Friday, September 19, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

When eyeing price tags, think long-term

A savvy way to shop, says a New York author, is to classify buys as investments, durable, or trendy.
A savvy way to shop, says a New York author, is to classify buys as investments, durable, or trendy.

CHICAGO - It's the common shopping dilemma: Buy what you love now vs. what you think you'll love in 10 years.

The former might be a trendier, possibly less-expensive item, while the latter might have a higher resale value, and could be a classic piece but may not be the product you lust after at first sight.

Is there a savvy way to shop?

Mark Ellwood, the New York-based author of Bargain Fever: How to Shop in a Discounted World, has a clear shopping formula for trendy items vs. staples.

"Classify your purchases in three: investments, durable, and trendy," Ellwood said. "Don't let anything you buy in the trendy category cost more than $50 ever."

Those three categories can be carried over to every aspect of your shopping life with regard to how long they're expected to last - and they should be priced accordingly.

In clothing, a coat should last at least five seasons, shoes should last two seasons, and everything else should last one.

In the furniture category, a sofa should last 10 years, a coffee table two years, and a throw pillow is called a throwaway pillow for a reason.

Melissa Tosetti, author of Living the Savvy Life: The Savvy Woman's Guide to Smart Spending and Rich Living, said you can be more flexible depending on your financial status, but the overall message is the same.

"The biggest message that I try to propagate is to be very purposeful. If you've fallen in love with a trendy item, then get it, even if you're only going to love it for a year or so," Tosetti said. "But if it's something that two weeks later you're not going to think about again, you shouldn't buy it."

The key is figuring out which is which.

Look around your house at the clutter, and see if any of the items were purchased just a few weeks ago and were products you felt like you had to have.

"Unless you really think about it, you're just going to keep doing what you're doing," Tosetti said.

You should invest well in items that you plan on using regularly, such as kitchen knives, pots and pans, and wardrobe classics. But unless you're a professional cook, there's no reason to buy the very best knives, Tosetti said.

"You want the best of what you're going to use them for," she said. "Make individual decisions instead of blanket decisions."

An individual decision that Kelly Hancock, author of Saving Savvy, always makes is spending more on appliances that may need maintenance.

"If I purchase a better product with a good warranty, that usually saves me tons in the long run," she said. "But items like furniture, I don't like to spend more on. I find that if it looks good to me, that is usually good enough to last me five to 10 years, even if it isn't the best quality."

And while many people try to buy an expensive, classic item in the hopes they could resell it later, Hancock warned that this doesn't always work.

"I find resale value plummets very quickly and much lower than you would imagine," she said, offering exceptions only for items that you plan on reselling shortly after purchasing, or a home purchase.

If you do plan on buying and reselling, however, there are a few things to keep in mind.

"Classic items will hold their value over time, and on-trend, more-premium items generally retain strong resale value within a few-year period," said James Reinhart, chief executive officer and cofounder of thredUP.com, an online clothing consignment store.

"The time to really think about resale value and contemplate whether you're buying a classic item that you'll keep forever . . . is when the price tag is higher than what you would normally spend," he added.

Danielle Braff CHICAGO TRIBUNE
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