Black Belt Shopper
by Larry Wiener
Finally it was time to replace my 22 year old dishwasher. I knew my neighbor had just bought a new one, so I went over to see what he got. He gleefully told me how his $179 cheapie was doing the job for him.
Being a black belt shopper and bargain hunter, I looked into buying that model. I figured I didn’t need the best feature-most laden dishwasher around. After all, I don’t wash a lot of fancy crystal and most of my pots are non-stick.
After doing my research, however, I found that the least expensive dishwasher was not the most economical.
When I looked in Consumer Reports, I found that the brand of that $179 model was the second most repair-prone of all the models tested. Additionally, it wasn’t an energy star which means that it used more power than many – an important consideration for someone with an all-electric home in power-short California.
With the assistance of a salesperson, I found an energy star model whose brand was top-rated by Consumer Reports with self-cleaning filter and hard food disposal for only $100 more than that cheapie.
When you consider energy use and durability, I probably will pay out less than my neighbor for the dishwasher and all the costs associated with it (electricity, repairs, etc.) over ten years. Additionally, according to what I read in Consumer Reports, I will enjoy cleaner dishes.
I used the same reasoning when I bought a car two years ago. As I researched the various models, Honda kept coming up as solid and reliable. True, Hondas and Toyotas are pricy, but I reasoned that the reliability and the money saved on repairs would more than make up for the extra $1000 or so that I put out to buy the car. Mine is five years old (three years before I bought it, then two years with me) and I have not spent one penny on it other than routine maintenance.
So how do you know when to skimp and when to spend? How do you know when you are paying extra for better quality and durability as opposed to paying for gingerbread? Here are a few considerations:
Black belt shopping doesn’t always mean getting the cheapest item available. It does mean using the New Economy tools of timing, choices, and information to get the most out of your shopping dollar. Someone once said that the sting of poor quality is remembered far longer than the thrill of a low price. That person was right. It's nice when you can get both, thought when I have to choose, I go for quality. Intelligent shopping strategies, such as going to that fabulous bakery at the time of day they start marking down, may allow you to have your cake and eat it too.
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Copyright 2002 by Larry Wiener. All rights reserved.