Buying Power
Setting a shopping budget is easy. What's hard is making sure you spend it smart. One luxurious purchase that will last a lifetime? Or lots of economical things? Either way, it's all about value.

(MONEY Magazine) – Each time you make a purchase, you choose between one product or service and another. You figure out how much you want to spend, then you ask questions. Would you rather take a weekend trip for two or a weeklong family vacation? Buy a new Toyota or a used Lexus? Get a desktop or a laptop? And if a laptop, which one? Both options may be right--or at least, neither is wrong. The choice depends on what you're looking for.

To a point, you can rely on your gut--maybe you just want that Lexus. But gut alone won't tell you what percentage of their resale value most new cars lose in the first three years. Or the best time to find well-made designer shoes at half-price. Or how to rig a laptop so it has all the features you need and none you don't. For that, turn the page. And keep turning.

Fall is shopping season. New gadgets are unveiled, car models are released, trips are planned. We figured if you're going to be spending, you ought to spend smart. So we hunted for deals in six categories: gifts, clothing, technology, home furnishings, travel and cars. In each case we started with a budget and then, for the same price, found one splurge and a bunch of frugal choices. No matter what the cost, every product represents a way to get more for your money--more power or style, luxury or value, durability or fun. In short, more of whatever it is you're looking for.