On the Cheap wishes readers a happy, thrifty — and prosperous — 2010. It might come as a surprise to cheapsters to learn that the primary dictionary definition for "thrift" is actually "the condition of thriving" or "prosperity," and only secondarily the "careful management of one's money or resources." The two are obviously intertwined, and accordingly we're feeling a little flush after scrimping and saving all those dollars last year thanks to our readers' economical suggestions.
So, though On the Cheap doesn't usually address shopping or spending issues, preferring to concentrate on the home remedies and inventiveness of readers on how to save money where you'd least expect to — you know, the 1001 uses of vinegar, along with how to reuse or recycle virtually every product in your home — the extra change in our pocket and an e-mail from Max Levitte, founder of www.cheapism.com tempted us to explore the virtual world of shopping savings. His is one of dozens and dozens of Internet sites and blogs now devoted to getting the best shopping deal, each with its own philosophy and approach.
(Don't forget the DP's very own dailypress.com/savvyblog with its daily updates on shopping deals.)
What we call "cheapsters" Levitte calls "cheapists," but we're agreed in this "trend of cheap no longer being a negative thing." "Cheapism," a term Levitte coined, translates as "an economic system in which individuals acquire goods and services at relatively low rates without sacrificing quality." The products-review site serves customers who "can only afford/wish to buy inexpensive products, but still want the best value for their money." It reviews low-price products and services in various categories — computers, electronics, home and garden, family, fitness and sports, etc. — identifying must-have features, summarizing key attributes, and recommending the best budget buys, as well as what to avoid. For example, with laptops it describes in detail the operating systems, the hard drive, graphics, battery capacity, and more, before linking to other reviews and making its recommendations. Its range includes examining "cheaper quality wine" and different brands of mascara for value. And a blog gives timely updates on special deals.
Levitte practices what he preaches. His bio reveals that the New York City resident "tries to buy gas in New Jersey because it's cheaper than in Manhattan. He shops for fruits and vegetables at Fairway instead of the pricey supermarket. He registers domain names with GoDaddy because it costs 200 percent less than the competition and he gave up his land line for a cheaper VOIP line." The site's managing editor, Marilyn Blume, "rides the bus ... because public transit is cheaper and more efficient. She goes to salad bars for lunch and sets a daily limit of $4.50. She scours the local paper for free concerts and performances."
Unlike many other sites, cheapism.com does not accept any payment from manufacturers or retailers for discussing or recommending products. A scan of the site and some of the comments led us to two other virtual shopping sites for cheapsters: slickdeals.net and fatwallet.com. The latter has been operating for more than a decade. FatWallet started as a single page listing coupons for a handful of retailers and now partners with more than 800. It's more typical of online savings sites in that it doesn't offer comparative pricing information and stores pay the company for sending them customers; it then "gives back" in discounts and even cash rebates. Its "Hot Deals" listing offers coupons, sales and savings at the likes of JCPenney and Kohl's, and for videos, games and technology purchases at other online sites.
Many of the advertised deals are duplicated on different sites. For example, slickdeals.net, under its "Hot Topics" (as gauged by reader interest) shows the same "feed a family of four for $20 at Fuddrucker's" as FatWallet, as well as touting Kohl's clearance sales, free apps for iPhones, and, several days after the holiday, 2-cent live Christmas trees at Wal-Mart. Of the three sites, slickdeals.net, which typically gives shipping prices and credits its sources, had the most entertaining commentary from readers, while cheapism.com had the most thoroughly researched evaluation of products.
Next week On the Cheap will again be sharing readers' suggestions for economizing.
News to use How cheap — or thrifty — can you be? On the Cheap welcomes readers' tips on how to stretch a dollar or save a nickel. Send to email@example.com or mail to Prue Salasky, Daily Press, 7505 Warwick Blvd., Newport News, 23607.To find other tips, go to www.twitter.com and follow onthecheap, or join in the conversation at www.dailypress2.com/ forums and click on On the Cheap.For previous columns, go to www.dailypress.com/ onthecheapCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun