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Showing posts with label Why Are Things So Expensive?. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Why Are Things So Expensive?. Show all posts

Friday, March 17, 2017

Why People Are Now Drinking More Bottled Water than Soda?

But You Can Get Water at Home for Almost Free!

An article on Fortune.com a few days ago announced that Americans are now drinking more bottled water than soda.  Why!?


Americans Are Now Drinking More Bottled Water Than Soda
Americans Are Now Drinking More Bottled Water Than Soda

At least drinking water is healthier than drinking soda, but it is stunning to me that so many people are paying for water- something you can get for almost free!  Bottled water has a high cost not only in the price you pay at the convenience store or vending machine, but also in environmental impact.  It takes a lot of energy to transport a heavy product long distances to the store and keep it refrigerated.    Even if you recycle the plastic bottle every time, it still takes energy to produce the plastic bottle in the first place and then to melt it down to recycle the plastic, not to mention the energy to haul it to the recycling facility.

This seems like an unbelievable business model- package something that costs almost nothing that people can easily get at home, and sell it with a huge markup.  If someone came to me with a business plan like this, I would probably shoot it down.  Why would people pay for something they can get at home for almost free?    I decided to dig further into this psychological puzzle.

Why People Buy Bottled Water (When They Could Get It For Free)

When people buy bottled water, it must makes sense to them in terms of economic value.  That 20 oz bottle of water with less that 1 cent worth of water priced at $1.39 seems like a good deal.  Why?

  1. Convenience.  If you are thirsty now and don't have anything to drink, a cold bottle of water may be just what you want.  But is it really convenient to drive to a convenience store or find a vending machine...
  2. Soda Replacement.  People are replacing $2 soda with something healthier and perhaps less expensive and see it as a good deal relative to soda.  But this is a false choice if you are only selecting from what is available on the shelf at the convenience store...
  3. Spare Change.  Many people don't think a few dollars makes any difference to their finances and are not concerned about spending a few extra dollars.  But those small daily expenses add up to real money over time...
  4. Social Factors.  Some bottled water purchases are due to the force of habit of buying a drink when you are out and about, or if you are with friends who are all buying a drink then you want to buy one too.  But you don't have to be like everyone else, being efficient with money and reducing your impact on the environment is a respectable choice.
  5. Status Symbol.  People feel they deserve bottled water.  They are smart, work hard, and make good money, so they should be able to at least get a bottle of water when they feel like it.  This is a good example of "lifestyle inflation".
  6. Perceived Quality.  A product that is sold in a bottle in the store must be better than what you can get at home right?  Most bottled water is sourced from municipal water supplies- in other words, it is tap water just like you can get at home!

How To Get The Advantages of Bottled Water-- Without the High Price

If you are ready to skip the bottled water purchases and save some money, here are some tips to get the advantages of drinking bottled water, but without paying the high price:
  • Bring your own water from home in a reusable bottle.  
  • Get a water filter at home if needed to improve taste/quality.  I use the water filter in my refrigerator.
  • How to keep it cold?  Freeze your bottle (or freeze a 1/2 full bottle and top it with water before heading out), use a cooler, or put your bottle in the fridge at work. 
  • Or simply use a water fountain for drinking or filling a cup with free chilled drinking water from the water fountain. 

I even added some new items in the Penny Pincher Journal Store to help you save money by drinking your own water from home in refillable bottles for almost free instead of buying expensive bottled water.


Copyright © 2017 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Friday, January 6, 2017

Who Buys This Stuff!?

I figured out why someone would buy a $198 sweater... and to my surprise, it makes sense now!

Today I was walking around the mall, mostly for exercise.  The windchill was below zero at noon, and I didn't feel like walking outside.  For some people, spending time in the mall would be a risky venture due to the risk of spending money, but it is pretty safe for me.

One of the few things I am at risk of buying is the clearance winter clothes that go on sale in the spring for up to 90% off, and maybe another clearance hat for my collection.

Clearance Hats Are A Weakness For Me!
Clearance Hats Are A Weakness For Me!

I wandered into a nice store that I have only gone into a few times before.  I looked around just for fun, and saw a friendly sign inviting me to "Please touch the merchandise..."

Please touch the merchandise... you'll love it!
Please touch the merchandise... you'll love it!

I have read that you are much more likely to buy something if you touch it.  I guess that makes sense... there is no way you can buy something if you don't touch it-how can you carry it to the checkout!  So naturally the only way you are going to buy something is if you touch it at some point.

I decided to take my chances and touch some nice sweaters they had on sale.  Very nice indeed.  But wait a minute, how much is that sweater!

This is what a $198 sweater looks like!
This is what a $198 sweater looks like!
The sweater was originally priced at $198, marked down to $133.  While I do appreciate a good markdown, the price had too many digits in it for me either way!

It was a fine sweater, but what about it would make someone pay 5 to 10 times more for that sweater than a different one?

(Awkward silence)

Oh, you were expecting me to answer the question...  Well, I don't really have a solid answer since I really don't know who buys this stuff.   Here are my best guesses:

  • Maybe the brand (which I didn't recognize) carries a lot of value to fans of that brand.  
  • Maybe people see shopping at a fancy store as a form of entertainment that is more exciting than shopping at less expensive places.
  • Maybe people are willing to pay a lot for something expensive to impress other people with their affluence or to make themselves feel better than other people.
  • Maybe the sweater was made out of some sort of expensive material like cashmere (I didn't touch the sweater that much to check).

As I read my list of reasons I thought someone might buy a really expensive sweater, I realized something funny.  There are people who wouldn't understand some of the things I buy.

I recently bought a "golf jacket" on clearance for $41.  It is really sharp looking and I plan to wear it to work a lot instead of the cheap clearance fleece I used to wear that my family is so embarrased of.

I am sure some people would not be able to understand why I would spend $41 on a new jacket.  Why not just keep wearing the $13 clearance fleece (even though it is chartreuse green and people at work thought I could win the ugly sweater contest wearing it)?

  • Did I buy my new jacket because of its fancy brand?  I can say no to that one, I don't even remember what brand it is.
  • Did I buy my new jacket as a form of entertainment?  I would say maybe a little bit to this one.  It was fun trying it on with my family encouraging me to buy it.  OK, so I am probably guilty of this one.
  • Did I buy my new jacket to impress other people or make me feel better about myself?  OK, you got me there too.  Yes.    The main reason I bought it was so I would look more expensive and less like a homeless person when I went to work.
  • And for the last one, did I spend a lot on my new jacket because it was made from an expensive material?  Nope- 100% polyester!

My point here is that people buy really expensive stuff for mostly the same reasons as you buy the stuff that you buy.  The only difference really is the number of digits in the price tag.

