Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Scrimping, Saving and Window Shopping

There are some frugal gals who HATE to spend money. They'll carry the same handbag for decades and subsist on a very limited wardrobe.

My mother-in-law is like that. While she's supremely generous with her family and friends, she never splurges on herself. And that makes her happy.

Such an austere existence would depress me.

My husband obviously did not marry his mother. I love pretty things, and I love to treat myself to all manner of trinkets and baubles. But like my mother-in-law, I'm always in search of a good deal. In fact, I think many of my frugal ways stem from my love of shopping.

If I didn't bargain shop, I couldn't shop at all.

I bet that a lot of you are in the same boat. You love to buy "lovelies" for yourself, but your bank account/life circumstances/net worth/priorities/frugal sensibilities won't permit you to pay full price.

Because of my seemingly incongruous love of bargains and the finer things in life, I was recently invited to check out and review Apples of Gold Jewelry, a discount jewelry Web that brings near wholesale pricing to consumers.

With the single premise that traditional jewelry retailers exuberantly overprice their products by marking up their jewelry anywhere between 100%-300%, Apples of Gold Jewelry launched with the resolute promise of providing the same, high-end jewelry as any successful jewelry retailer, but at a dramatically lower price.

Prices from high-end retail jewelry stores just did not seem fair. With this in mind, the owners of Apples of Gold Jewelry sought after the most experienced and value-based manufacturers of the jewelry trade...

By working directly with manufacturers and wholesalers, Apples of Gold Jewelry cut out the multiple “middle-men” of the jewelry trade, bypassed the burden of traditional overhead, and thereby minimized the cost of retail jewelry by maintaining an average of 50% below comparable retail mark-up.

I've long known that the markup on jewelry is huge, but I'm not sure that I ever realized how inflated the prices are. Kinda makes me look at my wedding ring in a different light. It would have been nice to pocket the markup. (And in fact, I'm hoping to do that if that diamond class action lawsuit against De Beers ever gets settled.)

But I digress.

I love the premise behind Apples of Gold -- high quality products at fair prices. Isn't that what consumers want from every shopping experience?

Though Internet shopping has skyrocketed in the last decade, many consumers are wary of purchasing big-ticket items online or from non name-brand companies. But that mindset will cost you money.

You can find exceptional products and deals on the Internet from legitimate companies you've never heard of.

I've written a couple of books about e-commerce, and I've even been interviewed as an expert on the topic, so I like to think that I know what I'm talking about. I believe it's smart to be cautious when shopping online, but there are a few clues you can look for to discern legitimate online merchants from those that will steal your money:

  • Check out the Web site's Better Business Bureau rating. Pay careful attention to how the company handles complaints.
  • Does the company list a contact phone number and multiple ways for customers to contact them, in case of a problem or dispute?
  • Read the company's return policy online. If you can't find one, be wary. Ditto if the company doesn't offer a money back guarantee.
  • Is the site VeriSign Secure? In other words, does the site encrypt personal and financial data to protect its customers?
  • Read the site's privacy policy to find out how your personal information will be handled.
I haven't bought anything from Apples of Gold yet, but given the above rules and what I've seen so far on the site, I would. (A few years ago, I bought a gold charm bracelet from a well-known retailer, and it turns out I could purchase a similar one online today from Apples of Gold for about $100 less, even considering the recent spike in gold prices.)

I've had a ball looking at everything Apples of Gold has to offer: gold jewelry, charms and charm bracelets, gemstone jewelry, diamond rings, wedding sets, pendants, pearls, gold crosses and other faith jewelry, earrings, bracelets and personalized jewelry. So much, in fact, that I made a wish list.

(Hint, hint, honey. Anniversary, Christmas, birthday all coming up soon.)

These are some of my favorite items:

Vintage Rose Morganite Ring

This pretty pink gemstone was discovered in California in the early 20th century and named for J.P. Morgan)

Art Deco Blue Diamond Ring

Since learning of the Hope Diamond, I've always been fascinated with blue diamonds. I think this ring is so sweet and pretty.

Personalized Gemstone Heart Pendant

Ever since my son first told me he loved me, I've wanted to get a heart charm engraved with I.L.Y. and the date to wear on my charm bracelet.

Multicolored Freshwater Pearl Bracelet

Pearls are timeless, but to me this bracelet is also modern because it incorporates three colors of pearls.

Blue Diamond Circle Swirl Pendant

Speaking of blue diamonds, I'm in love with this pendant, a clever twist on the popular journey design.

Custom Name Pendant

Maybe I'm so five years ago, but I still want to wear my name around my neck, just like Carrie did in Sex and the City.

Like my picks? Or want to share some of your own? If money were no object, what bling would you buy yourself?


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