Managing your household purchases can be tough. You buy clothes to keep your family warm and proud. The house needs furnishings, appliances, and constant repair. Sometimes it seems the budget can’t keep up.
Some companies are willing to take advantage of your stress, selling you cheap products that won’t last. It takes dedication, intelligence, and, most importantly, practice to make wise and frugal purchases. Here are a few tips from your grandmother knew that kept her family warm and comfortable.
Your grandmother knew what she needed. Marketing agents are clever. They know that the best way to get you to spend money is to convince you that you need something you don’t. So they put out samples of luxury foods at the grocery store or ply you with 25%-off sales. Before you know it, you’ve radically overspent your budget.
That’s why your grandmother kept a list of necessary purchases. You should, too!:
- At home, keep a list of items you need for the house alongside your family budget.
- Take a list with you to the store and don’t allow yourself to buy anything that isn’t on it. Or go shopping with a calculator and specific budget in mind. Keep track of the cost of every item in your cart, including tax, so you don’t spend more than you can afford.
- If you find yourself really struggling with self-control in a store, consider shopping on-line. It’s much easier to buy only what you need when you aren’t forced to see as many things you don’t.
Your grandmother was willing to wait. Installment plans and store credit cards trick us into thinking we can afford something right now.
Your grandmother saved up for big-ticket items:
- When you budget, set aside money each month toward larger purchases.
- If you absolutely must buy something on an installment plan, try to negotiate for an interest-free period and make sure you can pay off the debt before that period is over. Be wary that the interest rate at the end of an interest-free period can be quite high.
- Calculate the total cost of an item you buy with interest. For example, if you pay something off over 10 years at 7% interest, you’ll pay twice as much in the long run!
Your grandmother could recognize quality. We’ve gotten used to the idea that items are disposable—we use them until they break and throw them away. But that 25%-off TV will turn out to be twice as expensive if you have to replace it next year.
Your grandmother could recognize quality when she saw it:
- Do your research before you buy. Amazon.com is a great resource for comparing different goods. Make sure that your money will go as far as possible by buying high-quality goods.
- Shopping ethically isn’t a luxury. Your grandmother shopped at stores she trusted to do right by their employees. Today, it’s much harder to find vendors who have good records of employee satisfaction and environmental responsibility. Even so, do your best to buy products from sellers with good reputations and that are made from renewable resources. Shopping American-made is a great way to start because manufacturers in the U.S. are held to high ethical standards.
- You usually get what you pay for. Quality items usually cost more—and some times significantly more—than their cheaply-made counterparts. Just remember that the item will usually pay for itself in additional product life, enjoyment, or satisfaction from doing the right thing.
Your grandmother expected good customer service. As convenient as it is to shop at once-stop, big box chains, these shopping trips are rarely pleasant. You can’t find anyone to assist you. You wait in long lines to check out. And heaven forbid you need to exchange anything.
Your grandmother recognized that good money demanded good customer service. When she didn’t get the customer service she deserved, she found somewhere else to shop:
- The best way to get better service is to shop local.
- If you can’t find local shopkeepers look for companies like Zappos with a good reputation for customer service.
- Even better, deal with Etsy vendors—this website for small-scale entrepreneurs provides a way to shop “local,” twenty-first-century-style.
Do you have any of your grandmother’s wisdom to share? Let us know in the comments.