Our Shopping Ethos

Adam and I started out life (and to a degree, still!) as packrats and as people who like to buy things because we like them. Since moving overseas, we’ve learned we have to function differently – because we’re adults, because we live internationally (and intend to continue our international lifestyle), and especially now because we have a child. Initially Adam’s Woodstock salary was a challenge to live on for two people; since then, there have been raises and other adjustments to make life easier – but we developed a new process for planning our purchases.

The first thing we did was start to keep lists – initially offline but they have since moved to an online Google document – of things we wanted. Whether it is clothing, computers, yarn, or other things – we began tracking our wants, and endeavouring to only shop off of the list. The next step we made was to start doing a lot more research about the items we want, to make sure we’re making the best possible purchase. We don’t want to have to replace something every few months, but we also don’t want to spend all of our money on a really, really high-level item if it’s something that still has a definite lifespan. We started to review warranty/guarantee policies, and evaluate items that could be repaired at home, costs-per-wear for clothing, etc.

Our current shopping policies are:

  • Is it on the list? If not..
    • Is it something we won’t be able to get anywhere else?
    • Does it fulfill an immediate need, and will also be used after that need is filled?
  • Is it a good deal for a good quality item (versus just a cheap thing we’ll have to replace)?
  • Does it meet all the criteria established for the item, or is it just ‘close’? Is it close enough that there won’t be a need to buy the other item, or will this be a duplicate to fill in the blank until we can get the ideal?

Some examples of this in action:

  1. A new washing machine. This wasn’t on the list, but when ours broke, we realized the machine was 12(!) years old, and we’d already had to have it repaired a couple of times. We decided that based off of the amount of laundry we do (two adults, one baby, plus cloth diapers) a new machine would be a good investment. We also know it will have a high resale cost when we eventually leave Woodstock.
  2. New ties for Adam. Adam purchased several new ties on our last summer break. His policy was that the ties had to match at least half of his shirts – and while this is Indian matching (colour + colour = MATCHING!), he did also look at coordinating colours, by Western points of view. He was able to get almost all of them for sale prices.
  3. Yarn for Darcey. I have a queue on Ravelry, and this past summer limited myself to buying/bringing back yarn that would be used for items in the queue. I purchased 2 skeins without immediate plans – one skein of sock yarn for a project for Adam, which I’m letting him choose, and one skein of a gorgeous blue yarn that will pair really well with some unknown red yarn I have, and will – if I can get the pattern to cooperate! – turn into a shrug jacket.

We have become significantly more conscientious about looking at items in terms of brand warranties – no longer do we buy the cheapest X we can get, or just ‘settle’ for something if it’s close to what we want, but not ideal. If we are going to buy something, we want to genuinely be invested and love whatever it is… this means I’ve not picked up shoes from the local cobbler’s, even though they’re just $3, because they made mistakes (and I’d left the to-be-copied shoes with them for 3 months!). Adam has gone to a tailor and pointed out the errors in copying a shirt, and not paid until he has been satisfied, versus just “dealing with it, it’s only $10”. We’ve put research into what brands have lifetime warranties and if their products stack up against ones without (and almost without fail, the lifetime-warranty brand is higher quality overall), and where we’re willing to compromise in whatever purchase we make.

It’s a bit funny, the shopping habits we’ve picked up – a lot of people have told us we’re too picky now! – but when you think about having that item for life, packing it up and moving it overseas once or multiple times… We want to love what we have, not just be okay with it. It means sometimes our requests are downright weird (specific brands of socks and underwear!) or sometimes even old-fashioned (camp saws, hatchets)… but we’ve found a need for them, and decided those are The Ones.

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