Smart Buying

The Best Value Products and Services

We found affordable alternatives to 42 gold-standard items.

A friend of mine who is shopping for furniture for a new home recently told me she has Pottery Barn taste but a Wal-Mart budget. Sound familiar?

Most of us prefer the nicer things in life but can't always afford them. But that doesn't mean we have to settle for second-rate products

and services. In the April issue of Kiplinger's Personal Finance magazine, we identify the gold standard and value alternatives for stocks, funds, cars, credit cards, vacations and more.

For example, you could buy shares of Pimco Total Return A (symbol PTTAX), run by star bond picker Bill Gross -- and pay a 3.75% sales charge and 0.90% in annual fees. Or you could invest in Gross's no-load Harbor Bond Institutional (HABDX), which has just 0.57% in fees.

You could get the new American Express Premier Rewards Gold card, which has a $175 annual fee (waived the first year), and earn points for every dollar spend. Or you could get even more rewards points with the PenFed Premium Travel Rewards American Express and pay just a $50 annual fee (after joining the Pentagon Federal credit union for $20).

For our entire list of best versus bargain picks, see Get the Best, Spend Less.

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