So that stuff that you buy and think is "normal" may seem really fancy to someone else who would struggle to understand why you buy it.


Enough deep thoughts for today.  Now it's time to leave the mall and go out in the cold to my car.  Good thing I'm wearing my really warm new jacket!


Copyright © 2017 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy






Tuesday, July 5, 2016

My First Haircut in 8 Years... Why?

My First Haircut in 8 Years!


My first haircut in 8 years
My First Haircut in 8 Years!
Image Source: https://pixabay.com/en/hairdresser-haircut-kid-659145/

For most people, I don't think getting a haircut is very exciting, but for me it was a big deal.  Today I had my first haircut in 8 years!

I have been cutting my hair at home to save money since the big economic downturn in 2008.  I needed to find some expenses to cut and haircuts for me was one of the easy things to give up.  Actually, there are a number of advantages to cutting your own hair at home.  Of course there is the money savings.  I bought a hair buzzer kit for about $30 to get basically unlimited haircuts.  Cutting my hair at home also saves time.  I don't need to drive to the barber shop and wait for my turn.  I probably save at least a half hour in time every haircut at home.

So with all of these advantage of cutting my own hair at home, why did I decide to go to a barber and pay $12 plus a tip to get a professional haircut for the first time in 8 years?  The short answer- I was tricked.

How, you may ask, can you get tricked into getting a haircut?  This scenario makes a lot more sense if you know my son.  I had the day off and he came with me to run some errands on Main Street in our small town.  We stopped by the grocery store and also stopped by a small business to pay a bill.  On our way out, my son said, "let's go this way," and started leading me down the street in the direction of the hardware store.  This made sense since my son is always building something and often needs parts for various science experiments and projects.

As we neared the barber shop, he suddenly announced, "We are going to do something about that hair!" and led me inside.

I have to admit my hair did need something done about it.  I had not used my buzzers for the past few months because I liked having it a bit longer than the #8 buzzer guard that cuts to 1 inch length.  I have not mastered scissor skills, so if I cut my hair at home with the buzzers, it would have to be 1 inch or shorter.

As soon as we got into the barber shop, I realized that I had a way out.  I only had $2 with me, and I knew haircuts cost a lot more than that.  This small shop does not take credit cards.  I explained this to my son, who immediately hatched a plan to go home to get some money.  After we got home, my other son joined the cause and came with me to the barber shop too in order to help ensure that I actually got a haircut.

I had short buzzers, #2 I think, on the back and sides, but left the top longer.  It is a sharp looking haircut.  A bit of trivia for you on hair buzzer guards:  the guard number is in 1/8 inches.  So a #2 guard is 1/4 inch.

It was a nice treat to get a fancy haircut.  I don't know yet if I will pay for a haircut again soon or not though.  I could probably use my buzzers at home on the back and sides for a few months and maybe go in and let a professional handle the scissor work a few times a year.  Or I could go back to the #8 all over for free with my buzzers at home.  Sometimes free is hard to beat...


Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Effective Ant Control for Cheap

How Ant Poison Works

Ant Control: Liquid Ant Poison and Plastic Ant Bait Station
Ant Control: Liquid Ant Poison (left) and Plastic Ant Bait Station (right)
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Last year we had some small ants in the kitchen.  I put out a few plastic bait traps that I got at the grocery store for about $5, and the ants were gone after a few days and I didn't see any ants for a whole year.  You might wonder why I would pay $5 for some fancy ant bait traps when I could simply smash the ants for free.

Killing individual ants doesn't really solve the problem.  More ants will come to take the place of the ants you kill.  The same thing happens when you spray ants with bug spray.  It may kill a few, but the ant colony continues to produce more and more ants, and eventually some of those ants find their way to you.

You can use bug spray to make a perimeter, spraying it around your house to make a barrier to keep bugs out.  I have had some success with this, but ant trails can go places that are difficult to spray.  Plus the spray barrier breaks down after a few months and ants will start coming in again.

The best way to control ants is to take out the entire colony with a poison bait.  Ant bait stations use this approach, typically containing bait in granular form inside the plastic housing.  Worker ants take the poison bait back to the colony where it is fed to the larva and takes out the next generation of ants.

One of the nice things about using bait to take out ants is that you don't need to find the colony or even know where the ants are coming in.  The ants do the work of finding your poison bait and taking it back to the colony.

I don't like the idea of killing ants- I think they are neat little animals that have a social order and work very hard.  But I can't let ants take over my kitchen.

My Ant Problem This Year

This year, the little kitchen ants were back.  I put out some new plastic bait traps but they weren't working.  My wife noticed that the ants seemed to be ignoring the ant traps, walking right around them without bothering to climb up and explore them to find the bait inside.

The plastic ant traps are designed look decorative and have a flower pattern stamped into them.  It is nice that they try to make the ant traps look fancy, but it is still pretty obvious that they are ant traps.

Plastic Ant Bait Station
Plastic Ant Bait Station
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher
I decided to go with an even cheaper ant control solution- Terro.  This is a sticky liquid bait, sort of the consistency of honey that you put on small pieces of cardboard for the ants to find.  I bought a small bottle of Terro for about $2.59.

Terro Liquid Ant Bait
Terro Liquid Ant Bait
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Ants Eating Liquid Ant Poison
Ants Eating Liquid Ant Poison
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher
The little ants really like the Terro!  Within a couple hours, there were at least a dozen ants lined up around the drop of poison sucking it up- in the photo above, the ants are eating the bait on the card like crazy.  The worker ants take the poison back to the ant colony, where it starts acting and kills the entire colony.

As I said, don't like the idea of killing ants, but I can't really put up with ants in my kitchen.  Within a few hours of putting out the Terro bait, there are very few ants still wandering around.  I'll leave the bait out for at least a few days to make sure my ant problem is solved for this year.

It looks like I'm going to get away with not calling an exterminator, which would cost WAY more than $2.59.

Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Friday, March 18, 2016

Save Money on Car Rental: How to Avoid Getting Ripped Off!

Car Rental: There Must Be A Better Price!


Let's go to the mailbag today for a reader question about getting gouged by a car rental company:


Save Money On Car Rental
Rental Car Savings!


"While traveling to Tulsa this week I rented a car from Budget Rental.  The car's cost for two days was $184.

That was extremely high and I refused to do it, so I continued research on the internet and found that all the cars in the middle of the week were as much as $100 a day.  So I went back to Budget and found the next day that they had a car for rent for $100 for 2 days.  I immediately rented that car.  When I got to the airport in Tulsa I went to the counter to get the car from Budget.  At that time they quoted me a price of $184.  I showed them on my phone the email confirmation that said $100.  Budget then told me that quote is from the downtown location which was 4 or 5 miles away. I asked how I was supposed to get down there and if they had a shuttle. 

