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Put Your Money Where It Matters (to you)

Money is always a game of juggling your priorities.  I became extra aware of it this weekend when I was talking with my father about my aging and ailing Toyota Prius.  The trunk doesn’t open on my Prius.  The latch broke a couple of months ago and my father asked me why I hadn’t had it fixed yet.  And I blathered something about not having time and money.  But then I realized that fixing the trunk just wasn’t my priority right now.  I find the time and money to go see my favorite bluegrass bands.  I always find the time and money to enjoy dinner out at my favorite brewpub on Friday nights.  I have the time and money to take a class every semester to work toward an academic goal.  It’s just not that important to me to be able to open the trunk on my Prius.  I will get it fixed eventually.  But it’s pretty easy for me to work around for now, so I just haven’t made it a priority.

I guess the tricky part with money is defining your priorities and making sure they’re not out of balance.  Making bluegrass festivals more important than repairing the broken trunk latch on a car that is otherwise fine isn’t a problem.  Making dinner out at the brewpub more important than paying the rent is a HUGE problem.  It’s a matter of making sure your NEEDS are met before you start throwing money at your WANTS.  And then you can decide how you are going to prioritize those wants.

I want to get my trunk repaired.  I just don’t want it more than I want concert tickets.  At least not this week.

Food and Stuff: Adventures in Grocery Shopping

I went to three different grocery stores this weekend.  I hate grocery shopping.  And totally on purpose I did it three different times in two days.  But there is, indeed, a method to my madness.  And it’s all about getting the best stuff for the lowest cost.

My first stop was Trader Joe’s.  I know lots of folks love Trader Joe’s for nearly everything.  For me it’s really a one purpose trip.  It’s all about the canned cat food.  It’s no secret that I’m a little nutty about my fur babies.  And I’ve tried every canned cat food from Friskies to the ultra-high end grain free foods.  But I keep coming back to Trader Joe’s.  The combination of high quality and reasonable price just can’t be beat.  Worth adding a quick stop at an extra store?  Since it’s not far from my house (so I’m not putting any financial savings into my gas tank), I think yes.

Second stop was WalMart.  I know lots of people have ethical objections to WalMart, but I really love having a low price “food and stuff” store close to my home.

My mission there was dry goods, toiletries, and cleaning supplies.  Some of these I can’t find exactly the brand and size I want at my favorite grocery store, so I go to WalMart.  And for things like laundry detergent, it’s just plain cheaper there.

All of that was enough for one day for me, but Sunday morning I was out again, this time to Wegmans.  My mission there was produce and store brand products.  I’m a huge fan of Wegmans brand stuff.  Toilet paper.  Tissues.  Soda (which yes….I know I shouldn’t be drinking…but I have an addiction).  Soups.  Dairy products.  All Wegmans brand.  All cheaper than I can get name brands at either WalMart or Sam’s Club.  And in my opinion better quality than I’ll find in the more expensive name brand items.

So for someone who hates grocery shopping, why did I put myself through this?  Could I have just gone to Giant and gotten everything I needed there for just about the same cost?  Maybe.  Would I have been as happy with the items as what I got by making all three stops?  Definitely not.

For me, the three stop shopping weekend isn’t the norm…but a two stop weekend is not unusual.  This was a big one.  I was out of a lot of things and preparing to not be home next weekend.  But my reality is that the best product for the best price is important to me.  Worth going to three grocery stores in one weekend.

Are you a one-stop shopper?  If so, you likely know that your priority is getting the groceries quickly and easily.  If you’re a multi-stop shopper like me, you know that you’re more focused on getting the best price on the product you really want, without compromise.  Both are viable tactics.

How many grocery stores do you go to regularly?


Bargain? Or Value?

Lately it seems like the concept of bargain versus value keeps popping up in my life.  A bargain is something that you purchase for a really amazing low price.  A value, however, is something that you may pay a pretty penny for, but over time that item pays for itself many times over because of how much it is used.

For example, I have two pairs of brown cowboy boots.  One pair I bought about ten years ago for a bargain price of about $15.  I’ve probably only worn them three times.  They’re not that comfortable, they’re hot because they’re not real leather, and the soles are pretty slippery.  The other pair I bought this past July when I was at a conference in Nashville.  It caused me a little pain to fork over $130 for them because I almost never make splurges like that.  But since July, I’ve easily worn them at least twenty-five times (many times during the summer months that are not exactly boots weather), and I’m always looking forward to the next time I can put them on my feet.  They’re really comfortable, and I adore them.  And if you figure out the cost per wear, right now they’re only a little more per wear than the bargain boots.  Within a month I’ll have worn them enough times that the cost per wear is less than the bargain boots.  That makes them a value.  My beloved boots have already given me lots of use.  And I’ll be wearing them for years to come.  The expensive boots are clearly the better value.


Similarly, last week I went shopping for a new suit (after somehow getting away with just not having one for several years).  I had to choose between an all-black skirt and jacket and a suit made up of a black skirt and jade jacket.  The jade suit was 40% less expensive than the black suit.  And I bought the black suit anyway.  The versatility of being able to mix and match the skirt and jacket with other items in my already existing wardrobe made it the better value.  I can see myself wearing either the skirt or the jacket to work at least once a week.  That simply wouldn’t have happened with the other option.

For a bargain lover like myself, it’s hard to admit that sometimes it makes sense to spend more money for something that will provide better value.  But time and again, when I invest more money than I want to in a purchase that I know will provide great value, I do not regret that decision.

When faced with a purchase decision it’s always a good idea to think about the value you will receive from the item you are purchasing.  It’s hard not to love a bargain.  But a value is your better bet.