Friday, March 14, 2008

Part 2: Smartest Purchases

Looks more like winter outside today...but the daffodils are up and poking toward the sun.

Here are some of our smarter purchases over the years:

*Things we saved for. The leather couch that took two years of my freelance income. The armoire and antique highboy that still look gorgeous after decades of use. They weren't cheap (even though we got a good price). We made do for years with crates and a crappy couch until we could afford something better. (Our bed is still just a mattress and springs -- but someday I'll get that mahogany sleigh bed I've admired!)
The window seat, with cozy shelving on both sides that framed in a mountain view -- built in by the best handyguy in Castle Rock, Ken Knopp. The outside patio, where we say good morning to Pike's Peak, and a curving walk, poured by the best concrete guy in Castle Rock, Tom Madrid.
All of these items took time and patience to save for. Every one of them is more than worth it.

*Things we bought on a '12 months free' agreement -- and paid off in 11 1/2 months. Our "doctor's choice" mattress, which made all the difference between back pain and none, was purchased on this plan. Every month I set aside more than 1/12 of the price...and two weeks before the deadline, I wrote a check. This worked so well that we just got a second laptop (at a GREAT price!) using the same plan. Caution: set aside more than you need to, early on. Not only will you have the total price earlier, but the overflow acts as extra savings for emergencies.

*Purchases we researched before we bought. Rentals --and houses -- that we committed to only after we'd looked at 20 or 30 others first. (Our first home purchase -- $10,000 under the asking price, which was reduced to begin with -- came only after we'd seen at least 70 others.)
The mattress was researched. Ditto the computers. Vehicles. Vacations. (Cases in point: last year's Caribbean cruise, celebrating our 25th anniversary, was 12 nights -- $595. The Mexican vacation the year before that was for a week: approx. $700 for both of us, including airfare.)
You can get anything -- anything -- higher quality at a lower price, if you only search.

*Higher quality -- purchased 'almost new.' The Peruvian alpaca sweater...$3 at our local thrift shop. (The imported cashmere sweater was a bit more...$7.) My nicest clothes -- best quality, high-end labels -- come from thrift shops. Daughter Angel found a pair of Italian leather pumps fresh from the runway -- at a thrift shop. (Price: $4.)
Appliances are a lot more reasonable if someone else breaks them in. Our refrigerator, washer and dryer, chipper/shredder...we could afford a much better brand if they were gently used.
We do the same with cars. (Once we research them!) Our favorite: the Jeep Cherokee. We've had three vehicles, all purchased secondhand for much-cheaper-than-usual prices. And all extremely reliable in all kinds of weather. (Now if they'd only be more mpg-efficient!)

*If we buy it retail, we buy it on sale. Or wholesale. Or direct from the source. There are very few exceptions to this in the Brick household. Fabric? Purchased by the bolt. Appliques? By the box. If it's apples, we get a bushel or two from an orchard on the Western Slope. (They store great in the garage and the refrigerator crisper.) A bushel of tomatoes gets canned or frozen for winter chili and spaghetti sauce.

Which brings up another guideline: the price is often better if you buy more at once. Case lots are cheaper than individual cans. I just bought two cases of canned crab meat...for 91 cents a can! (The next best price was approx. $3.50 each.)

*Or we make it, grow it, sew it, repair it or cook it ourselves. My garden produced all the green beans we could eat -- including wintertime, thanks to the freezer. My dad built bookshelves, and Dave replaced our faulty thermostat. (Not only saving on repairs, but making our whole heating system more efficient.) Dave changes the oil in our cars. I fix ripped sleeves and buttons, bake cakes, stitch Christmas presents. Doing it yourself saves a lot.

And our smartest purchases?

*Getting an advanced degree. It took time. Worked our butts off in jobs and loans to pay for it. But our M.A.s -- Dave's in engineering, mine in literature -- have opened a lot of doors.
Certification and advanced training have paid off, as well. Things like this not only help you work better -- they help your work BE better.

*Buying a house -- for less. Putting the biggest downpayment (which we had saved, partly because we paid the lowest rent we could find). Getting a low interest rate because we had an excellent credit score.

and finally -- a few simple rules:

*Pay your bills. On time.
*Never spend more than you pay. (Don't do it, even if you CAN afford it!)

But best of all is

Faith in God.

Love for your family. Your community.

A good name.

An honest reputation.

These are the things I most value in life.

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