The answer was simple...you have to take a cab.  Well I was a bit peeved but went outside and a cab was waiting.  I asked the cab driver how much to take me to the downtown location of the Budget Car Rental.  He told me $30. After I got up off the sidewalk, I asked if I had any alternative and he said yes you can walk. 

I thought about that, however crossing the freeways and busy highway is would have been a bit risky.  So I paid the $30, got downtown to the Budget car rental place, and asked if I had to bring it back here and have another cab ride back to the airport explaining the circumstances to the customer service person.  She said, well no we can arrange it for you can take this right straight back to the airport.  When I asked why the prices were so high, I was told by the budget representative that it was a "supply and demand situation".  

I responded to that by telling them that I thought it was a greed situation accompanied by circumstances where people had no choice.

Thank you for your time and hopefully you can get this message to Dr. Penny Pincher so he can go undercover and find out what the deal is... 

Sincerely,
An Anonymous Dr. Penny Pincher Reader"

Thank you AADPPR for sharing your interesting story and providing an idea for an article that can help save people money for car rental expenses.

Week Day vs. Weekend Rates

My first observation is that renting a car during the week can be quite expensive compared with weekends.  I think this really is related to supply and demand.  During the week, there are lots of business travelers with expense accounts who will pay top dollar for rental cars.  On weekends, most car rentals are for leisure and people are more concerned about getting a good price.

If you have a choice, try to rent a car over a weekend instead of during the week.  The prices can be something like half as much.

Try to Get the "Replacement Car" Insurance Company Rate

My next observation is that $184 or even $100 for a two day car rental seems pretty high.  The last time I rented a car, I got a Chevy Sonic for about $25 per day.  I told the car rental agent that my car was wrecked and my insurance would only cover $25 per day, so I needed something in this price range.  I didn't think you could even get a rental car for $25 per day, but they came up with one.

Car rental companies give their best deals for providing a replacement car after your car is in a wreck.  This type of car rental provides some long term rentals with relatively low mileage and is profitable business for the rental company.  Even if your car was not in a wreck, you can still try to get the rental company's best rate.  You can say that your insurance only covers $25 per day and see if they offer you something in this price range.

When I got my $25 deal, my car was actually wrecked, but it seems like this request could work even if your car is not wrecked.

For more on this strategy, see TIP 4 in confessions from a former Enterprise Car Rental Employee.

Supply and Demand vs. Greed

I liked your comment that you thought the reason for the jacked up prices was a "greed situation".  Car rental companies, like other businesses, are going to try to get as much money as they possibly can for their goods and services.

If you are renting a car in a high demand market where plenty of people are willing to pay $184, then the car rental company has no motivation to lower the price.  Why would they take $100 if they could get $184 from the next person to walk through the door?

On the other hand, if the car rental company has tons of cars just sitting there with no one renting them, they might be willing to rent one for a very good deal.  Making some money is better than making no money.  But in order to be able to drive a bargain, you need a situation where there is not a lot of demand.

So, I would always try to bargain on the price for a rental car, but if demand is high it might not work.  Your best chance to negotiate a good deal is by talking with the sales person, being friendly, and talking them into a good price by encouraging them to find something less expensive.

Bargaining on price may or may not work, but is worth a try.  The agents have a lot of flexibility in setting prices, so you might be able to keep asking for something less expensive and end up with a low price.

The Cab Ride

Paying $30 for a cab ride was expensive, but you ended up saving $54 on your car rental even after the cab fare, so this was a good move.

One idea that came to mind when reading about the cab ride is Enterprise.  Enterprise car rental will pick you up for free when you rent a car.  I wonder if you could have the Enterprise a few miles away with a lower rate drive and pick you up at a convenient Enterprise location that has a higher rate?  Maybe you could get the lower rate without paying for a cab ride...

Another idea on saving on a cab fare:  I have never tried it, but Uber and Lyft provide some very cost competitive services if you need a ride.  I would guess these services would be about half the cost of a cab ride, but you might have to wait a bit compared with taking the cab that is already there.

Car Rental Add-on Expenses

Next time I need to rent a car, I'll go undercover like I did in this investigation of Rent-to-Own stores and see what I can learn about how rental car companies extract money from people.  Here are some car rental company tricks to watch out for:
  • Supplemental Insurance:  Your existing car insurance likely covers you.  Paying for extra insurance is very profitable for the car rental company.
  • GPS fee: You can use your smartphone instead of paying a few dollars a day extra for a GPS in your rental car.  Or use a paper map.
  • Satellite radio fee:  I hear that car rental companies are charging a few dollars a day extra for XM or Sirius satellite radio, even if you didn't know your car had satellite radio and didn't use it!
  • Gas fee:  If you turn your rental car in without filling up the gas tank, you can get hit with fees and pay extra money for the car rental company to put gas in the car.  Try to fill it up yourself on your way to the rental car lot when you turn the car in.

Overall, it sounds like you saved some money by shopping around and taking a cab to get a much lower rate a few miles away.  Nice work!

Best Wishes,
Dr. Penny Pincher



Copyright © 2016 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy


Saturday, November 7, 2015

Rent-to-Own Ripoff: Undercover Investigation

Investigating Rent-to-Own Store Prices


Disguise for Undercover Investigation of Rent-to-Own Prices

As a staff writer for Wise Bread, I was recently assigned to investigate rent-to-own stores.  Are Rent-to-Own stores a ripoff?

Following is a slightly fictionalized account of this undercover investigation.



"Great to see you, Dr. Penny Pincher," said my editor as I walked into his office.  He was seated behind a large mahogany desk with only a desk lamp and a mechanical typewriter on its vast surface.

"Likewise," I said cheerfully, removing my hat.  I hung it on the coat rack and closed the door.  I enjoyed coming to my editor's office because that meant a new article assignment, and that meant money.

"I think people are being ripped off at rent-to-own stores, but I can't prove it," he said.  I always appreciate how my editor gets right to the point.  He manages a lot of writers and has learned to be efficient.

"Interesting topic," I said as I sat down across the desk from him.   "But I have never bought anything at a rent-to-own store."

"We're going to send you undercover," he said.

"But undercover investigations can be risky," I objected.  "Maybe we should send in a private detective instead."

"I thought about that, but we need you.  This is going to require math," he said.

"I see," I said.  "But I still think it could be risky."

My editor opened his top desk drawer and pulled out a fat envelope with "rent-to-own ripoff" typed on it.  The envelope made a deep thump when he dropped it on his desk in front of me.  From its thickness and the sound it made, I couldn't tell if it contained more cash than usual or not.

