Becoming A Smart Consumer

We make thousands of purchases throughout our lives, but the trick is being good at it— buying the products that suit our needs, at the best price, with the least amount of hassle.

The Solvency Shark offers these strategies for making great purchases, whether a new home or a pack of gum.

Let’s consider buying a toaster, which is somewhere between the two extremes. Once you recognize that you need a new toaster (such as receiving charred bread in the morning), you begin the process:

What do you really need? Your old Toast-A-Rama made satisfying toast, so you decide to look for a toaster that has similar features.

Yet it’s easy to be lured by what is offered but unnecessary. The Lasertoast 220i offers six slots for bread, rotating heating elements, and will text your phone when your toast is ready. These features sound cool, but do you need them?

Research and reconnaissance. With your toaster specifications in mind, what do you do? Figure out who offers them, and learn which brands are considered best.

If you rush straight to your purchase, you’ll overlook many great opportunities. So instead you hit the stores, both in-person and online. You see what’s offered, and for how much. You read Consumer Report and learn the latest toaster ratings.

Know your range. From your research, you learn that the Toastamatic series offers high quality models for a good value. But you’ve budgeted your price range, and only one model makes it. Should you flex and spend more?

If there is a significant difference between models, perhaps. If not, stick with your budget. A toaster isn’t worth going broke.

You can wait... or not. The dilemma— to go with the current lowest price, or wait for a sale?

It depends on how much the potential savings could be, and how badly you need a toaster this minute. Only your research and personal experience can answer this.

Check your emotions at the door. You really need your morning toast, so you will buy now. You pledge not to be carried away by any cool advertising or packaging. You’ve done your research, and you will buy the best toaster for you.

Alexander Carl

Alexander Carl

I find it difficult to brag about myself. Too modest? Perhaps.

Anyway: my name is Alexander Carl. I am a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where I spent four blissful years earning a degree in Communication Studies. Now I face the real world of economic downturns, student loans, and the absence of “academic” camaraderie.

Yet I refuse to be bummed. My economic philosophy is to live simply, save, and maximize whatever I can. Consumer culture is undeniably pervasive, but you don’t have to sell your soul to co-exist with it— there is great power from using your economic resources wisely.

I started writing when I figured out how to hold a pencil. Since then I’ve written short stories, poetry, screenplays, and have blogged. In fact, three of my screenplays have been produced into short films, two of which I directed. I’m no stranger to the media, having served as a DJ at a freeform radio station and worked as a crew member for live TV.

Pastimes include traveling (I’ll visit virtually anywhere), swimming, jogging, hiking, and hunkering down with a good movie.

Overall I’m a peaceful person, though not in a creepy New Agey way. I get my energy from music, good conversation, and the outdoors (I was an active Boy Scout, earning my Eagle). I consider myself “inquisitive” and “wry”, and for the sake of autobiography I’ll assume that I am.
Alexander Carl

Latest posts by Alexander Carl (see all)