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Shop Good Blog

Learning (slowly) to shop, give, & live with more dignity.

Best Reads of 2017 | Shop Good Book Club

January 13, 2018

My thoroughly biased and utterly self-indulgent list of the best books I read in 2017.

(listed chronologically by when I read them) 


 

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Good Ideas for Your $20 Gift Exchange

December 01, 2017

Inexpensive gift exchanges are very common in workplaces and among other groups of people who may not know each other well, like a committee or among neighbors. Sometimes, guests pick a name in advance and are meant to bring a $10 or $20 gift for that person.

In other cases, the gift exchange isn’t actually for a person in particular, but for a general pool where maybe it is traded (opened or unopened) among the partygoers.

In either situation, the result is often a glut of gifts & items that will, in January, be relegated to the back of the closet or the Goodwill pile.


The challenges are many:

  • It is difficult to be thoughtful when you don’t know the recipient of the gift (or don't know them very well)
  • It can feel like $10 or $20 doesn’t get you very far
  • Presents that stores target to shoppers for this purpose are so bad!

I have a pet peeve about the pre-planned gifts that line the aisles of drugstores and Targe-type stores… So. Much. Junk. Some of the worst offenders, imo, are: random lotion sets; bad chocolates; mug sets…

I think that, addressing #2 above, many of these gifts are attempting to go for something more physically substantial. Maybe it feels better to come with an entire basket of a gift rather than something small? The “value” of these prepared gifts (and I use the term value very loosely) seems to be in the quantity, at the expense of quality — like, there’s nothing great about this thing… so let’s just add more of it and make it into a big gift!


I know we can do better!

With a bit of planning and a bit of thinking, we can have the best gifts out there, without adding to the landfill or going over the budget. 

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Shop Good Book Club | Books About Family Dynamics

November 04, 2017

We’re heading into a season of major family dynamics, with holidays and time together and everything else that involves.

People are so complex, and the relationships that we are born into (or perhaps, join in marriage) make for some of the most fascinating fodder for fiction and memoir alike.

I am always very reluctant to recommend anything I have never read, but the truth is, I’m not particularly well-read, and I often recommend the same favourites! #sorrynotsorry! (Though, there is not a single mention below of my oft-mentioned books Dinner: A Love Story, or The Glass Castle. I'm mentioning them here instead 😂)

You may pick up one of these books to feel better that your family isn’t so bad after all; or, to experience communion with others whose families are just as crazy; or, to wish that you were one of the Marches, just for a while. Or, perhaps you just need an excuse to retreat into your own room with a good book ;)

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How to Make the Best Consumer Choices with Return Policies in Mind

October 19, 2017

Last week, I wrote about return policies from the corporate level: how businesses create return policies to best serve their customers, but ultimately to increase profits. But, how do we as customers best navigate the "policies" to both protect our purchases & advocate for ourselves?

Behind the scenes of dignify, we’ve made mistakes… PLENTY of them. But, I can’t remember any situation (even when we’ve messed up big-time) where the person on the other end of the phone or email conversation was left disgruntled or angry. In fact, I’m relieved (and tbh, a little shocked) at how cheery and delightful everyone always is, in the end.

And I think it’s because we actually, you know… treat people like human beings.

I had an experience recently (as a customer) that was a wakeup call; maybe “being treated as a person” is not always the norm for online customer service!

This is just one, small story, but I hope that I learned a little something from the experience; maybe it will be helpful to you, too.


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Return Policies from the Eye of the Store

October 14, 2017


It seems obvious that a return/exchange policy is necessary. You never know if something will stand up to your expectations; as a customer, knowing the return policy is a bit like an escape route. You hope that you won’t, but should you need it, you want to know where the exits are and how to access them. 

But, while serving the customer, ultimately, the biggest winner is the business: “return policies have [become] as much a marketing tool as a retail standard,” — NYTimes

How so?

Well, overall, a return policy is design to maximize profits. And, perhaps surprisingly, there are several ways to earn this result.