After a second or so of deliberation, I scooped up the envelope and slid it into the inside pocket of my sport coat as I stood up.  "I'm on it," I said and started toward the coat rack to get my hat.

"Wait," said my editor.  "You can't go undercover looking like that.  They'll recognize you as Dr. Penny Pincher.  You'll need a disguise so you can see how they really operate."

"Roger that," I said as I put my hat on and headed out.

I realized my editor was right.  If I went into the rent-to-own store and they recognized me as Dr. Penny Pincher, they could change their deals so that they would look better in my article.

Dr. Penny Pincher- Before Disguise
I got off the city bus at a department store on my way to the rent-to-own store and picked up a new hat for $3 on the clearance rack.  My disguise was complete, and I was ready to begin my undercover investigation...

Dr. Penny Pincher- In Disguise for Undercover Investigation
One of the shocking things I learned is that buying a TV at the rent-to-own store would have resulted in paying an annual interest rate of over 140%!

Here is a link to the full article so you can learn how much it really costs to buy something at a rent-to-own store and learn about much less expensive options:  This Is How Much A "Rent-To-Own" TV Really Costs

Copyright © 2015 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Friday, August 28, 2015

Is Cereal a Rip-off?

Is Cereal a Rip-Off?

Today, I will look at the value of a box of cereal.  How much food are you getting?  Corn Pops are very simple, so it is easy to figure out how much corn is in a box of Corn Pops.  Is cereal a rip-off, or a good deal?

 How Much Corn Is in This Box of Cereal?
How Much Corn Is in This Box of Cereal?
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Corn Pops Really Are Popped!

I made an interesting discovery yesterday while eating breakfast cereal with my kids.  I did a little research, which involved reading the back of a Kellogg's Corn Pops box.  Did you know Corn Pops are actually "popped" corn?  I always thought that corn pops was made from corn flour and shaped through extrusion or something like that.

If you look closely at the corn pops, it make sense that they are puffed up corn kernels.  The back of the box says the corn kernels are cracked in half and then "popped".  Then some sugar is added, of course.

Corn Pops are "popped" corn!
Corn Pops are "popped" corn!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Eating something that is literally a whole grain seems pretty healthy, and the fact that Corn Pops are sweetened using sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup seems like a good thing.

How Much Corn Is In A Box of Corn Pops?

Since I am a Penny Pincher, an obvious question comes to mind:  Are Corn Pops a good deal?  People often complain about the high cost of cereal.  Since Corn Pops are simply made from corn, it will be pretty easy to check the cost for the main ingredient in this cereal

It Is Easy to See That Corn Pops Are Puffed Up Corn
It Is Easy to See That Corn Pops Are Puffed Up Corn
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

You can get a 12.5 oz box of Corn Pops for $2.33:  Corn Pops Cereal, 12.5 Ounce

Being from Iowa, I know that corn is selling for about $4 per bushel.  So how big is a bushel?  A bushel is 2150.42 cubic inches or 35.24 liters.  That is a lot of corn for only $4!

My 12.5 oz box of Corn Pops measures 7 7/8 inches wide by 12 3/16 inches high by 2 5/16 inches deep.  This works out to a volume of  221.95 cubic inches.  I'll be generous and assume that the entire volume of the box is filled with Corn Pops, even thought there is some packing inefficiency.

So even before considering that the Corn Pops cereal is puffed up, the cost of corn to fill a box of cereal would be $4 x (221.95 / 2150.42) = 41.3 cents.

I would estimate the the Corn Pops are increased in volume by at least a factor of 2 after they are "popped".  Since less corn is required, this would bring the cost of the corn to make a $2.33 box of Corn Pops down to only 20 cents!

Based on this, it is clear that cereal has a pretty significant mark-up.  I understand that processing the corn and sugar into cereal, packaging it, and transporting it costs money and this cost is reflected in the price.  But a mark-up of about 10x does seem pretty steep.

On the other hand, paying $2.33 for a relatively healthy box of cereal seems like a pretty good deal compared with other food that you could buy.  So is cereal a rip-off?  I'm going to strike a compromise:  I'll keep buying Corn Pops, but I'll complain about how expensive they are!


Copyright © 2015 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Air Conditioner Troubleshooting Adventures

Avoid Expensive Air Conditioner Repairs!

Avoid Expensive Air Conditioner Repair
Avoid Expensive Air Conditioner Repair
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher
Summer has arrived, and that means it is time for central air conditioning if you have it, and if you are lucky enough to have it working.  As you'll see, I have not always been so lucky...

Growing up in an old farmhouse on a small farm, we had no air conditioning.  We had fans in the bedrooms and in the living room.  The downstairs wasn't too bad, but the upstairs bedrooms were pretty warm at night, even with fans going.  When I was about 14 we installed a window air conditioner in the living room.  I don't remember how much that cost, but I think it was about $100, and I know it used a lot of electricity.  We ran it on a few of the hottest days of the year and it made a big difference.

Tips to Keep Your Air Conditioner Working

Since then, I have owned several houses and all but one of these had a central air conditioner.  Almost every central air conditioner I have owned has had some trouble.  In general, there some simple things you can do to avoid trouble with your central air:

  • Change the furnace filter regularly.  If the filter is dirty, it reduces the air flow and reduces the cooling effectiveness.  If you don't remember when you last changed it, it is probably due for a change...
  • Trim back plants growing around your A/C unit to allow the heat exchange to work efficiently.
  • Use fans instead of central air when it makes sense.  A fan right next to you can keep you cool, and using a fan is less expensive and saves wear and tear on your expensive A/C unit.

Installing New Furnace Filters Can Avoid A/C Issues
Installing New Furnace Filters Can Avoid A/C Issues
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pinche

Each time I have called a repairman to troubleshoot the central air, it has cost more than the window air conditioner that we bought growing up- just for the repair!  A new central air conditioner costs about $3,000 to install, depending on the size.  Repairing a central air conditioner costs $100 to $300 or more, depending on the problem.


This is Where Furnace Filters are Installed
This is Where Furnace Filters are Installed
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Air Conditioner Repair Incidents

Following are accounts of the incidents I have had with my air conditioner over the years, and an explanation of each problem.  Hopefully this will help you avoid some expensive service calls or at least understand what could be wrong with your air conditioning.

A/C Incident 1:  A/C running, but not cooling.  We moved into a house in the winter time and tried to turn on the A/C when summer came around.  Everything seemed to be running, but it just wasn't cooling.  I called a furnace repairman to come and check it out.  This system had a furnace filter installed in the ceiling, which I did not find when I was checking for problems.  Simply changing the very dirty filter made the A/C work well.  This service call was around $100!

