The Shopping List

By , December 30, 2015

When we consider a purchase, we have to take into account a wide range of factors. Price is not the only issue (see Homestead Core Values: Frugality). In fact, we take care to find what we need at the right quality and price.

We don’t buy cheapest version if we expect it to last, but we do consider the odds (see When “Good Enough” is Best). We like my brother’s common saying: “Sometimes free ain’t cheap enough!”

On the other hand, we never assume that the most expensive version of a product will be the best quality. We especially suspect the latest model! Often, the features we depend on disappear from the new model for no apparent reason. Change for the sake of change doesn’t appeal to us, especially if the older, “inferior” model can be had for considerably less after the new model comes out.

We save money by buying bulk, particularly avoiding single serving packaging (see Buying Bulk: The “New” Investment Strategy). We also find the unit price listings in grocery stores to be particularly informative.

Many other practical considerations come into play. These form our “shopping list,” practical and ideological criteria the purchase must meet.

Consciously or not, we tick off the requirements just about anytime we think of buying something.

These include:

Is it too difficult to transport? Everything comes to the homestead by boat, by pulk if there’s snow, or on our backs.

How heavy is it? Since the vast majority of items come in on our backs, weight matters! (See Avoiding the “Chilkoot Breast Stroke”.)

Where will we put it? We have very little storage space, and everything has to go somewhere (see Finding Storage Space for Bulk Purchases). Perhaps more importantly . . .

Will it fit through the door (or upstairs)? When we first moved here, someone gave us a chair that would be perfect for our second floor room, except that it proved too wide to get up the stairs! We couldn’t keep it, solely because of the physical limitations of our house. That taught us a very valuable lesson.

Does it improve/replace something we own, or does it duplicate it? Ideally, the answer is yes to the former, no to the latter.

Can we mitigate its price by selling what it replaces?Often we don’t wear out the item a new one replaces. In that case, if we can sell it or give it away, it lowers the real price of the new acquisition.

Can we do without it? This is the soul searching question—very hard to answer mindfully when the widget comes out in that irresistible shade of blue!

Can we afford to maintain it (ourselves or local professional)? Early in my life, the Easy Rider motto impressed me: “If you can’t fix ’em, don’t ride ’em!” But, if I need it and don’t know how to repair it, I try to make sure someone in town can.

Are supplies/refills easily available? Longevity of usefulness often depends on access to supplies and accessories for items. I’ve had to pass up a lot of great flashlights over the years because they require batteries that are expensive or difficult to replace.

Will it hold its value? Will we need it for long enough? It needs to be important to us for long enough to make the purchase and transportation worthwhile.

Where does it stand in our hierarchy of wants? Is it important enough to purchase, or not?

(See also Homestead Economics.)

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