The Chronic Consumer

I buy things — all the time!

Premium Wine

Wine is definitely “in” right now, as more and more people are becoming interested in tastings and vineyard tours. Plus, I’ve noticed that even good wines are pretty affordable these days, which makes them accessible to the general public as well as to hardcore aficionados.

In addition, wine of the month clubs are becoming a very popular way for people to sample choice wines that they might not otherwise come across. For example, members of the Gold Medal Wine Club receive two bottles of small-production, award-winning wines from premium family-owned California vineyards every single month. These are the kinds of wines that you wouldn’t typically find at the local liquor store, so that definitely makes club membership worthwhile.

Don’t forget that a wine of the month club membership makes a great gift, so keep Gold Medal Wine in mind for that next special occasion!

Minna No Golf Portable 2

mng2.jpg When it comes to video games, I prefer an arcade feel to realism. What I mean by this is I like games that are easy to play, that have fun and whimsical graphics, and that allow your characters to do things that can’t happen in “real life.” So while my husband insists on playing realistic fare like the Call of Duty series or the Gran Turismo racing games, I would rather stick with Mario Kart and the like.

It should come as no surprise, then, that one of my favorite games of all is Hot Shots Golf. I originally bought my PlayStation Portable (PSP) specifically for Hot Shots, and haven’t really used the handheld for anything else. So when Minna No Golf 2 came out in Japan a couple months ago, I went to my nearest game importer and asked them to order a copy. (Fortunately, PSP games are region-free).

Gameplay: Like its predecessor, Minna No Golf 2 is ideal for both beginner and advanced players. For beginners, it’s easy to get started with the game. Just work through a couple of the tutorials, play a practice round or two, and you’re ready to go. That’s all it takes to master the basics, such as stroke power and club selection.

More advanced players can fine-tune their game by learning how to put spin on the ball, by manually choosing clubs instead of using the ones the caddy chooses, or by learning how to read the wind and greens.

Game Modes: Minna No Golf 2 comes with several different game modes: training, tournament, match play, and a hole-in-one mini game (which is surprisingly addictive).

Unlockables: As with the first Hot Shots Golf game, this one relies heavily on unlockables — items that you “win” by winning your matches. These can be accessories, such as clothing, balls, or clubs, or characters and courses.

Reaction: Overall, I think Minna No Golf Portable 2 is a fantastic game that lives up to the reputation set by the original. The graphics are phenomenal, the learning curve is user-friendly, and I think there’s enough variety to appeal to both casual and hard-core gamers alike

I’m glad I was able to get ahold of an early version, because I have no idea when this game is set to come out around here. Whenever it does, I recommend that you buy it because it certainly is quite a lot of fun!

Shopping Clubs and Special Memberships

One of the best ways to save money while shopping is to join a “members only” type of club. Two common ones that everyone knows about are Sam’s Club and Costco, where a yearly membership fee allows you to save big money on bulk items at various warehouse locations around the country.

There are many more shopping clubs like these, and I encourage you to look around to find one that fits your needs — particularly if you’re planning on spending a lot of money soon.

For example, now is the time when people start thinking about home improvement projects that they’d like to undertake during the year. These projects can be anything from painting to buying new furniture to installing new tiles in the bathroom or kitchen, all of which can cost a bundle.

That’s where a directbuy membership can come in handy. This would give you access to members-only showrooms where you can enjoy deep discounts on a huge selection of home-related products from top manufacturers. Considering the fact that most retailers significantly inflate the prices on these products, buying a membership is a smart move.

So be sure to check out clubs and memberships the next time you’re planning to make a major purchase. You could end up saving a bunch of money by joining!

Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza

sfbpizza.jpg I’m not much of a cook, so I base a lot of my shopping decisions on convenience and ease. That’s why my freezer is always stocked with food products that can be heated up in a jiffy. One of my all-time favorites in this category is Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza.

I’ve been enjoying Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza for at least 15 years now. I have it at least a couple times per month, and even after all these years, I still haven’t gotten tired of it.

The idea is simple: each box comes with two individually wrapped pieces of French bread, topped with pizza sauce and mozzarella cheese. They can be heated up in the toaster oven (my personal choice) or the conventional oven, and they come out crispy, chewy, and absolutely delicious!

There are a bunch of different flavors to choose from, such as Deluxe, Three Meat, Sausage & Pepperoni, Pepperoni & Mushroom, and more, but I usually stick to plain ol’ cheese.

Stouffer’s French Bread Pizza is a hit with kids too, so it’s really a great product to have on hand at all times!

Cheap Prescription Eyeglasses

I’ve been wearing glasses for more than a decade now. At first, I only had to use them while driving; however, my eyes have become progressively worse over the years, so now I have to wear glasses almost all the time.