How to avoid expensive repair:  Make sure you find your furnace filter and change it!

A/C Incident 2:  A/C not running.  My wife was 9 months pregnant.  It was July and very hot, with temperatures running over 100 degrees at nearly 100% humidity.  This was a house that I just bought, and I wasn't very familiar with the infrastructure.  The A/C stopped working mid-morning on the 4th of July.  I wanted to wait until after the holiday weekend to call a repairman since it was a holiday, but my wife was pretty uncomfortable anyway and it was only getting hotter, so I called a repairman right away.

The problem turned out to be a blown fuse in the fuse box right next to the A/C unit outside.  I checked the circuit breaker panel inside, but it didn't occur to me that there would be a separate fuse box outside with glass fuses.  The repair bill was around $200!

How to avoid expensive repair:  If your A/C unit stops running, check for a fuse box next to the unit.  You can probably get new fuses for about $1 each...

A/C Incident 3:  A/C running, but not cooling.  We lived at an old farmhouse that we were fixing up.  One of the first improvements we made was to add a central air unit.  It worked great for 3 or 4 years and one summer it just wasn't cooling.  I checked the furnace filter- but it was totally clean.  We didn't want to spend money that year to call a repairman, so we went all summer without using the A/C.  The next spring it still wasn't working.  I had been reading about A/C troubleshooting on the Internet and had isolated the problem to inside the plenum.  I wasn't willing to cut into it- we can live without A/C, but I didn't want to risk ruining the furnace.  Heating is not optional in Iowa...

So, after a year without working A/C, I finally called the repairman.  I was right that the problem was in the plenum.  Somehow, a bunch of dog and cat fur had accumulated inside and was almost completely blocking the flow of air.  Apparently a furnace filter had gotten very humid and collapsed, leaving the air return unfiltered for some time.  We had the return air cover off while working on some things, so tons of fur got into the furnace.  After the repairman removed the fur mat that had formed and sealed the plenum back up, it was good as new.  It cost over $300 for this repair!

How to avoid expensive repair:  Make sure your furnace filter is installed correctly and is in good condition.  Dirt and fur can cause real problems if they get into your plenum.

A/C Incident 4:  A/C not running.  This incident happened at the farmhouse as we were selling it and moving out.  We needed to repair the A/C so it would be working for the buyer.  The problem was that a mechanical component failed in the air conditioner.  I didn't pay much attention to what it was since we were moving out.  This repair cost about $150.

How to avoid expensive repair:  Some repairs cannot be avoided-if your A/C has a mechanical failure, it will need new parts.

No More A/C Problems!

This is my second summer living at my current house and I have not had any trouble at this house with my air conditioner... not yet anyway...

Good luck staying cool this summer, whether you use a fan, window air conditioner, or central A/C.


Copyright © 2015 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Sweet Corn- It Isn't a Dollar a Dozen Any More!

Sweet Corn Price


Sweet Corn Price- How much for a dozen ears?
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

How Much Does Sweet Corn Cost?

I remember when I was a kid, sweet corn was a dollar per dozen ears.  Apparently, those days are long gone...

This year, I noticed that sweet corn prices were pushing above $5 per dozen, with my favorite roadside stand now charging $5.50 per dozen.  In grocery stores, the price is 50 cents per ear, which works out to $6 per dozen.

Sweet corn price- sweet corn is going for $6 per dozen in grocery stores
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Is sweet corn at this price still a good deal?  I think fresh sweet corn is hard to beat for taste, and it is a summer tradition.  But how much would you pay for sweet corn?  If sweet corn cost $10 per dozen, would you still buy it?  At some price point, more and more people would either stop buying sweet corn, or grown their own.

I have grown my own sweet corn in my garden before.  It isn't hard to grow, but it does take some space in your garden.  Each corn plant produces 2 or 3 ears, so you need about four to six corn plants to get a dozen ears.  Some of the drawbacks I encountered growing my own sweet corn were 1) the ears were quite a bit smaller than the giant ears I get at my favorite roadside stand, and 2) since I planted all my corn at the same time, it was all mature at the same time.

I think fertilizer and watering more could help me get larger ears to address item one.  If I wanted a supply of sweet corn over a longer harvest window, I could plant seeds a week apart over several weeks.  So with a bit of effort, I could grow my own sweet corn instead of buying it.  I buy sweet corn maybe four times during the summer.  So this adds up to about $22 at current prices.  I could buy a pack of sweet corn seeds for about $2 and grow my own and save $20.

Is Sweet Corn a Good Deal?

But back to my question- is $5.50 per dozen a good deal?  I should mention that a dozen ears from my farmer where I buy actually means 13 or 14 ears- he throws in a few extra.  I think this is still a great food value.  What else can you get for dinner for $5.50 that is healthy and create such a great summertime memory?

Grow your own sweet corn and save money!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Since I recently moved, I have a new chance to plan a garden next year.  Although I think buying fresh sweet corn is a good deal, growing my own sounds even better.  I'll see if I can get a couple rows of sweet corn in this spring.

Copyright © 2014 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Moving Expenses: Why is Moving So Expensive?

Moving Is Expensive!

Moving is Expensive!
Moving is Expensive!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

As I prepare to sell my house and move to another house, I am spending some time thinking about moving expenses and how to minimize them.  I think of moving expenses as an investment to a certain extent- you spend time selecting a place you want to live that will appreciate in value and then you spend money to buy it and move all of your stuff there in the most efficient way possible.  If you choose well and take care of your property, the appreciation will easily cover your moving expenses.  But as with other expenses, you are better off not spending money you don't need to spend.

Moving is expensive because it requires a lot of resources.  Some moving expenses can be reduced or eliminated if you are willing to put in extra time or call in favors from your friends.  However, the chaos of moving makes efficiency difficult.


There are lots of expenses associated with moving, and most of them are hard to avoid
There are lots of expenses associated with moving, and most of them are hard to avoid
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Closing costs

When you get a mortgage, you'll need to pay closing costs.  Typical closing costs are a couple thousand dollars, depending on the size of your loan and which bank you use.  The only way to avoid closing costs is to either pay cash, or rent instead of getting a mortgage.  The appreciation of real estate value has worked in my favor, and I like to fix up and improve properties, so buying has been a good option for me, even considering closing costs.

Real Estate Agent Commission

Most real estate agents, also known as Realtors, charge 6% or 7% commission to sell a property.  This amount comes off the top, so if your property sells for $200,000 and you have a 6% commission agreement, you'll pay $12,000 in real estate commission.  Your Realtor and the buyer's Realtor will split the commission.  You can avoid real estate commissions by selling the house yourself without a real estate agent.  Selling "For Sale By Owner" often takes much longer than selling with an agent, and most people who try to sell a house themselves end up getting a real estate agent eventually.

