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?
Dignify’s origin story has long been included, in brief, on our about page, and I refer to it whenever I’ve done interviews or podcasts or if I meet someone in person who inevitably asks, how did you get into this?
I'd like to share a bit of a wider panorama of the story, and an update. I have heard some tremendous stories from customers about the meaning that their blanket has had in some aspect of their life or a relationship. I'm so inspired, I would like to share more of mine, too. The story of dignify is very intertwined with my friend, Kathy.
I've taken a Halloween approach (thus far) that is almost entirely of a free-for-all. As in: Go trick-or-treating, have fun, eat candy, keep it in your room, go wild... and usually by two weeks in, it's all gone, forgotten, or lost its lustre. This week, though, our three kids brought over 1200 candies & chips back into our house (!!!). It was, to understate things... a bit much.
When you find yourself with an abundance of junk food, the idea of throwing it away feels inconceivable (at least for me). Maybe it is that candy is non-perishable, and there is a sense that throwing something edible in the garbage is abhorrently wasteful?
A little behind-the-scenes insight here...
As a store owner, there are loads of resources out in the wilds of the internet, ostensibly to help me succeed in my business. Did you know that I start hearing about Black Friday (as in "are you prepared to break through on Black Friday?") in the summer?
It is SO EASY to find ourselves as consumers in the maelstrom of other people's (and corporations') marketing efforts, and not even remember how we got there, or even notice these (very intentional) forces working away on us.
Here are some actions we can take now to simplify the noise before the noisiest time of the shopping year: —