This has been a big week for the Green Pilgrim! I recently proposed to my girlfriend and she said YES! I am incredibly flattered that anybody would agree to spend the rest of their life with me, and I will do my best to provide a financially secure future for my family by following the advice I share with you on this blog. You can expect plenty of updates over the next year (and more) on how we plan to save money on major purchases like a wedding, a honeymoon, and a house. In this post I’d like to call out a few general strategies for making major purchases that I made use of recently while shopping for an engagement ring. These tips would also apply to other major purchases like a vacation package or big-screen TV.
- Have a clear objective
Before you even think about leaving your home, make sure you understand exactly what you’re looking for. Wandering aimlessly around a mall often leads to impulsive purchases like an expensive pair of shoes or an overpriced gag gift from Spencer’s for that cousin whose birthday you forgot. Think of shopping as a quest for something specific; not just any artifact will do. Know the specifications you are looking for. Do you want your new TV to be LCD or plasma? Do you want your band to be white gold or platinum? Do your preparatory research thoroughly (the internet is a wonderful modern resource) and choose what you want BEFORE going shopping. If you don’t, somebody else might choose what you want for you.
- Have a budget
Consider your situation. How much are you willing to spend on this? This is REAL money coming out of YOUR pocket, even if you use a credit card. Pick a number that represents your absolute maximum. Do not go higher than that number at any point in the shopping process! It will work out much better for you if you set that limit at home while looking at a spreadsheet of your personal finances, rather than a poster of the Caribbean in some travel agent’s office. While you shop you will encounter one desirable option after another; if you can’t afford it, forget about it.
- Ask for advice
Lots of people buy TVs, vacation packages, and engagement rings. Ask the people you know what their experiences were buying these things, especially if they did it recently! There are all kinds of special deals, tips and tricks for savings money. It is very easy to take advantage of these deals, but the catch is that you have to know about them first. Ask an expert, or somebody with any familiarity at all. If they’re not trying to sell you anything, then their advice will be honest and can hopefully help you with your decision.
- Shop around
Take your time. Go to every store that sells the object you are interested in. Go twice. Prices change over time, and this will help you judge if you’re really getting a good value or not. Check websites like eBay and Craigslist. These websites represent the free market and will provide valuable data points to sharpen your estimation. The more you know, the better equipped you are. Haste makes waste, and why would you want to waste greenbacks you worked so hard to earn?
I hope this general advice is helpful to you all. It can be daunting to resolve to buy something you have no experience with (for example, diamonds). It can be tempting to go with the first option and save yourself the time it takes to research the subject and the anxiety of choosing out of hundreds of options discovered over time. Hopefully your decision to make any major purchase is not made lightly. Do you really need that TV, or that vacation? But if you do, as badly as I needed this woman to marry me, then you should take the advice of the Green Pilgrim and be methodical and thoughtful about it, so as to reap the benefits throughout your life.