I once tried to sell a house myself, and I doubt that I will try that again.  It takes a lot of time, and you have very little information compared to professional real estate agents.  If you price your house too high, it won't sell.  If you price it too low, you are losing money.  When you sell your own home, it is hard to screen serious buyers from people just poking around who have no chance of actually buying your house.  Professional real estate agents have lots of leads and experience to sell a house as quickly as possible for the most money.  A good real estate agent is a good value.

You can find discount real estate brokers and agents- locally we have an agent who will sell a house for $990.  But if this agent is making 10 times less per house that he sells compared with a conventional real estate agent, he would need to sell 10 times more houses to make a living.  So how much time and energy do you think he would have available to spend working to sell your house?  For a big asset like my house, I am willing to spend some money to make the most money that I can from my investment.

Movers and Moving Trucks

On my last move, I paid about $1,000 for 3 movers and a moving truck for 6 hours to move my larger items.  I used my own pick-up truck to move boxes and smaller items.  This time, I no longer have a pick-up truck, so I'll probably rent a U-Haul truck.  You can avoid the expense of movers and a moving truck if you have lots of friends you can entice to help you move and if you can borrow a pick-up truck.  Sometimes a move needs to happen on a tight schedule, and recruiting friends may not be good enough.  If you are moving some distance, it may not be practical to recruit friends to help on both ends of the move.  Sometimes movers and moving trucks are necessary expenses.

Moving Boxes and Packing Materials

When I was younger, I would use free moving boxes- I would get banana boxes from grocery stores and liquor boxes from liquor stores.  The downside of using free boxes is that it takes time to find them, and they are various sizes, so they are harder to stack efficiently.  Plus, free moving boxes may be dirty or even have insects or insect eggs in them.

I have decided to spend a little money getting new moving boxes for about $1 each.  It is hard to pay for something you can get free, but being able to stack and move boxes more efficiently is worth something.  Other moving supplies include lots of packing tape and bubble wrap.  I save the bubble wrap for protecting expensive breakable items and use free newspapers that can be found at grocery stores to wrap most of the other items.  Buying moving boxes and packing supplies is a small fraction of the large expense of moving.

Postage Stamps for Change of Address Cards

Most change of address can be handled using a cell phone.  However it seems like some change of address is best handled by mailing a change of address card.  Last time I moved I bought a few sheets of stamps for this purpose and probably will again for this move.  I found it quicker and easier to drop a card in the mail rather than working through phone menus and trying to change my address via phone.

Several moves ago, I forgot to change my address with one of my credit card companies and actually missed a few payments while my bills were going to the wrong address.  This hurt my credit rating for years.  Make sure to change your address with all of your creditors.

Checks with your New Address

For an extra dollar of two, I doubled the number of checks I ordered when I moved to my current house.  Too bad I'll need to order new checks with my new address.  This is an unavoidable expense if you use checks.  I mostly use credit cards, debit cards, and on-line bill payer to pay bills, but there are still times when a personal check is needed.

Cleaning Supplies

As I prepare my house for showings and open house events, I am using a lot of cleaning supplies such as paper towels, Febreeze, cleaning chemicals, etc.  I also find that we run the dishwasher when it is not full to avoid having dirty dishes around at a showing.  If it helps sell the house, it is worth a bit of expense and inefficiency, but it is painful to watch if you are used to running very efficiently.

You'll use lots of cleaning supplies as you show and sell your house
You'll use lots of cleaning supplies as you show and sell your house
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


Staging

There are things to prepare your house for showings that Realtors may suggest, such as packing some things, moving some of your furniture or clutter to storage, or painting and making minor repairs or updates.  These things cost money.  This may be a good investment if it helps your house sell for maximum value, but it feels like an expense as you spend the money.  As they say, "it takes money to make money".

Inspection Reports

You'll need to pay for inspection reports for the house you are buying.  I got a home inspection, a Radon report, and a wood destroying insect inspection.  The bank may require some inspections to get a mortgage.  Generally it is a good idea to find out what you are buying so you don't get surprised later.  My inspections on the house I am buying cost around $500.

Purchases for Your New House

You will likely find minor repairs that need to be done at your new house.  You may also want to buy or make curtains or window coverings.  You may find carpets or rugs that are dirty or smell bad and decide to replace them.  You may need to pay to dispose of trash or unwanted items after you move in.  Another example- you may decide to paint that pink bedroom a different color for you son.  You might find that the dishwasher is loud and barely works anymore.  Most people spend hundreds of dollars or more on purchases after moving to a new house.

Food Expenses: Pizza

As you pack up your food and pots and pans, you are more likely to eat out as your are getting ready to move.  It is difficult to plan and cook meals as the chaos of moving increases and also in the day or two following a move.  Another expense related to food is food that gets wasted during the move.  I try to pack my refrigerated and frozen foods in coolers on ice, but not everything fits, and the food can get warm if the move takes too long.  We had a period of 2 or 3 days between the time I sold my house and the time I bought my next house on my last move.  There was no good way to avoid losing some food.  We ate or gave away as much of it as we could.

You'll spend more eating out after your food and kitchen equipment is packed up
You'll spend more eating out after your food and kitchen equipment is packed up
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

Time is Money

Moving takes up a lot of your time.  You spend time signing papers at the real estate office and at the bank.  You spend time house hunting and preparing your house to sell.  You spend time away from your home during open houses and showings.  Packing and unpacking takes a lot of time.  During your move, most of your possessions will not be available to you because they are packed up or in transit.  You may not be as effective at work during your move due to distraction and having less time available, and that could even cost you money with respect to raises or bonuses.

In my case, you may have noticed that I went nearly a month without posting to my blog.  You may have thought that I landed another book deal and was busy writing my second book, but the reason for my long absence from the Internet is that I have been so busy with moving-related activities that it has cut into my blogging time.

Moving is Expensive!

There are many positive things that can come with moving.  You have a chance for a fresh start with new neighbors in a new place.  You can take some time while packing to sort through your stuff and get rid of clutter.  I found a bunch of things I no longer needed and donated items to Goodwill, sold them at consignment shopssold them on Craigslist, gave them away, and sold them on eBay.

Moving almost always creates a life-long memory.  You can move somewhere that provides an opportunity to try new things or living in a different way.  I have lived in the city, in the country, and in the suburbs and have enjoyed the advantages of living in all of these environments.

But on the negative side, moving is expensive and it is hard to avoid most of the expenses of moving.  Even with good intentions, it is hard to avoid most moving expenses.  Try to think of moving as an investment.  Spend time picking a good property that will be a great home and that will appreciate in value with time and improvements that you can make.  Moving expenses are a step on the way to make a real estate investment that can help grow your happiness and net worth.  When you are making a decision to move, be sure to factor moving expenses into your decision.

