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Some Considerations for Shopping "Good"

In my new-ish desire to “shop good”, there are a few things that stand out to me when I am assessing a store, a business, or a product. For me, personally, I am not strict, and I can’t be strictly about one thing, like ‘fair trade’ or ‘sustainable materials’. Those markers are certainly ideals, but there are simply too many other factors at play, affecting me & my needs (e.g. financially unfeasible), the business (e.g. certifications are costly to the little guys), or the product itself (e.g. X item can’t be made with X material; though if Lego can go off plastic, anything is possible…).

Ultimately, I’m just trying to do… something. To inch towards the good, within the constraints of budget, kids, time, space, and all those other pesky real life things.

Beyond the more obvious signs of a “good” business/product, here are a few things on my mind when I’m shopping good:

Fair pricing.

I used to work for an independent grocer, whose pricing was almost entirely unchanging. I ran an in-house loyalty program, and while it was a common practice in the industry, our CEO refused to offer sale prices only to loyalty members.

Why should customers – our most valued customers – have to trade their personal information just to pay the real, fair price for a jar of tomato sauce?

This was the essence of his mantra, and it stuck with me. If prices can be so drastically cut at certain sale times (and we can assume the business is not losing money), why are the prices so high the rest of the time?!

Many great businesses I come across have a higher-than-usual price for items that are widely available (e.g. backpacks, swimsuits, sandals). But, if I’ve been following them, I know that they rarely, if ever, discount the price, meaning that the number I see is a fairly evaluated price for the quality, cost, & value of the item.

If I can’t afford it, or if I want to choose a more inexpensive comparable item in order to spend my money elsewhere, that’s my own choice. But, I try not to begrudge them their pricing (who am I to complain?); I just judge my own purchases accordingly.

On the flip side, I also see online businesses popping up that tout a designer product at a revolutionary price. Some entrepreneurs have identified products that have a traditionally high markup, like glasses or watches; by selling directly to consumers online, they can offer very high quality products at accessible prices.

Ultimately, if you’re shopping “good”, you have to accept that there will be lower prices out there. But what are the costs associated with the price? Will those sandals fall apart within the season? Was the cashier on food stamps? Etc.

Rewarding a job well done.

I’ve paid a lot of money to FedEx since I began dignify. Shipping expenses are a constant project that we are working to improve and minimize, but at this point, I’m ok with what I’ve spent. Why? Because they are amazing at what they do. They’re fast, they’re reliable, and they are simply the best at getting the job that I want done.

I take a similar approach to products I buy, as well. Just as I try to avoid companies I don’t like, I want to reward companies that I think are great at what they do. Casper: genius. Moleskine: best in class. Hedley & Bennett: fantastic. Whether I buy these things every time I’m in the market is dependent on my budget, my priorities, and other factors in the moment. But, I want to buy these, because these businesses are great at what they do.

One ring to rule them all.

Bather Trunk Co. boasts “The only swim trunks you'll ever need and the only ones you'll ever want to wear.” I am a big fan of this line of thinking and this framework for buying. Another phrase to capture this spirit would be “Spend more, spend once.”

I recently made two purchases that I would categorize in this way*:

  • A wooden bunk bed. I paid more than I would have at IKEA, but it is solid, stained wood, it is flexible for our needs (double on the bottom, single on the top), and it looks like real, grown up furniture. One question that featured prominently in the conversation was “How long could our son sleep in this bed?”, and when the answer was “feasibly forever”, we felt confident it was a good purchase.
  • A pair of leather Oxford shoes. The leather is Italian, the shoe handcrafted in Canada. I had been thinking about shoes like this for a while, and I was tired of buying shoes as needed and on the cheap. Wouldn’t I rather buy a pair I really like and take care of them well so they last for ages? Yes, I would.

*My behind-the-scenes secrets for how I manage to buy larger, bigger investment purchases like this (on a tight budget) in an upcoming blog post.

These are a few of the thoughts swirling around my head when I am shopping. What about you? Comment below to share any of your considerations when trying to spend money well.



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