Last fall, I was telling a story about buying my kindergartener’s very first backpack, and a friend said, “Shelley, you are so good at that; I never think of those things.”
Shopping smarter, better, and with loads of discernment comes fairly naturally to me now, but it’s taken practice, for sure. There is also a cultural tidal wave that crashes on us every time that we need to shop, convincing us to JUST SHOP and not worry too much about details.
I know that regardless of budget, everyone can shop “good”, so I will share this backpack example to take you shopping with me! I have loads of improvement and am far from faultless, but I’ve learned some things.
First things first: Questions. The best way to save money, hassle, and yourself from buyer's remorse, is to think through some questions before the actual shopping event.
About “need” & need for new:
What do I need and do I really need it?
Is there anywhere else I can get it? Something else that would work? Used or hand-me-down version?
About function & what I am looking for:
What functions are required from the backpack?
How long do I want to have this backpack?
What is my rough budget?
Any other considerations?
Just to be clear, I did not write out a list like this with pros/cons or anything; it was all just going on in my mind. It may seem like excessive thought to go into a backpack, but I promise you that if you wrote out your thought process on a purchase, it would be similar. We have a lot of things churning through our minds!
I decided to go to Winners, which I think is like TJ Maxx? It is a place with a collection of new items from different brands that didn’t sell in their original stores for some reason, and appear here at a discount.
They had LOADS of backpacks, but I was having a hard time finding something that she liked (not too boring) and that I liked (not too cutesy or blinking or character-y). We spotted one in a simple style with a two-tone turquoise & white pattern. Great. Do you like it? Yes. Great.
I tried out the zipper and it seemed, well, bad. Kind of sticky, and it just did not seem like it would last. The tag didn’t say anything about the brand, not even a tagline, which I thought was interesting. If a company goes to the trouble to print out a little marketing piece to attach to the bag, it is surprising that they wouldn’t use some of the space to say their unique difference or anything like “Great Backpacks for Kids!” or a website. I was wary.
I did a Google search with “X-brand backpack review” and a few reviews came up that the zipper had failed in a few weeks, few months, mid-year. No, thank you! So, back to square one.
I started to leave empty-handed, but on our way out, walked through the men’s department and found a Vans brand floral backpack for $20. I know the brand, it is built for adults, and I trust that the quality is at least decent. The zipper worked smoothly, and we were both happy with the style. And I was elated about the price!
The one weird thing was that it said it was a special Star Wars edition bag. I couldn’t understand why it was Star Wars, but I figured that’s how it ended up on the bargain rack; not too many guys who like Star Wars are also into coral & floral!
It was only after we got home that we discovered Yoda.
Ha! I just silently crossed my fingers and probably prayed that this would not be a deal-breaker. Fortunately, she was unfazed (phew!) and thought it would just impress her friends who play Star Wars games.
Needed a Backpack. Thought through my priorities. Went to a store with a variety of backpacks in my budget range. Did a quick quality check by testing it out and a google search. Found a trustworthy bag that we could both be happy with for quality and style. Check!
Do you have any great success stories, or bad purchases that you learned from? Share your experiences with the rest of us in the comments below!
The styled photos in the article are from State Bags,
an awesome social enterprise doing great work in America.
If you have the means & like their bags, go for it!
Also, you might like: Is Back to School Shopping a Scam?
Every month, we need to put a category in our personal budget for gifts. There is always an event or occasion that is calling for a gift: Christmas, anniversary, birthdays, retirements, graduation, sympathy, gratitude, and on. And, like most people, we want to make the gifts that we give count! So how do we choose a gift that will be meaningful to the recipient?
Giving a gift is, of course, a subjective exercise; there is no perfect formula that will help you reach the “perfect gift”. However, there are certain questions you can ask that will help you choose a meaningful gift for your gift recipient:
Let’s look at these questions, some common gift-giving mistakes, and, finally, some meaningful gift ideas!
Our production partner, Basha, began in one little office in Dhaka, Bangladesh — the most densely populated city in the world. Over the many years they have been in business, creating kantha textiles & jewelry, they have expanded: both in number of staff, and also locations.
It was helpful for some women to leave the norm of their old life environment, to get away, to start fresh in a new city. So, Basha created different offices in varied locations. They established a girls' home to safely house daughters & other vulnerable young women as they come of age.
As Basha has continued to identify the great need of women in Bangladesh, there is another area they have expanded: actively seeking women in brothels & whispering the potential of a new life.
As I was packing for our first family international flight (to London UK), I wanted to make sure that we had everything we needed to make our overnight journey the most comfortable. As you know, those flights can be a little chilly - so I wanted to bring blankets for all of us. Naturally, I wondered...
Can I bring a blanket onto a plane?
In short: YES! According to the TSA you are allowed to both check a blanket in your luggage and to bring a blanket on a plane within a carry-on (and this also includes electric blankets). You can even bring your own blanket in your arms as you would a jacket or hat, without it counting towards your carry-on or personal item limits or paying any extra fees.