Copyright © 2014 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Rainbow Vacuum: Find the Cheapest Rainbow Vacuum Price

Rainbow Vacuum Price

If you have had the sales pitch from a Rainbow Vacuum distributor and are looking for a cheaper way to get a Rainbow, you are in the right place!

I had the sales pitch last week- it was very impressive.  A young lady came to my house and gave a demo of the Rainbow air purifier and Rainbow vacuum.  The Rainbow uses a water tank as its filter.  You don't need any bags or filters- you just dump the water and replace it with tap water.  The air purifier function seems to work great.  You can run the motor at low speed or high speed, and it does make air smell fresh like air outside after a rain shower.  Scent oils are also provided if you want a scent such as vanilla, cinnamon, or others.  My favorite was the unscented water.

The Rainbow vacuum demonstration was even more impressive.  You can read details of how the Rainbow sales pitch worked in this article.

The clear conclusion was the the Rainbow does a much better job of cleaning than our cheap $80 Hoover upright vacuum.  But the Rainbow costs $2,300.  I liked everything about the Rainbow except the price tag.  I was expecting a "but wait, there's more" sort of offer with a lower price, but it never came.

We were offered a chance to apply for credit and pay $80 a month, but the price for the Rainbow vacuum was still $2,300.  We were also offered a chance to demonstrate Rainbow vacuums and get ours for free if we sold enough.  I didn't like any of these options, but I still liked the Rainbow vacuum.  Is there a cheaper way to get a Rainbow vacuum?

How to Get a Cheap Rainbow Vacuum

The manufacturer of Rainbow, Rexair, appears to only distribute new Rainbows through their distributors.  As you may have gathered, the distribution arrangement is a multi-level marketing organization.  You can make money selling Rainbow vacuums and also by recruiting others to sell Rainbow vacuums and getting a percentage of their sales.  That's all fine as long as I can get a cheap Rainbow...

Fortunately, there are plenty of used Rainbows for sale on eBay and amazon.  The upside of buying a used Rainbow is the low price.  The downside is that you will not get a warranty from the manufacturer and the condition of used vacuums can vary quite a bit.  Another issue is there are several models of used Rainbow vacuums for sale- you'll need to be careful to ensure you get the one you really want.

I said above that used Rainbows do not have a manufacturer's warranty.  You can find some used Rainbows sold by vacuum shops that have a warranty from the shop, which is certainly better than no warranty at all.  Many used vacuums are sold "as is" and some even state "no returns".

How much can you save buying a used Rainbow?  The answer depends on what model you buy, but you can get a used Rainbow with a shop warranty for around $400- a savings of around $2,000!  If you want the cleaning performance of a Rainbow vacuum without the high price, there are some good opportunities to find a used Rainbow that will last for many years.

Rainbow Vacuum Models and Prices

Rainbow E2 E4 Black Model
The fancy new model that we saw at the in-home demonstration is called an E2 E4.  This model has the two speed brushless motor and LED lighting on the water tank and on the power vacuum head.  The 2-speed motor allows the air purifier function to run quietly.  A HEPA filter after the water filter removes small particles.  These are still expensive on eBay, selling for over $1,500.

Rainbow E2 Black Model 12
The Black E2 released in 2011 introduced the 5 wheel dolly design and it also has LED lighing for the water tank.  The 2-speed brushless motor allows the air purifier function to run quietly.  A HEPA filter after the water filter removes small particles.  These are still expensive on eBay, over $1,000.

Rainbow E2 2-speed Models
The 2-speed Rainbow models were first introduced in 2003.  The 2-speed motor allows the air purifier function to run quietly  A HEPA filter after the water filter removes small particles..  The Rainbow 2-speed models have a brushless motor.  There are a couple variants of the Rainbow 2-speed models: the Gold model and the Blue model.  The Gold model was released first and the Blue model (2008-2011) adds some sound absorbing material around the motor to make it quieter.  You can get the Rainbow E2 Gold 2-speed for around $500 on eBay.

Rainbow E Series E2 (1-speed) Model
The E Series was introduced in 1998.  The older E series models of Rainbow vacuums used a 1 speed motor with brushes.  These models do not have a slower- and quieter- speed for air purification.  These Rainbows are either on or off.  This was the model that added the HEPA filter in addition to the water filter.  This is useful for filtering small particles that make it through the water filter.  The Rainbow E series 1 speed models are great vacuum cleaners and sell for around $400 on eBay.

All of the Rainbow E Models above move 80 cubic feet of air per minute and have a HEPA filter in addition to the water filter.

If you are willing to look older models more than 15 years old, you can get a Rainbow vacuum cleaner for under $300.  Here are the older Rainbow Vacuum models:

Rainbow SE / SE PN2 Model
This model added the electrical cord inside the hose to power accessories.  The SE is the first model that can use a RainbowMate, which is a powered upholstery cleaning accessory.

Rainbow D4 Model
The D4 has more power than older models and is considered a reliable vacuum cleaner with relatively simple design.

The D4 and SE Rainbows move 72 cubic feet of air per minute.

Rainbow D3 Model
The D3 was made in the 1980's.  I would be concerned about reliability and availability of replacement parts in a model this old.

The D3 moves air at 67 cubic feet per minute.

Which is the Best Model of Rainbow?

I have decided to look at E2 models.  These all have the HEPA filter added in addition to the water filter, have more power than older models, and are relatively new which should increase their life expectancy.  At first I was considering the 1-speed model since these can be purchased for around $400, but I do like the idea of being able to run the unit quietly as an air purifier.  So now I am focusing on E2 2-speed models.  The 2-speed models feature brushless motors which should last a very long time.


Cheap Rainbow Vacuums on eBay

Start here to find cheap Rainbow Vacuums on eBay:


Cheap Rainbow Vacuums on amazon

Start here to find cheap Rainbow Vacuums on amazon:



Cheap Rainbow Vacuums on craigslist

I did not have much luck finding Rainbow vacuums for sale on craigslist in my area.  There were a couple for sale, but one was $2,100 and the other was $1,400.  Both of these prices were much higher than similar ones on eBay or amazon, and there were only two available for sale on craigslist.


Recommended Reading:
The Sales Pitch: How to Sell Anything is an article that describes the sales pitch for a Rainbow Vacuum in detail.

If you want a great whole house air purifier that is much less expensive than a Rainbow, check out this New Comfort air purifier


Copyright © 2014 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Cranberry Juice vs Cranberry Juice Cocktail

Cranberry Juice Cocktail Drink- Is This What I Want?

