Penny Wise, Pound Foolish

I am a notorious deal hunter. I get this from my mother. She says she comes by the trait honestly because she is from Lancashire, England (shown) where, to hear her tell it, getting a deal is bred into the bones. It is such an obsession there, she says, that the saying “Penny wise, Pound foolish” was often bandied about to remind people that watching pennies is good but you have to look at the big picture, too. (Did you save a few pennies on something you didn’t really need? Thereby wasting pounds?) I know. It was like growing up in a Dickens novel but what can I say? I grew up in a Dickens novel.

When I was a kid, Mum and I shopped at Filene’s Bargain Basement in Boston on a regular basis. We would ride the Boston and Maine into the city and hoof it through rain, ice, sleet, or snow. (Walking everywhere — no matter the weather — is also, apparently, a Lancashire trait.) When we got to the bargain Mecca of that time and place, we would whip through the warm and spacious upper floors as quickly as possible to get to our destination: the unheated, overcrowded, lower levels where lay the bargains. The comfy floors above were a trap set for suckers, the lair of the wasteful rich; No place for us. In the dank, lower recesses, goods were piled in heaps and skirmishes could break over a rare size 8 at any time. We went armed with our genetics, our wit, and heavy purses. We joked about putting a brick in our purse to fend off marauders but I was hit once with a purse I’m sure was so fortified. We wore leotards under our clothes for trying things on as there were no dressing rooms. Modesty was a luxury we would not afford.

I went to lunch with my mother recently, dressed rather nicely. She shot me a look, “I love that sweater,” She said. But I knew she meant, “That looks expensive.” I told her where I got it and she looked shocked, assuming I had paid too much—a traitor to our breed. How little, even after all this time, she knows me. I relished her discomfort for just a moment and told her what I paid for it at a 70 percent off sale she had missed. She smiled, proud. We went shopping.

And that’s a long preamble to another Frugal Friday. But I thought you might enjoy knowing that when I do “frugal” I don’t do it because of this economy. I do it because my mother, her mother before her, and a long line of determined Wood women from the bitter north of England embrace the art of the deal much the way the French embrace wine or the way Italians enjoy espresso.

Yesterday, I got an email from a representative of wondering if I would let my readers know about some of the deals they have there. He had no idea, of course, how seriously I take a deal.

Normally I consider deal aggregators like this an amateurs’ tool, a cheat, an easy out. Where is the fun in letting a search engine find a deal for you? This is an art. But this pitch had all the earmarks of a justification to go shopping in the middle of the work day so I said, “Sure, send me some deals.” And then I went shopping at the site.

It was actually sort of fun – like a big outlet mall on my desk. There were deals on electronics, clothes, shoes, watches, and plenty of other stuff. Okay, I’ll admit I could see this being a real time saver in the never-ending deal quest. If you click on something you like, it takes you to the site that sells it. I didn’t come across any red flags when I was shopping but another reason I shy away from deal aggregators is that tend to lead you to disreputable dealers you would not otherwise have considered shopping from. But the DealNews site claims, “We verify that each deal is valid, the lowest total price we could find, and from a reputable retailer.”

In particular you have to be careful of merchants who sell small electronics and cameras. For a lot of details on what to be careful of when you shop for cameras, check out this article by my husband (AKA the pompous ass, if you’ve read my book.)

Now that we got that out of the way, here are a couple of examples of deals I found at

The Dell Inspiron Mini-9 net book for $231 is a one-day only deal so hurry up if you want to catch that one.

This Nikon D60 10.2MP Digital SLR Camera with lens is $520 from Amazon.


Or if you have a gamer in the house, how about a Xbox 360 Premier system for $170. My 12-year-old (he follows this pretty closely) deems that an excellent deal and is pressuring me to click “Buy.” Or if you are in the market for a TV, you should really check out the deals on the big-screen LCDs. Unbelievable.

Okay, I have to go now. I have a long walk – through snow, sleet, and rain – to get from my home office to the kitchen. As you are shopping, though, remember: Don’t be penny wise, pound foolish.



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