Due to this increased use, I’ve found that I have to replace my eyeglasses far more frequently than before — because of scratched or broken lenses, bent frames, or just because I lose them. At more than $100 per pair, the cost of replacing my glasses really adds up.

That’s why I’m very excited about my latest great discovery: They offer a huge selection of complete prescription eyeglasses in very stylish frames (plus a case) for as little as $8.00!

Zenni Optical has frames for men, women, and children, and they sell prescription bifocals, sunglasses, and goggles as well.

There’s no way I could find a better deal than that anywhere else, so the next time I have to get a new pair of glasses, I’m going to check out the Zenni Optical site first!

BlackBerry 8320 Curve

8320curve.jpg I think I’m ready for a smartphone!

I’m getting tired of having to lug around three or four different devices every time I leave the house, so I’m planning to take the plunge and buy a smartphone as soon as my current cell phone contract expires.

I’ve already been checking out some of the different offerings, and I really like the BlackBerry 8320 Curve. It has all the features I want, such as a full QWERTY keyboard; video and audio playback (so I can watch videos or listen to MP3s); 2.0 megapixel camera with zoom and flash; and of course WiFi connectivity so I can browse the Internet while I’m on the go.

In addition, the 8320 Curve looks fantastic, and is very lightweight at just 3.9 oz.

I’m putting this baby on my Wish List, and hope to be able to buy it within the next six months or so!

Important Baby Furnishings

sidneycrib.jpg With several of my friends ready to become first-time mothers in the coming months, I’ve been spending a lot of time answering questions about all the things they need to do to get their homes ready for their new arrivals.

While childproofing measures aren’t essential just yet (newborns can’t get into much trouble on their own), appropriate baby furniture is. Having the right dresser, bassinet, cradle, and changing table is important for staying organized and maintaining your sanity in those first frantic weeks.

And of course we can’t forget about baby cribs, either. Newborns spend a lot of time sleeping, so your choice of crib is critical as well. You want something that is cozy and comfortable, and that will last for a couple of years. I usually recommend buying discount products, but with baby cribs, I feel that it’s better to spend a bit extra to make sure you get an excellent product.

Helping my friends get ready to welcome their new babies home makes me a bit nostalgic for the time when my son was a baby. Maybe I should talk to my husband about having another one before it’s too late!

Guitar Hero III Bundle

gh3.jpg I’m not much of a music fan, so I never paid attention to the Guitar Hero video game series. I’d heard of it, of course, and knew that the games were wildly popular, but it just didn’t seem like something that I’d enjoy playing.

However, the hype surrounding the release of Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock was impossible to ignore. Even my husband was intrigued, so he decided to take a break from his usual war and racing games to download the demo for Xbox 360. After playing for an hour or two, we were both hooked, and decided to go ahead and buy the bundle, which includes the guitar controller.

Gameplay: The gameplay is very straightforward. You select a character, select a song to play, and then push buttons on the guitar controller (or standard controller) to correspond with the scrolling notes of the song. The notes are all color-coded, so it’s not as though you have to read music or anything like that.

There are four different skill levels: Easy, Medium, Hard, and Expert. The degree of difficulty increases with each level, so even though you’re essentially playing the same songs on each level, it’s still different. For example, the notes come faster, you have to use more controller buttons, and you have to play chords instead of single notes.

Game Options: There are a few different gaming options to choose from in Guitar Hero III. First, you can choose Quickplay to play a single song from the catalog. Second, you can choose Career Mode, wherein you work your way up from backyard garage band to international superstardom by progressively “beating” songs, finding new sponsors, and getting better and better gigs.

There’s also a Career Co-op mode that allows you to work through a career with a friend, and an online mode that allows you to engage in online play with people around the world.

Reaction: As a first-time player of the Guitar Hero series, I had mixed reactions to Legends of Rock. On the one hand, I absolutely love the concept and think the game is a blast to play — but only on the Easy level! My husband and I both have a lot of trouble on Medium, and we already know that there’s no way we’ll ever beat the game on Hard or Expert.

We’re both pretty dexterous, and my husband is especially proficient at all kinds of video games. But the jump in difficulty from Easy to Medium seems to be pretty extreme in this game. Maybe others who have played the first and second versions can chime in with their opinion; I’d love to hear what you think about the difficulty levels in Guitar Hero III.

Playing the game with the guitar controller is very cool, albeit a bit harder than with the standard controller since you have to strum as well as push the color buttons. Even so, it wouldn’t be half as much fun on a regular controller!

Overall, my husband and I both like Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock. The bundle was pretty expensive at $100, but the purchase was worth it for us. There are so few video games that we can both play together, that we gladly paid more for this one!