if you decide to transfer your workout regimen to your living room from the pricey gym. We found several good budget exercise bikes costing less than $400 bearing labels from Schwinn, Marcy, ProForm, and NordicTrack. Note, though, that these exercise bikes are built for pedaling up to about five miles a day; more committed exercisers should probably consider more upscale models.
That said, you can still get a challenging workout with the exercise bikes on our list. There are three types of exercise bikes
: recumbent, upright, and spinner. The best budget exercise bikes let you adjust the resistance and some come with preset workouts and keep track of vital statistics, like distance traveled and calories burned. Whichever you choose, make sure it's the right size for your body and the seat is comfortable. If something is off -- the seat is too hard, the pedals too far away, the handlebars bump your knees -- you'll have one more excuse to put off using it. Sure, you'll save this fall by buying a budget exercise bike, but where's the return on your investment if it just sits there?