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Shopping Challenges

by Nikki Willhite

In some ways, shopping decisions are easier for frugal people and those with limited budgets than people with higher incomes.  When I was first married, and for several years after that, when my husband and I shopped for furniture we had one choice for new furniture-  the chipped and damaged section of the best priced furniture store in our area. There wasn't a lot of selection there, and we bought what we could afford and fixed it up.

Decorating can be very simple if you don't have much money. All a bedroom needs is a bed and a dresser. You buy a bedspread,
and paint the walls to match.

On the other hand of the coin, some people who have a lot of money can be very picky. Everything has to be "just so."
They spend a lot of time shopping and become overly concerned about how things look and what people will think. Many become so obsessed by their possessions that they begin to define themselves by them.

While I enjoy a comfortable, pretty house, and nice clothing, I am well aware that all the non-breathing things in my home are of little real significance. While I wouldn't be happy if someone painted my piano, I wouldn't cry about it. (Someone once did, actually!)

So how do you make shopping decisions when you are frugal?

There are a lot of ways to find savings in all the items you need. If you want to make smart shopping decisions, here
are the 3 things to remember.

1. Priorities

Your money is limited. Be sure you are spending it on the things you really need. There are so many wonderful things you can buy for yourself, your homes and your family. The temptation to spend money is overwhelming at times.

I look at my shopping habits like my eating habits. If I bring something into the house that is full of sugar, calories,  and has very little nutritional value, I know I may get hungry and eat it. However, if it never enters my home, that won't happen.

If you spend a lot of time in retail stores surrounded by beautiful items you can't afford, you may buy something.  However, if you don't go there, your wallet will be spared.

Determine what is essential for your family, and be single minded about your spending.

2. Quality

Once you know what you want to buy, you have to decide on a price point, which usually involves quality. If you pay more for an item, it may last a lot longer and be a better bargain. However, that is not always true.  The pricing on some items is just because of the label or an unscrupulous seller. If you are going to spend extra money on quality, be sure it will be worth it.

3. Merchants

Choose your merchants carefully. I recently had to purchase a new computer. For various reasons, it took 4 computers before I found one that worked, and worked for me. I made my purchases from local stores with good return policies. While the whole process was an ordeal, it didn't hurt me financially.

Shopping online can save money, but you must be careful what you buy and who you buy it from. Some online stores are very liberal with their return policies. Others charge hefty fees in addition to the return shipping. Others do not even let you return items.

I once bought a pair of glasses from Sears Optical. When I got home, one of the sides fell off. I took it back to the store, and they said that because I didn't buy an extended warranty they wouldn't fix it. 

Costco told me they should have fixed it because it was obviously a  manufacturer's defect.  Needless-to-say I don't frequent Sears Optical anymore.

I like to be optimistic, but when you go shopping, you need to think of "worse case scenarios." I could site numerous examples of  people buying cars and other items on Ebay and Craigslist and never getting them.

So be wary and careful when you shop. Do your research, and choose reliable sellers. You work hard for your money.Don't let others so easily take it from you!

About the Author: Nikki Willhite, mother of 3 and an interior design graduate, has been writing and publishing articles on the topic of frugal living for over a decade. Visit her at - where you will find hundreds of frugal living tips and articles. Frugal Happy Families- more than just money! 



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