Thursday, August 26, 2010

Shopping for Clothing

Amy Dacyczyn (author of the Tightwad Gazette) tells a story of how she taught her daughter to manage money and choose according to her values. Amy said she would contribute funds to buy a certain amount at a thrift store and if her daughter wanted "brand name new" she would have to come up with the "difference" in funds on her own. After being given the choice -- and after reviewing the relative quality of the merchandise -- her daughter noted that she didn't like "new" clothing *that much* more than used. Her daughter even admitted being *equally* satisfied with her thrifty, used purchases than the new alternatives. 

I come from a family of Dayton's/Macy shoppers. I don't know if you have this department store in your home town, but it's rather expensive to shop there. Last time I did (~10 years ago), prices looked like this:
  • pair of jeans = $80-100
  • sweater = $50-80 
  • blouse = $30-80 
  • pair of socks = $5-10 
  • winter jacket = $75-250  
What's interesting is that at my local thrift store, I can buy the same, *exact* name brand merchandise used and in good condition for these kinds of prices:  
  • pair of jeans = $6 
  • sweater = $7 
  • blouse = $5 
  • pair of socks = $0.50 
  • winter jacket = $10-25
That's a pretty big difference! For the price of a typical single item at Macy's, I can have 5-20 items at Arc Value Village...and the money I spend goes to a good cause: providing support services to mentally disabled children and adults -- and not to some rich people who have more than they know what to do with.  

As a creative person, shopping this way affords me the opportunity to trade out my wardrobe when I get bored with it. (I usually do this once or twice a year.) Also, when I get a stain on that white blouse or a hole in a sock, I don't feel so bad because the investment is small -- and it can still be used as a rag.

In fact, I got a stain on a white t-shirt near the collar and was irritated for a second, until I remembered that cool 80s style of cutting off the collar of a sweatshirt (Jennifer Beal). So I did this. Sadly, the shirt kept falling off my shoulders. So then, I slit the bugger up both sides to the armpits, cut left and right slits going up both sides, and tied the pieces together to make a fringe-- an idea i'd gotten from another shirt I bought thrift. This tightened up the fit so it would stay up. I love this shirt now more than when I bought it. And even when I schmucked it, I could STILL make something of it.  

As a creative person, I also LOVE to find deals and negotiate. It's fun to save's like a game! BTW, Amy Dacyczyn has just short of a million kids under her roof...but neither she nor her husband have to work for "the man" on account of their spending regime. They can build the lifestyle they want.

In addition to saving money, I find being thrifty builds community. Since my aunt knows I love being thrifty (and I also like her sense of style), she sends me a box twice a year of designer clothing -- literally thousands of dollars of merchandise in each box. (Very generous!) I have several friends with whom we share our clothing donation bins before we donate.

And as a last move to pinch the penny around clothing, I always make sure to get my donation slip for the clothes I donate to charitable causes as a tax write-off.

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Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Businesses Spying on Consumers

by Rebecca St. Martin on Wednesday, August 4, 2010 at 2:26pm
I have noticed lots of hype in the news going on about "businesses using the Internet to spy on consumers." Here's one such article, entitled "The Web's New Gold Mine: Your Secrets" by Julia Angwin:

This negative portrayal of what data-gathering businesses do just plain ticks me off. 

"Spying" suggests that there is confidential, personal information that's being used -- more importantly, used against consumers for duplicitous purposes. In reality, businesses are not interested in individuals -- they are interested in markets. 

What Angwin describes in her article is what businesses have been doing forever: gathering aggregate data so that they may display more appropriate ads, deliver more interesting opportunities to their audience (market segment) and hopefully, generate more happy customers and become profitable from it. It just so happens that there are newer, faster ways of doing this. 

Sadly, the effectiveness of using aggregate statistics from web-based applications remains to be seen, but it's innovative -- not intrusive. Web sites visitors "put out there" what they choose. If they have a problem with how their "data" is being "used," then they can choose to stop participating.

Learn more about the concepts:

Market Segmentation

Aggregate Data / Aggregate Statistics

Usefulness of Aggregate Data

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