Tuesday, January 15, 2008

How to Shop Wisely


Do you get your money’s worth when you shop? If you’re not pleased with the way your dollar stretches, you’re not alone. Perhaps all you need are some shopping guidelines, a little practice, and above all, a healthy dose of skepticism. I’d like to discuss some practices I’ve employed over the years that result in substantial savings.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You'll Need

  • Access to a variety of retail establishments
  • Resistance to high pressure sales techniques
  • A willingness to compare products and values



Step One

Shop where an item is cheap. A lot of money can be saved if you know where to shop. Good-sized eggplants sell at Von’s Market for $2.39 each. A similar one is available at Farm to Market, just 300 yards away, for 99¢. It’s a matter of familiarizing yourself with what’s available and then shop accordingly.

Step Two

Relegate brand names to their proper place. Whether your choice of lipstick is the $25 Chanel selection from Macy's, the $6.75 Max Factor brand from Walgreen Drug or the $1.39 Wet 'n Wild tube from Target, be aware that the essential ingredients are the same. The difference is packaging, promotion and mystique, which is what cosmetics are all about.

Step Three

Ignore high pressure promotion. The advertising industry, devoted to identifying what the citizen considers significant, manipulates the market to create those choices. Magazine subscriptions, timeshare projects, $300 per ounce bottles of perfume, Las Vegas weekend getaways, $1,800 ballpoint pens and the purchase of lottery tickets. As a rule of thumb, the more overpriced the merchandise, the more innovative its promotion. Don’t be a victim.

Step Four

When comparing prices, evaluate products at unit prices. The 8-ounce container of a popular detergent sells for $2.72. The “Super Economy Size” boasts a full quart for only $12.80. Which is the better buy? The deciding factor is the per-ounce price. Divide the price of the smaller container, $2.75, by its volume, 8 ounces. The result: 34¢ per ounce. Then divide the price of the larger container, $12.80, by its volume (there are 32 ounces in a quart), to get 40¢ per ounce. Surprise! The “Super Economy Size” is really not so economic.

Step Five

Don’t be taken in by celebrity nonsense. You’re familiar with the commercials. The assertion that noted cellist Yo Yo Ma wears a Rolex wrist watch is presented as sufficient justification for you to buy one. Despite the prestige of the wearer, a Timex Atlantis 100 for $44.95 keeps time every bit as accurately as a Rolex Datejust President for $6,525.00. As you go through life, remember that a celebrity is merely a magnified person.

Step Six

Select style over fashion. Recognize that a cornerstone of the marketing industry is planned obsolescence. It is not by coincidence that the chartreuse sports jackets promoted aggressively in one season are as enthusiastically shunned the following season. Don’t permit yourself to be whipsawed from fashion to fashion. Instead, select products for use over the long haul that are functional, durable and that truly suit your taste.

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