Today I really wanted some cranberry juice.  I went to the grocery store to get some and found some Ocean Spray cranberry juice cocktail for sale in 15.2 oz. bottles.  This was near the cold bottles of soda and other 16 to 20 oz bottles of juice, bottled water, and sports drinks for sale.  The price for 15.2 oz of cranberry drink was $1.49.  Since I really wanted some cranberry juice, I was willing to pay that much.

I did notice the word "drink" on the bottle, so I realized that it would not be 100% cranberry juice.  I was willing to accept a blend of perhaps cranberry and grape juice to sweeten it up a bit.  That would still be pretty good.  Upon further inspection of the bottle, I found the words: "Contains 15% fruit juice".  This no longer seemed like a good deal- $1.49 for tap water plus high fructose corn syrup plus a little bit of fruit juice.  I bet the 15% fruit juice in the juice cocktail was mostly apple juice anyway!  Why is "juice drink" so expensive?

This Cranberry Drink Cocktail is only 15% juice and costs $1.49 for 15.2 oz!  There must be a better deal...
This Cranberry Drink Cocktail is only 15% juice and costs $1.49 for 15.2 oz!  There must be a better deal...
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


Can I Get 100% Juice Instead of 15% Juice Cocktail?


This Cranberry Juice Blend is 100% Juice with No Added Sugar
This Cranberry Juice Blend is 100% Juice with No Added Sugar
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

I went to the aisle where the larger containers of fruit juice were sold.  I found a 60 oz container of Ocean Spray 100% juice with no sugar added for $4.50.  This is a blend of four juices including cranberry juice, apple juice, and pear juice.  My first reaction was that $4.50 was more than I wanted to spend to get some cranberry juice.  But I quickly realized that the 100% juice was actually less expensive than the 15% juice cocktail if you look at the price per ounce.

I decided to get the larger container of 100% juice with cranberry juice listed as the first ingredient.  It was great stuff!  Sometimes it pays to read the label closely and understand what you are getting for your money.  You can find 100% juice, but you may need to buy a larger container than the convenient 15.2 oz bottles.

Getting More Juice For Your Money

The smaller bottle of juice cocktail would have been more convenient and less expensive, but the larger bottle was much higher quality and the price per ounce was the same as the cheap sugar water drink.  I am sure the drink makers like to produce bottles of juice cocktail that cost almost nothing to make and sell them for $1.49.  This must be almost pure profit!

Bottles of "juice" may only contain 15% fruit juice- check the label before buying!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

I think 100% juice is a great deal- you can get it for the same price per ounce as the watered down juice cocktail that contains only 15% juice.  You may want to pour it into smaller containers yourself to send for lunches and to conveniently take with you.  Nothing tastes quite like cranberry juice, and it tastes better knowing it is 100% juice with no added sugar.

Penny Pinching Tips:

  • Check the label on your "juice" to see how much juice you are actually getting
  • Buy larger containers of 100% juice and pour it into smaller containers yourself to save money




Copyright © 2014 by Dr. Penny Pincher.  All Rights Reserved.  Privacy Policy

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Are Expensive Jeans Better Than Cheap Jeans?

Are Expensive Jeans Better Than Cheap Jeans?

I had some Kohl's cash available today, so I went with my family to get a dress shirt for my son.  My son was sharing a dress shirt with his brother, and let's just say that doesn't work well when both have events around the same time.

While I was at Kohl's, I decided to check out some jeans for me.  The last time I bought jeans was in 2009, 5 years ago.  There was a clearance sale at K-mart, and I bought 4 pairs of Wrangler Jeans for $8 each.  I also got a pair of Levis for $13.  The Levis are nice and made out of sturdy denim, but are not the popular style like the 501 or 505 that most people think of when they hear "Levis".  These Levis were a low-cost version to compete at the lower end of the market and don't really look like Levis at all.

Expensive Jeans for Sale
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


Kohl's had a sale going on a store brand of jeans: buy one for $55, get one free.  This works out to $27.50 per pair, which isn't too bad I guess.  But I was interested in Levis.  The last time I had a "real" pair of Levis was in the early 2000's about 15 years ago.  I walked over to the Levis, which were in a separate area of the store, and found all kinds of Levis styles.  I pulled out a pair of 34W 34L 505's and was hit with sticker shock- $58.

Real Levis!


Why Do People Buy Expensive Jeans Instead of Cheap Jeans?

The $58 price tag got me thinking about how much it costs to make jeans.  If Wrangler can make a pair of denim jeans that sells for $8 why are Levis 7x the price?  The answer is simple- because people will pay it.

Levis are perceived as a quality product
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher

People like Levis and enough people value having a real pair of Levis at $58, apparently.  But what is the value of Levis over Wranglers and other cheaper jeans?  The Wranglers have lasted 5 years, so they are obviously well constructed.  In fact, the material and construction of Wranglers and Levis are almost the same.

People Like Expensive Jeans!
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


I think the value of expensive jeans is exclusivity and perceived value.  People who wear expensive jeans think they are getting something extra for the money, and they are.  Expensive jeans are perceived as superior- the brand and logo is enough to distinguish one pair of jeans from another even if the construction and materials are the same.  If Levis were sold for $8, some people would want to wear more expensive jeans to separate themselves from the crowd.

Expensive Jeans!
Another part of the value of expensive jeans is you can get something you know you will like.  I liked my old pair of Levis 505.  I even wore them as cut-off shorts for a year after the holes in the knees got huge.  Levis are consistent in fit and quality.  Once you know what you like, you can get it again.  I associate Levis with quality and know I would like them.

Should I Buy Cheap Jeans or Expensive Jeans?

I decided that I didn't really need new jeans.  My 5 year old $8 Wranglers are still hanging in there.  My cheap version $13 Levis, although very faded, don't have any holes and are still fine.  But I am still looking for that clearance deal on Levis 505s.  Since Levis are in such high demand, I doubt that I will find the kind of Levis I want selling for less than $40 or so.

Are Expensive Jeans Better Than Cheap Jeans?
Image Source: Dr. Penny Pincher


Eventually, I will want to buy new jeans to replace my old jeans when they finally wear out.  Will I buy expensive jeans or cheap jeans?  Realistically, I will probably end up buying more cheap jeans.  If I try on enough types of cheap jeans, I will be able to find some that fit well and have the wash of denim that I like.  As far as exclusivity, I simply don't care what people think of my clothes.  So for me, there is not enough extra value in buying expensive jeans if I can find some cheap jeans that work.

Recommended Reading:
How to Find Really Cheap Winter Clothes at Clearance Sales

Guide to Kohl's Cash and Discounts

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