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cheapThis guest post on how to avoid cheap products that aren't made well comes from Brock at Clever Dude.

I don't put a whole lot of value in a brand name.  I don't assume that a product is of lesser quality just because it's generic, store brand, or missing the label of the latest fashion fad.  I'll try any product that seems of  reasonable quality if it will save me money.  Sometimes it works out and I find great products for a cheap price that's a fraction of the brand name price, sometimes it doesn't.

Walking through Walmart during my weekly grocery shopping excursion I noticed some dark tan cargo shorts on sale.  I liked the look of them, as did my wife, and I liked how they fit. I thought they felt a little thin compared to cargo shorts I had purchased at other retailers, but for the cheap price of $12.99 I was willing to give them a try.

A few weeks later, I was pulling my wallet out of my back pocket and noticed that there was a hole right next to the top corner of the pocket.  I had not idea what would have caused the hole, so I assume I caught it on something resulting in a small rip.  About a week after that I was squatting down to wipe off my lawn mower and felt something in the seat of the shorts.  I reached back and discovered that the shorts had ripped again.

The shorts had now ripped in two different places, and were clearly of inferior quality and as cheap as they looked.  I wore the shorts less than 10 times and they were already headed for the trash.  I had taken a chance on a cheap product, and in this case it didn't work out.

4 Tests Before Buying

Before buying a new product, I usually apply the following 4 tests:

  • Trust Your Eyes : If the product looks cheap, then it probably is.
  • The Label Isn't Worth It : Many generic or store brand items are made in the same manufacturing facility as their brand name counterparts. A brand name is not necessarily an indication of the quality. Thus I typically don't let the brand influence my decision unless I've had experience with it in the past.
  • More Than A Feeling : I thought the shorts felt thinner than other shorts I own and felt cheap.  This should have been a red flag that the shorts were not well made. 
  • The Price is Right : Price is the one of the biggest factors when I'm contemplating a purchase.  If the price is within how much I'm willing to pay, I'm willing to think about buying it.

Cheap in every aspect

I don't rule out purchasing a product just because of the brand, but I do ask myself these four questions before making a purchase.  In the case of the shorts, the product looked fine, and the brand name was one I was familiar with, and the price was definitely right. For those reasons I overlooked the cheap construction of the product. 

This cheap purchase didn't work out, but it was worth the gamble. I'll be storing this experience in the vault and drawing from it when presented with another opportunity to purchase inexpensive clothing.  Next time I might choose differently.


rich lifeLiving a full, happy, and rich life isn't all about money. In fact, sometimes it's not about money at all. As Coco Chanel once said, "There are people who have money and people who are rich."

Some of the things we cherish most in life like our family, our friends, and the experiences we've had or have yet to have, have little to do with money. Even so, most of us feel that we'd be able to be a little happier if we did have at least a little more money coming in every month.

With that in mind, here are 3 ways you can live a rich life by spending your money wisely to end up with more in your pocket in the end.

Give Creatively

Finding creative ways to open your wallet and give even small amounts of money is a great way to build some self-confidence and good karma. How? When you are worried about money, you are less likely to give it away to charity, those in need, or just to brighten someone's day. But by deciding to give a little money even when times are tight you are symbolizing self-reliance and the confidence that what goes around comes around.

Here are a couple of creative ways you can give small amounts of money to make someone's day special:

  • Tuck a $1 bill into several children's books at the library.
  • Give someone a tip who you normally wouldn't. For example, the carhop at the drive in who isn't really a waitress and doesn't usually get tips.

Giving creatively is a great way to get started on the track to live a rich life.

Pay it Forward

You've heard of the pay it forward movement haven't you?  The pay it forward movement is supposed to be an act of charity (although that has been debated) which in turn helps you earn some good karma.

There are ways to pay it forward besides just paying for someone else's latte at Starbucks, including passing on jobs to other people in your industry when you simply don't have time to take them on yourself. For instance, when I started as a freelance writer, I got a couple of jobs via recommendations from more established bloggers who weren't looking for any more jobs. They could've chosen to work more hours and take the job themselves, but instead they paid it forward.

Paying it forward is also about pursuing something besides just money, like happiness and a work-life balance.

Invest in Happiness

The final way you can live a rich life (and hopefully more monetary riches too) is to invest in your happiness. We all like to say that "money can't buy happiness", but is that totally true? I'd argue that sometimes money can indeed buy some happiness.

As I pointed out above, when someone is struggling and you decide to pay it forward, they probably feel happiness. When a child opens a library book and finds a $1 bill they will probably feel happy. So can money buy happiness?

Another example where money can buy happiness can be found in a research project from Harvard psychologist Dan Gilbert Ph.D. Here is some of what his study says according to Business Insider:

"This sentiment is lovely, popular, and almost certainly wrong," says Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert in a paper he coauthored.

Money provides an "opportunity for happiness" the authors say, since moneyed people can live longer and healthier lives, enjoy financial security, have leisure time, and control what they do every day.

Gilbert and his colleagues suggest spending on the following in order to live a rich life:

  • Experiences, not things.
  • Helping others instead of yourself.
  • Many small pleasures instead of few large ones.
  • Buy less insurance.
  • Pay now and consume later.
  • Think about what's it's really like to own the things you want to buy.
  • Stop comparison shopping.
  • Ask your friends' advice.

Do you live a rich life? Do you practice any of these 3 things so you can live a rich life? What do you think about Dan Gilbert's study and suggestions for aligning your spending to create ultimate happiness?


summerSummer is in full swing, and if you have a house full of children, or even one kid, keeping them from saying how bored they are over and over can be difficult.

And unless your household makes enough money to put your children in daycare and still leave you money to pay the bills, daycare can be a financial loss during the summer.

I haven't done a cost analysis in years of daycare vs. having a kid at home, but since pre-school our daughter has been home with one of us. I work part-time from home and currently have this duty. It was done partly out of necessity when I was laid off from my job, but even before then my wife and I figured out that it would cost us less if one of us worked part time and was home with our daughter instead of working full-time and having her in daycare.

What do we do to keep our child busy? Many things that unfortunately aren't as cheap as the 50 outdoor summer activities listed by one blogger. Still, some of mine are relatively cheap and work better than others. Here are a few ways, with an explanation of how well they work:

Cash to read during the summer

For the month of June, my summer reading plan for my daughter has been a bust. But I'm still holding out hope and I'm working on improving it.

Here's how it works: I pay her $2 in cash for every chapter book she reads during the summer. The book has to be at least 300 pages and be a chapter book at her reading level or above that we approve of. Reading "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" for the 100th time doesn't count, and neither do most comic-type books.

So far she hasn't completed one chapter book, though she's close to it. I require her to read at least one hour per day, and so far she's mostly picking out short books during our visits to the library. I may have to increase the payout to $3 and require her to read more hours each day.

Fun with the iPad

Some parents give their child an iPad or other tablet to play with as long as they like — which could be all day. We have a Kindle Fire that the family shares, and I have an iPad.

My daughter gets rare access to the iPad after she's done some summer chores and read a book. Instead of playing mindless games on it, the Brainpop app seems to have some games that are educational. ...continue reading