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6 Investing Tips — Translated for Consumers


Are you worried about your shopping decisions in the run-up to the holiday season? You’re not alone. Sales are not always what they seem and stores use lots of marketing tricks to keep you shopping, which means people need to consider when/where is the right time to get the best deal in much the same way investors do.

And not all special offers may be bargains. A 16-ounce pumpkin-spice latte at Starbucks costs $3.79 – 10% more than a regular 16-ounce vanilla flavored latte even though it’s billed a promotion by Starbucks. The Wall Street Journal on Monday gave pointers for investors: “How to Rest Easy in a Crazy Market.” Starbucks did not return calls seeking comment.

For consumers, it’s the same, but (slightly) different. Here’s a translation of those same tips for consumers:

1. WSJ investment tip: Get real about your tolerance for pain.

Translation: “Remember what buyer’s remorse feels like.”

Studies show that using plastic instead of cash defers a sense of financial responsibility  for shoppers. One recent article, “The Plastic Trap: Self-Threat Drives Credit Usage and Status Consumption,” published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, concluded that shoppers overpay for items with plastic – leading to further regret after the bill arrives.

2. Favor funds that cast a wider net.

Translation: “Don’t put all your eggs in just one basket.”

Investors diversify, and so should shoppers. Use apps to check for prices on the fly. Odysseas Papadimitriou, CEO of CardHub.com says that just because discount stores have many of the lowest prices doesn’t mean that they have the lowest prices on everything.” And shop around in the store. Also, look up: “The worst deals are at eye level,” says Seth Rabinowitz, partner at management consulting Silicon Associates.

3. Hire a pilot who charts a smoother ride.

Translation: “Find an expert who tells it like it is.”

It’s all too easy to ignore advice from friends and family who may wish to have a shopaholic intervention, Papadimitriou says. But, failing that, check out popular coupon-clipping sites like JillCataldo.com and, for when and where to buy the best daily bargains, aggregator site DealNews.com has offers for airline sales and bus trips for 50 cents.

4. Don’t try to wager on where stocks are headed.

Translation: “Don’t try to beat retail prices all the time.”

Even professional climatologists and meteorologists are wrong some of the time.  As previously reported by Pay Dirt, sites likes ShopItToMe.com, send daily email alerts to shoppers when their favorite items go on sale. But beware of trying to play the wait game: This season’s hot holiday toy might suddenly sell out.

5. Fine-tune your cash stash to your family’s needs.

Ditto: “Fine-tune your cash stash to your family’s needs.

“Emotional shopping is like emotional investing – disastrous,” says Velda A. Eugenias, president and CEO of Eugenias Advisory Group in Northeast Alabama. Stock up: “Having your own mini-grocery store at home will help you weather the inevitable price spikes that some commodities will likely experience,” says Edgar Dworsky, founder of ConsumerWorld.org.

6. Don’t assume that a stock-free portfolio is risk-free.

Translation: “Buyer Beware.”

The Supreme Court recently ruled that companies can ban their customers from bringing class-action lawsuits. Most cell phone companies have contracts that prohibit class action suits and say customers who are unhappy should enter mandatory arbitration rather than go to court. But firms say there are benefits to consumers, too: a faster, cheaper dispute resolution process.


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About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to quentin.fottrell@dowjones.com or tweet @SMPayDirt.