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How to Be a Successful Shopper
THE art of shopping
has never been more important than in these days of high prices and inflation.
In country after country, prices have hit alarming highs, with little hope of a
downward trend in the foreseeable future. In many families both parents have to
work just to make ends meet. How important it is, then, for you to know how,
where, and when to shop and how to spend your money in the most prudent way!
Know the Value of Things
One of the most important elements in being a good shopper is knowing the value of things. A sale item - be it clothing, an appliance, or food - will not represent a savings if it is of poor quality, needs drastic alterations or repairs, or is ultimately not used.
For instance, when
buying clothing, ask yourself: Is the material of good quality? Is it well
made? Does it have to be altered? How often will I wear it? Is it a style that
will last? Is it easy to keep clean? An item that needs to be dry-cleaned can
be more expensive in the long run than a washable item that is higher priced
initially. So maintenance is a factor. Real bargains are those clothes that fit
well, flatter your face and figure, and can be worn and enjoyed for years.
The same principles
apply to purchasing furniture and appliances, whether new or used. Is the item
of good quality? Does it work? If repairs are needed, can you make them
yourself? What will the final cost be? Asking yourself these questions,
especially when shopping at garage and yard sales or flea markets, can inhibit
impulse buying and save many a penny.
To get the best value in appliances, you should know what they cost to operate. Big maintenance and utility bills can add greatly to the cost of an item. Think too of where the item will be used. For example, an air conditioner placed in a sunny window will take much more electricity to cool the room than one placed in a window away from the sun. The length of time the appliance is on as well as its size, age, and efficiency will determine how much energy it draws and, therefore, the overall cost.
Know When to Buy
Knowing when to buy
can at times be more important than where. Usually, the best bargains in summer
clothes can be obtained toward the end of the summer season. Most clothing
stores have clearance sales then to make room for their fall outfits. The same
is true at the end of the winter season. The greatest savings will be realized
by purchasing them toward the end of winter and just before the spring
merchandise comes in. True, selections may not be as broad, but they are
Since most car
models do not change much from year to year, you can save by buying a new car
toward the end of the year when dealers clear their lots for the next year's
models. Do not be afraid to ask questions as to what warranties and service go
with your purchase. In time these may prove more valuable than some features of
the car itself.
Buy Only What You Need
It requires a great deal of discipline to resist impulse buying. And never is that truer than when shopping for food. It is one of the most costly items in a family's budget.
At the same time,
what you pay for food can usually be reduced a great deal by careful planning.
With this in mind, observe a cardinal rule: Never shop for food when you are
hungry. Never. You will invariably buy things (usually sweets) that you
would not ordinarily buy. Have you not found that to be true?
Making a shopping
list and sticking to it is another must for keeping within a budget.
Unless you do, each time you enter the store, you will come out with more than
you had planned to buy. According to surveys, a woman planning to buy 3 items
in a supermarket, without a list, will end up with 8 to 10 items; a man with
nearly 20! Of course, the stores contribute to this. How?
as dairy products, meats, and vegetables, are usually stocked far from checkout
counters. Therefore, you must pass many products to get to these items. And
before you have what you came in for, your basket may be half full. Obviously,
a list in hand is essential in cutting down unneeded purchases.
Before shopping, it
is also wise to check the store's fliers for sales. Thus, if your budget
allows, you can stock up on staples and plan the next week's menus accordingly.
Knowing the items and their usual prices will help you to avoid marketing
gimmicks where an item is promoted but really not at a savings. Shopping in the
middle of the week is another aid. The store will be less crowded, you will be
less hurried, and you can still benefit from the sales. And remember to take
advantage of fruits and vegetables in season. They are much more economical
then and can often be canned for future use. Obviously, careful planning
beforehand is necessary.
You may find it
wise not to take the children shopping with you. Why? Because not only will
they distract you but they have been conditioned to force you to buy what they
see on television. Many mothers have been manipulated by their children at
checkout counters to buy unnecessary toys and junk food that have been
conveniently placed where the child can grab them. One mother in the midwestern
United States admitted that hardly a shopping trip went by when she did not "have to buy" her young son a new toy truck or car. Needless to say, if you are
weak in this area, diligent effort must be made to be loving but firm with your
children if they are with you when you are shopping.
The rule of buying
only what you need applies even more so to clothes when you are working with a
tight budget. Fortunately, the amount spent in this area can be controlled,
reduced, and even eliminated for a time. How? First, by passing clothes on to
others in the family. Although some children have a mental block against hand-me-down
clothes, if they are encouraged to appreciate that their cooperation will save
the family money, their resentment may disappear. Especially is this true when
they see the savings used for outings, vacations, and other family projects.
Second, swap meets
featuring clothes and appliances can be organized among friends and neighbors.
A dress that is the wrong color for one woman may be perfect for another. Shoes
that were too small or too large can now be put to use. Appliances, unused in
one home but needed in another, can be exchanged. The best part is that these
needed items are received without any outlay of money - a shopper's dream.
savings can be achieved by comparing store prices. Also, when buying in
quantity, check to see which store gives the greatest discount. Some paint
stores, for instance, give a 10-percent discount for four or more gallons of
the same color. Often you can team up with others and share the products as
well as the savings.
When buying food,
the same procedure can be followed. Check your local paper to learn when each
store has its sales and shop accordingly. Do not be a slave to brand names. A
popular brand may lead in sales but not necessarily in nutrition. Popular
brands are usually higher priced to cover advertising and packaging. Store
brands may be just as good.
The "no frills"
items of recent years are a boost to any budget. They are often packaged in
plain black and white containers (hence their name). But do not judge them
before trying them. Many are comparable in quality and taste to brand names,
yet much less expensive. The same holds true with prescription drugs. A generic
drug is identified by its chemical name rather than by a registered brand name.
Its composition is the same, but it costs much less.
Of course, care must be used when doing comparison shopping. If one dashes all over town for just an item or two on sale, the amount saved will quickly be used up in transportation costs. So be sensible. You can even save by shopping in one store regularly. You get to know when sales are run. You also learn where the products are, and thus you save time. For those on a very busy schedule, that can be as important as saving money.
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