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?
Now is a great time to spend 5-10 minutes unsubscribing to email lists you belong to.
Promotional emails are distracting, and form a lot of noise in these next couple of months (yes, I know — my weekly Keep Up email contributes, too!).
Do a scan of the regular emails you receive & ask: can I stop receiving this? Will I miss anything that I will actually suffer for not receiving? Is the content providing value to me, or is it just noise?
As this summer neared its end, Wayne & I began talking about a radical idea: quitting our Netflix subscription. I was feeling anxious about the transition from summer's never-ending days to the routine & rhythm of fall. Our kids would be in school all day (the girls, at least; our son is just half-days), and then have activities, chores, & piano practice, not to mention squeezing in their accustomed 8 hours of daily free play into what was left!
The truth is that I didn't want their extra time to be spent prioritizing shows, I wanted them to spend it with me. I think this is the kind of sappy feeling parents begin to get when they've left the all-consuming pre-school years and they glimpse how quickly time will pass before the kids are grown up.
We've listened to the soundtrack to The Greatest Showman countless times in my house (or, as my music app tells me: around 30), and the chorus of this song — "Never Enough" — keeps ringing through my head.
The song itself is about love (ie. without you, all the amazing things in the world will never be enough), but as we head into the busiest shopping season of the year, I feel like "Never Enough" is the battle cry of retail marketing.
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