Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Does It Matter if it's Made in America?

Until recently I confess to being an imported car buyer. My dad didn't like a lot of American-made cars except for Chevys and extinct ones like the Edsel and De Soto. Being a dutiful (?) daughter and completely ignorant about any car, his attitude became my attitude. My first car was a 1950 something German Volvo that was given to system failure at any moment (usually after midnight). From there I went straight to VW's with two buses and three versions of the Golf. There was an interlude with a baby blue Camaro, but after a year I traded it in for a VW because I couldn't put big stuff in the trunk. Being a Cub Scout mom and do-it-yourselfer, I needed more hauling space. My current ride is a used 1995 Ford Ranger pick-up truck with a camper shell, but that's another story. Supporting Americans by purchasing American-made items didn't come to my mind until the economic crisis starting smacking us around.

With good intentions I went shopping for a new battery-powered toothbrush and chose the nationally known brand instead of the house brand. Good intentions thwarted, however. They're both made in China! Economics Class experiment: if I gave away all the products not made (and assembled) in America in my living room would I have anything left?

Canada: VCR player ($500 - 12 years ago)

China: printer ($90), computer screen ($130 on sale), computer ($600 on sale),Christmas decorations ($60 - some from thrift shop), computer components (Value-?),computer desk ($50), lamps ($200), one end table ($90 on sale), credenza ($60), book shelves ($120), plant basket ($5), computer speakers ($19), television stand ($120), headphones for the t.v. ($90), Calculator ($1), and a lot more small stuff.

Germany: Photograph paper ( $30)

Ireland: Computer ink ($16)

Japan: Camera ($350)

Malaysia: CD Player ($50), telephone system ($100)

Mexico: Cable box is licensed to manufacture by an American company to a Korean company who outsources to Mexico. (Value? We rent this from the company)

Taiwan: Television ($998 on sale)

U.S.A.: Some assembly of the computer in America - parts made in China, one old end table whose company now outsources to Mexico($100), tiny copper pot (Value? Bought at thrift shop), three planters ($20), computer paper ($4), various computer stuff ($20), two old recliner-type chairs, likely made in the U.S.A., but newer chairs are manufactured in other countries (Value ? given to us by friends), one couch (We bought it at a yard sale; it was made in Tacoma, WA by a company that no longer exists.)

The contents of my living room if I kept only made-in-America items: three plant pots, computer paper, some small computer stuff, an end table, and two really old and well worn chairs and couch. Since we are about to replace our living room furniture (the cat is almost finished clawing them into oblivion), we'd have no furniture at all. Check this out for some interesting info about which furniture manufacturers outsource:

Could I restock my living room with American-made items? I'm on a fixed income and am concerned that I couldn't afford to buy American, but that may not be true. How about if companies that outsource production are misleading us? After all, these American-based companies that have moved jobs away from the U.S.A have to make a profit. Do I really need to buy at that Big Box store because I can't afford American? Does the item need to be completely manufactured and assembled here to be supportive of the U.S. economy? The answer to this last question turns out to be extremely politically complicated, so what do all those numbers actually mean? I'll let you know if I ever find out.

I intend to buy as many products made in American as I can. Check your particular state for items made there. You can find nearly anything you want by looking at your state's list and the ones below. I've verified all of the ones I provided, but as always, if your computer screams "virus," don't open the site. There are plenty of others that will be just fine.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Let's have some frugal (not cheap) gift giving

Have we heard enough about hyper-commercial holiday gift giving and how most of us can't really afford what we'd like to buy for people? It certainly takes some of the fun out of the season. I was surprised that sales for Black Friday 2011 were up from last year and shaking my head about the commercialism of it all until I realized that folks were staying up all night to be frugal. That determination is admirable, unless you pepper spray someone to get an edge on the crowd. (Seriously, this happened!) Again, let's remind ourselves that being frugal does not equal cheap or miserly or a sign of neediness. Frugality is a way to stay solvent, in control, and sane during these unpredictable financial times.

Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and Christmas are all celebrated around winter solstice, so we can use many ideas for each feast interchangeably. So, let's tackle the holiday gift challenge wisely. The week of November 28, 2011 (and likely beyond that) is "cyber shopping week," which means that Black Friday gets an extension, at least on line. (A person's financial situation can mean that s/he has no personal computer or internet access. Family and friends: please offer yours. If not, most libraries have public-use computers that "forget" your personal information after you log off. A person can use their ATM card number instead of a credit card.)

I've found several sites to share with ideas ranging from coupons, to what to get a guy, to make-it-yourself ideas, and beyond. Some online shopping sites are offering free shipping this week - like
Check out this site for more stores participating in free shipping. It's an article from Time Magazine - just close the ad and the article will be available. (Whoops about the inability to link from the sites in bold. Copy the site to the web or copy, right click and choose "open link.")

offers free shipping all year if you order at least $25 worth from the Amazon stock. It's a good deal even though Amazon's stock items are more expensive. (I'm not shilling for Amazon! Their shipping deal is good - and a bit complicated.) Instead of me trying to paraphrase Amazon's policy, I've copied this from their site:
To take advantage of FREE Super Saver Shipping:
1. Place at least $25 of eligible products in your Shopping Cart. (Eligible items will display "eligible for FREE Super Saver Shipping ..." next to their price.)
2. Proceed to checkout.
3. Ship your items to a single U.S. address.
4. Select "Group my items into as few shipments as possible" as your shipping preference.
5. Select Super Saver Shipping as your shipping speed. Your order will be delivered within 5-8 business days.
6. (I did paraphrase this exception: if you order items not eligible for free shipping, you will be charged shipping for those items.)

Be sure to order early enough for delivery!

Back to frugal gift ideas: check e-Bay for possible gifts and be sure to note the customer satisfaction level for that seller. I don't usually order used items, but have when the item came with enough guarantees. I also searched for frugal Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas gift ideas 2011 in general, for kids, for men, make-it-yourself, for women, coupons, etc . Enjoy the search and enjoy your holiday giving! There are ads on most of these sites, so ignore them if you wish. Here's a great site for parents of young children. Rent the toys for a month or two - if you like the toy, you can buy it at lower costs. I wish I had this when my kids were little! This is a good idea for only some of my family. Intriguing ideas. Save the budgeting ideas for next year and scroll down for good ideas.
Scroll down past the ads to the ideas.
I wouldn't have thought of some of theses gifts. Thanks, guys!

Fair Trade goods are, well, fair to producers in developing countries. This movement provides better trading conditions and promotes sustainability as well as fair compensation as directly as possible to the producers. Many products are great frugal gifts. Here are just three of the many web sites dedicated to fair trade.

MORE HOLIDAY SITES: This may not be a free download for long. This is a free download. Kwanzaa books and gifts for kids.


Happy Holidays and Holy Days to you all!