Are you more apt to overspend at the mall or online? Can’t decide? While you’re thinking, I’ll go first. I am more likely to overspend in a store. Without a doubt.

I’ve gone to great lengths to wean myself from brick-and-mortar stores. I must be nuts or something, but I can stroll past a store like Restoration Hardware—not needing a single thing—and just like that have an overwhelming need for the finest Italian linens with sumptuous thread counts. Plus, an entire bedroom suite on which to display them. It’s crazy!


I feel deprived and pathetic not owning the stuff I see. I turn into a spoiled child pitching a fit if I can’t have everything I now want. Clearly, it is better for me to simply not go near anything resembling a mall.

Online shopping is a godsend. It keeps me out of the stores, and makes shopping less emotional so I can just get what I need and be done with it. I don’t feel so vulnerable and compulsive while seated at the keyboard. Read more

I love getting feedback from readers about past columns. Whether it’s an email to me at Mary[at] or a comment posted on my blog at, I thoroughly enjoy reading the follow-up responses and tips. For example, Carol sent me this great idea for my lemon bounty.


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GOT LEMONS? MAKE LIMONCELLO. I loved reading the Everyday Cheapskate column on Mary’s lemon bounty. I wanted to suggest for anyone who has an excess of lemons—make Limoncello. This is an Italian lemon liqueur that also uses the lemon’s peels, and it is delicious. I made it last year for Christmas gifts, and had the most fun shopping swap meets and yard sales to find really beautiful and unusual bottles. I even researched recipes using limoncello and attached them to the bottles. It takes a few weeks to make, but it’s easy and the end result is beautiful. With all the juicing, peeling and cooking, there’s not a smidgen of waste. Carol, email Read more

Dear Mary,

Recently my sister and I spent a day shopping at outlets. I was pretty pleased with some good deals I scored, especially one sweater I found for 50 percent off. But then a couple days later I went to my local mall and saw the same sweater on sale for even less! Needless to say, I was pretty annoyed. Is there any way to guarantee I’m getting the best bargain when shopping at an outlet? Sandy, email

Potomac Mills JCPenney Outlet mall entrance
Dear Sandy,

Outlet shopping can produce some great bargains, but you have to be particularly careful. You can find first-quality overruns, seconds, samples, prototypes, discontinued items, and even merchandise made to sell in outlets only. Outlets are where retailers send their manufacturing goofs. They might look great on the rack, but perhaps the fabric was cut off-grain or they are not true to size. Don’t assume everything is a bargain.

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When it comes to compulsive tendencies there’s no question I received more than the standard allotment. I can sit down fully intending to watch the evening news and end up owning a pasta machine. I can stop by the mall to just look around and come out with three outfits, a gift for someone and several things for the house. I can glance at a mail order catalog and in the time it takes to go online, Adirondack chairs and matching windsocks are winging their way to my front door.

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Why? I see what I like and WHAM! Something goes off in my head insisting that I need it right this minute, I’m entitled to it and pity the poor soul who tries to prevent me from having it.

While my compulsive tendencies will forever be part of my personality, thankfully I have found ways to quiet them and make them my allies. Read more

Don’t look now, but that man who just walked into the store behind you is not here to shop. He’s a shopping anthropologist. The store hired his employer to find out what makes you tick. Once they have this data, they’ll use it to improve their profit margins.


He’s watching your every move, taking notes, timing each of your behaviors.   Read more