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Why We Do It... In Her Words

October 11, 2017

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Simplify Your Stuff by Joining a Decluttering Club!

September 08, 2017

My friend Aleisha confessed to me that she had been attending an unusual "club"… for decluttering! There has been an interest around here in minimalism, capsule wardrobes, & the like, so I asked Aleisha to share her experience with us.

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A Satisfying Vacation: 5 Ways I Was Happy To Spend Money This Summer (And 1 Total Miss)

September 02, 2017

We just returned from a 2-week holiday: a mix of visiting friends & family, and down-time with our little fam of 5.

I usually come from vacation with plenty of thoughts on money, spending, and value. No surprise there, because vacation is when you spend the money that you worked hard saving all the time leading up to the break!

We’ve had some hits & misses over the years, both generally speaking and specifically in the ways we’ve chosen to spend our vacation money. This summer was no exception, although I do think that we’re (slowly) learning and hitting more than we’re missing with our wallets.

Here are 5 things I was happy about in our summer vacation spending:

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Enough is As Good As A Feast

August 18, 2017


Lee-Ann dos Santos & I connected through mutual friends and shared interests, as she's been working on her own family business, designing ethical & mindfully-produced children's clothing for their forthcoming shop, author. We have found so many similar cares, interests, & concerns, I knew she would be a perfect fit to share what she's been thinking here at Shop Good! Thanks, Lee-Ann!


I’ve had a love-hate relationship with chalk board art ever since watching this talk by chalk-art master Dana Tanamachi. Truth be told, I can’t stand chalk. At all. But I am a sucker for inspirational wall art. Not to impress my guests, but to keep me sane and happy.

Nine months ago, with my brand new chalk marker (hallelujah!) in hand, I flippantly scrawled this quote onto my lovingly finger-painted chalkboard frame. [In reality, of course, my “flippant scrawl” took 9 tries to get right, but who’s counting?]



Sounds so proverb-ial doesn’t it? Do you remember who said it? It was easy to miss. She snuck it in there right after Michael and Jane asked if they could clean up the nursery a second time… 

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Vacation Economics 101: Supply & Demand

August 09, 2017


A few weeks ago, our family visited Lake Louise, the famously beautiful, glacier-fed lake in the Canadian Rocky Mountains. There is no question that it is exceptionally beautiful; just look at it:



On offer? Canoe rentals, like those ones pictured. Your very own opportunity to explore this extraordinary locale from onthe lake!

The price tag?

$105/hour. (Or, half an hour: $95)

!!!

Line-ups?

Out the door.

!!!

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Travel, Any Travel, Is A Luxury; And I Am Grateful

August 04, 2017

You may have read that the consumption patterns are shifting in America; there is still plenty of money being spent, but the shift isaway from stuff, towards things like education, travel, and experiences.

I’ve read blogs and books about traveling with families (because that is my space of life right now) that tout the high value of the travel experience for family togetherness, education, adventure, etc.  It’s not that I disagreed, but there was something I couldn’t put my finger on… Even though the focus is often “budget” travel (You can do it! Forgo eating out! Don’t put kids in activities! Live below your means! Pinch pennies! Stay in hostels!), the reality just didn’t seem quite as simple, or accessible, as these experiences.

I read an article that Emily Teo wrote called “Travel, Not a Necessity But a Luxury” and I thought it was a welcome perspective to add to the conversation. Emily shares a condensed version of the article with us:

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The Biggest & Best Tip for Hosting: Just Do It.

July 08, 2017

A couple of years ago, I shared a post about hosting & entertaining well; it’s all about how to focus on people, but also offered a number of practical tips for creating a welcoming, homey atmosphere to put guests at ease for enjoyment.

I still think that these suggestions are awesome, and my friend Carolyn, who wrote the article, continues to hold the trophy as the best hostess I know.

But, what about the times when capacities are low, when the ideal setup can’t come together, or when all you have to offer is takeout and paper towels as plates??

The last two weeks have been a bold reminder to me that the best tip for hosting is:


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