Value vs. Expense (part 2 – or: How to Avoid Impulse Buys)
Right so here’s the sequel. So I’ve established that sometimes certain things cost a certain amount without many options, and should you want said thing, you’re stuck (the example I used was plane tickets). I’ve also said previously that when you have options, it’s sometimes beneficial to go for a more expensive option. But don’t go rushing out to drop $1000 on something that you could get for $500 and be just as good. Here are my rules:
Firstly, research what you want, whether it’s a camera, a TV, a car, a guitar, anything. Determine what specs, etc, you want, then see what’s available – read reviews, compare models, see what’s the best rated. Amazon is a great resource for this, as everything sold there usually has a lot of details listed, and their reviews are from consumers themselves. This will also let you see the price-range. From this research, shortlist the properly specced and well-reviewed goods across several different price points.
Using the camera example again, let’s say you want a DSLR because you’ve read the post on We Ball Harder about how awesome they are and you want a piece of that awesomeness. Now, granted WBH gave you a recommendation, but let’s ignore that for now (only ignore WBH hypothetically!). What you would do is read about cameras online, so you know what sort of specs you will need (do you need 20 Megapixels? Doubtful, so rule that out. Ditto crazy $5,000 lenses.) Perhaps you know you don’t need more than 14 MP, and you want high-definition video recording. So you go to Amazon or wherever else,* search for cameras with the functions you need, and compare the results. (In the case of Amazon, 4 stars from the reviews should be the minimum). Now that you have your 4- and 5-star options, see what they cost. The chances are, if all these cameras have the specs you want, and all are well-rated, at this point you’re probably safe with the cheapest option, unless you’re really picky and want to go 5-star. At this point you can search for the lowest price for that model on the internet, but you’re on your own there – though eBay and Craigslist can be good options if you don’t mind used.
When all is said and done, you will likely have spent more than you would have on a super basic camera, but you will also have saved yourself a bundle over something that is beyond your needs. What you’ve just done is maximized your value to expense ratio. You won’t be stuck with something that doesn’t do what you want it to, and you won’t have buyer’s remorse from impulsively getting something for too much. Ideally you will be well-satisfied and feel that whatever you got was a good use for your money.
Ultimately, this is what being a hard-balling consumer is about. Now go forth and shop wisely!
*Also look for websites/online magazines devoted to the specific type of product you’re looking for, such as photography websites, car review sites (Amazon doesn’t sell cars) musical instrument vendors’ sites, or for anything techy, CNET.