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?
This dignify post draws from Derek Thompson's October 7th article in The Atlantic.
Thompson's article explains the practical challenges in 2021 for consumers as well as for retailers.
Here's how some of these points relate to dignify right now and in the coming months:
Mystery novels have often appealed to people with jobs that are never fully resolved (doctors, pastors, social workers). In this cultural era of many-problems-few-resolutions, reading a good mystery can be a refreshing break.
Our 12-year old daughter is the most avid, prolific reader I know! We teamed up to create a list of mysteries for all ages of independent readers. The recos below are listed with increasing age levels in mind, but no specific age parameters (as a mature, well-read, near-teen, she has read up to Agatha Christie on this list).
Our 11-year old computer is showing creaky signs of age, just about ready to go to sleep (and never wake up). But, we feel that it has served us well. When I compare it to other expenses over the years, the laptop is — at about a $100/year investment — one of our best value-for-dollar belongings.
When shopping for items like this, how do we choose well? How do we discern what brand/style/variety is built to last? Or, how do we determine even if “built to last” is relevant to the purchase?