Money blahs can yield unexpected dividends - Tucson Local Media: Editorials

Money blahs can yield unexpected dividends

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Posted: Wednesday, January 26, 2011 12:00 am

Most of us like to buy stuff. I’m not talking here about non-negotiable necessities, but about those little extras that make life fun. Whether it’s a child whining for that toy of choice, a teenager who covets the newest computer game or even an adult who wants to keep up with the Joneses, the feeling is the same: I like,

I want, I’m entitled.

The other side of the coin, financially speaking, is that we’re still in the grips of a recession. Moreover, that small stash of cash many folks had accumulated by last November was blown during the holidays.

The January blahs are in full swing. Yet, we are still tantalized at every turn by the latest “tchotchke,” the blingiest bling and so much more. Short of finding a few extra coins in the couch cushions or winning the lottery, are there any other ways to legally get some extra money to spend now or set aside for a rainy day, which happens even in sunny Tucson?

The answer is a resounding yes. Take, for example, one day about two weeks ago. I was actually able to get a mini-windfall of more than $l00 by following a few simple steps. First was to return an unworn jacket to a women’s boutique that I had bought well over a year ago. I felt a pang of guilt taking it back after all this time, but as my mother used to say, you can always ask. I had lost the receipt but the tags were still in place. Fortunately, the store has a no-expiration-date policy on returns. Within a couple of days, the $l6.50 sale price was credited to my account. (Be sure to check with your favorite stores about their return policy.)

Next was to send back an inexpensive pendant and pair of boots bought online that simply weren’t working for me. How much easier (and I confess more tempting) it would have been to simply lay aside these items and later give them away. The extra little effort it took to repackage them and stand in line at the post office not only gave me a feeling of accomplishment, but I heard the “kachink kachink” in my head of found money that was starting to add up.

Later that day, I stopped at Staples. A ream of paper I wanted to purchase there had a rebate that could be secured online. After I explained to the salesman/tech expert that I was a computer weenie, he offered to get the rebate for me on the store’s computer. That was a win-win situation. I praised the salesman for great customer service and he got me signed up for the rebate.

There are a few other tricks my friends and I use that add a splash of green to our wallets. They include:

• Practice patience. Do you really need that item today or can you learn the art of delayed gratification? Get the stock number of the item you want and make a call every so often to see if it’s been reduced; better yet ask a salesperson with whom you have a good working relationship to call you when it goes on sale. True, you run a small risk of having the item sell at full price, but I’m usually willing to take that risk for the chance to get a great deal.

• Rent (in store or online) or buy resale — from purses to party attire to countless other items. How many times have we used or worn a big ticket purchase once or twice, only to have it collect dust in the closet or garage from then on? One of the most well-known online sites is">

• Try price-matching. My friend Mimi scoured the Internet for the best price on a treadmill. After she found it (on Amazon, would you believe!), she printed out a sheet with a picture of the treadmill, specs and price and took it to Play It Again Sports. The sporting goods store was advertising the same item at a higher price, yet the manager quickly agreed to match the Internet price.

According to company policy, “Play It Again Sports will meet or beat any local or online competitor’s advertised price on any same item in stock at the time of advertisement. Some exclusions apply.” Mimi has used this same technique to get great prices on everything from a toaster oven to CD player.

• Enter contests. Stein Mart held an online contest this past December. All folks had to do was submit their e-mail address, on a daily basis if they so desired. The first l8 days, I got nothing. On day l9, I won a $50 gift card.

• Get a variety of services done by supervised students. My friend Douglas swears by the $5 haircuts he gets at the barber college.

But perhaps the best money saver of all is asking yourself these few basic questions: Will I wear it, use it or look at it often? Will it delight the person receiving it? Can I afford it? If the answer is no, maybe you don’t need to buy it after all. That’s one of the easiest ways I know to put money in the bank!

Barbara Russek welcomes comments at

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