Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bang for Your Buck

Over the years, Ethan has taken on the voluntary position as "Mom's Shopping Partner". This, you see, is a very important job and must be carried out to perfection! It's amazing to see how much he has learned just by helping me at the store. He has learned how to identify many varieties of fruits and vegetables. He gets to practice his sorting and counting skills, among others. He has learned that if the bread or eggs are placed in the bottom of the cart, they will most likely get squished or broken. And of course, the biggest perk of being Mom's Shopping Partner, is that if you do a good job, you are paid with an item of your choice from the store, provided it does not cost more than a dollar.

Another thing Ethan has been learning about as part of his special job is about money. He is no where near perfect, but he's beginning to pay attention to price tags, and is starting to recognize which items cost less money than others. He has figured out that Mom generally chooses the items that cost the least.

So, Monday evening we were at Albertson's for our weekly shopping trip, and I was looking for garbage bags. He found the cheapest package and handed them to me, and was surprised when I said "No, not those. Get these." pointing to a box of Glad bags. Anyone who is familiar with this brand knows that these are generally not the cheapest find on the shelf when it comes to garbage bags. Ethan pointed out to me that the box he had picked up was the cheapest. I explained to him that while he was correct, that the bags he had picked out would easily fall apart and get holes in them, creating a big mess in the process. This turned into a good learning opportunity about choosing quality items.

I try to live as frugal as is comfortable for our family. I admit we are not perfect, but we do what we feel we can. One thing that I think is very important to realize is that frugal does not always mean cheap. This is a mistake that I see so many people make only to be frustrated when the product they have bought falls apart quickly or otherwise doesn't live up to the buyer's expectations.

If we are really being frugal, we are trying to get the most that we can out of the products we buy. This is why I wash and reuse ziploc and foodsaver bags, use cloth wash cloths and towels for most messes, etc.

This attitude should extend into the quality of the products we are buying. I don't normally buy clothing or shoes from Walmart because I have found that they don't seem to last long. Especially kids clothing and shoes. I would rather wait for a good sale at Old Navy, Sears, etc, and get better quality stuff. I also really like Shopko for kids clothing. It's usually very well made, you get it at a good price, usually, and if it falls apart before the child grows out of it, they will replace it free of charge. We don't buy the cheapest computer products. We don't necessarily buy the most expensive either, though. We do some research, and then choose the product that seems like it will give us the most for our money. I don't generally like store brand jelly. It always seems to have a weird jell-0 consistency. Which is fine -- if you are eating jell-o. But I don't want jell-o on my peanut butter sandwich! So, I tend to wait for a good coupon and hopefully a sale to go with it, and buy Smuckers.

I am not saying that we should never buy the cheapest product. In my mind, flour if flour and there isn't much you can do to screw it up. So, I buy the cheapest brand. Same with sugar, or salt. I've never had much of an issue with the cheapest herbs and spices, either. I buy my milk cheap, cereal, mac and cheese, I could go on. But there are those certain products, like trash bags and jelly, that I continue to buy the bigger brands, because they really are better quality.

I'm hoping that the next time Ethan is allowed to pick out a toy he will remember our little discussion on quality and spend a little more on something that won't fall apart so quickly that he can enjoy playing with for a good, long while.

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