Saving

Are You Sure You’re Getting A Good Deal? Mint’s Personal Finance Roundup

photo: AMagill

We want it cheap or we want it for free. And we spend a lot of effort and energy tracking down that great deal.

In our quest to make the most out of our shrinking dollars, we try to make the best financial decisions in order to stretch our budgets. But when we look closely at these decisions, we sometimes wonder if they were always sound. Do our choices really save us a few dollars more? Or are we actually burning more money when we chase those deals?

Let’s put a few of our “needs” and wants through an acid test.

Food

Next to air and water, it’s the one thing humans definitely can’t live without. Then for those of us who prefer to up the ante and live a few decades longer, organic is the way to go. Bargain Babe tries to live healthier and gets her veggies from a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program. In this program, she pays $525 for 20 weeks’ worth of cheese, eggs and vegetables. Is the weekly ample ration of healthy goodies worth its price tag? CSA Farm Veggies: Deal Or No Deal? may help you decide.

Clothing

Next to food, clothing is one more item we cannot delete from our budget. However, there’s a fine line between “necessity” and “luxury.” Stop Buying Crap may help you face your clothing spending habits in his article Explain to Me the Concept of a $166 Pair of Jeans. Is it really justifiable, let alone sensible, to pay more for jeans you can get at a third of the price?

Shelter

We all want a sanctuary, our own escape from the busy world. But in our search for such a refuge, we may want to ask ourselves if it would be worth paying a premium for entertainment. Brad Tuttle from Time.com sheds light on the behavior of consumers in the article, Consumers Are Angry and Sick of Escalating Monthly Bills, But Just Can’t Quit Pay TV. This article explores some reasons why we can’t quit cable, even when more affordable options exist, such as Hulu and Netflix. Brad also discusses ways for cable companies to improve their services.

Travel

Maybe if we dropped our cable subscription, we could save up more money for travel. To stretch our travel money further, we could take advantage of travel and airfare promos that abound. JetBlue’s All-You-Can-Jet pass, for example, may seem like an attractive deal to frequent travelers. But ConsumerMiser takes a scalpel to this deal. Is JetBlue’s All-You-Can-Jet a Great Deal? Not Really might give you second thoughts about offers like this one. Do some homework before you decide to jump on a “great deal.”

Pets

For those of us looking to find ways to trim our budgets, here’s one area to take a peek at. Owning a pet can set you back a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a year, depending on what kind of pet you have. What do you do when your beloved dog or cat falls ill? To prepare for times like these, some people have mulled over getting an insurance plan for their animals. However, Free Money Finance exposes some actual pitfalls of using pet insurance to cover your pet’s health needs in his article Is Pet Insurance a Rip Off?

College

One of the most expensive investments we make in life is what we apply towards a college education. It could also be the most critical. After all, a great educational background could be one of the keys to a successful career. Explore the pros and cons of getting an Ivy League education in the articles Is The Ivy League Worth It? by Bad Money Advice and Should You Invest In An Ivy League College Education? by The Digerati Life. Both articles point out the differences between getting one’s degree from an Ivy League university vs what you can get from a community college and also weigh in on the value of receiving this education.

Entertainment

While we’re all eager to find good deals and are attuned to our savings goals, ultimately, we really shouldn’t take life too seriously all the time. When it comes to spending, it’s all about balance, and at the end of the day, a few guilty pleasures are well worth enjoying. And some won’t even cost you much. The Consumerist points us to 10 Guilty Pleasures You Shouldn’t Feel Too Guilty About.

There are things we can afford to pay for and may deem worth spending a few extra dollars to maintain. But as you read through our picks, ask yourself if some of the indulgences you give into are worth the price.

Which things are worth buying or worth investing in? Depending on whom you ask, the answers often vary. It all boils down to weighing those things that offer you value and finding out what your priorities are, for your money.

Silicon Valley Blogger (SVB) runs The Digerati Life and The Smarter Wallet, where she writes about  general personal finance topics such as investing, budgeting, debt management and small business ideas.