August 13, 2011

Tightwad Gazette III - Day Ten - Understanding your Wow Know How

This is an interesting concept of Amy’s that I have pondered several times when making or contemplating purchasing an item.

As an example Amy had purchased some second hand snow boots for one of her daughters. The daughter wore them for a while and then complained that she wanted green L.L. Bean snow boots. The daughter also said that her boots were a little too big. So, Amy went out garage sale shopping and she came across some like new plum colored L.L. Bean snow boots. She bought them for 25 cents and took them home. Her daughter took one look at them and didn’t like them because she had wanted green ones.

Amy sat her daughter down and talked with her about the boots. New boots would cost $25. Amy asked her daughter if new green boots would be 100 times better than the plum boots. Her daughter thought about it and said no. So the daughter wore the plum boots and that was that.  After a while she started to notice that many friends had plum colored boots also.  If this were my daughter I would have done the same thing but I would have knitted or made a scarf out of fleece fabric that had green and plum in it to pull it altogether.

I love the way Amy thinks about things like this. I have used this type of rational many times. One example was when we purchased my vehicle. It was a great deal yet the interior of the vehicle was a light tan and I was worried about it getting too dirty and hard to keep clean. I was shown another vehicle that was similar but it had a dark grey interior with a few more options that made it more expensive. Hmmm – we went with the tan interior and because it is made of durable fabric it has been easy to keep clean. So, it was another one of those it wasn’t worth the extra money for a darker color interior with a few more options that we didn't need.

Amy uses another example of comparing a $600 camping trip to a $6,000 cruise vacation. On a scale from one to ten the camping trip would rate a 5 and the cruise would rate a 10. You will enjoy the cruise twice as much but you will be spending more money and would only get a fifth of the value. Also by spending so much money on the cruise, you won’t have as many funds in reserve to purchase other things that are rather low in cost and contain a great “wow” factor.  However camping isn't for everybody so perhaps you can find other resourceful ways to go on vacation without having to camp.

Another view that I take is that I would rather have money in the bank for an emergency than spend a lot of it on a vacation. Now we just took a big vacation to Washington, D.C. and we did spend more money than we usually do on a vacation, but that was an exception and not our general rule. It was also a graduation present to our youngest son.

When I find something that I want to buy, I like to do some research. More than once I will have the money saved up and then I won’t want to part with the money for the item. Or I decide to look a little longer to see if I can find the item cheaper. Right now I have been looking for two red diner style chairs for my kitchen. If I come across some yellow diner chairs at a great price I would purchase them and make them work. Red or yellow would look great in my kitchen, but my preference is red.  I would settle.

This type of thought process can be used in so many situations. Here are some examples:

Your kids are involved in a lot of activities and you sit down and have them decide on the ones they enjoy the most or the ones that they get the most from. Then you look at the list and start to cross off the activities that give the least “wow” factor.

Other smaller items on a list could be the wow factor between:

1. Restaurant versus homemade meals. I would much rather go out and buy two steaks and grill them myself for a nice meal, than to go out to a restaurant for a steak dinner. The wow factor for me is in the steak and not in eating it in a restaurant.

2. Going to a theater to see a movie or renting a movie and watching it at home.

3. New car versus keeping a used car to drive a little longer.

4. Real maple syrup versus homemade “maple” syrup.

There are some cases where more expensive options do pass the one to ten wow factor scale. Amy gave the examples in her life such as her large farmhouse that is so much better for her family than a much smaller, less expensive home. Also, she said that a new computer is almost twice as good for her business than a used one at half the price. Amy feels that an antique dresser that cost her $200 is definitely 4 times better than a $50 yard sale dresser as the antique dresser will be in her family for generations.

When my oldest son was married in 2007, I determined to find a gown that I would wear at the wedding that I liked and that would look great on me no matter what the price. I refused to buy a dress that was cheaper just because it was on sale. I purchased a beautiful gown that was not on sale that cost me about $325 including alterations. I purchased a beaded purse and beaded shoes (I did get the shoes on clearance). I spent around $425 for the dress and accessories and I was very, very happy.  (I'll have to scan in a picture and post it.)

I went to a wedding about a year later where the mother of the bride told me that she got her dress for $25 on sale and didn’t care particularly for it, but it fit her budget. She was at the other end of the spectrum in that price was more important to her than getting what she really wanted and she was fine with it. I in turn was more interested in the gown and getting exactly what I wanted. Perhaps it goes back to my own wedding when I could not afford the gown I really wanted and I had to settle.

No one can dictate the “wow” factor of another person. Each of us must decide on this. 


Anonymous said...

I always tried to reason with my kids about things they needed. They went to Catholic school so clothes werent a big deal. But there was one year that all my one daughter wanted was an american eagle winter coat and I didnt have the money. Her cousin was selling one that she didnt need. I purchased it from her, and even thought it wasnt the latest style she was happy.

I think its all about expectations


Sass said...

I had to make the wow factor decison too when I took the Princess to a concert in Atlanta a few months ago. We ended up staying in a hotel right next to the Arena -- it was about $50 more than one a few blocks away that we had stayed in the previous year. However, this one, had a complimentary "manager's reception" in the evening and free breakfast as well as a microwave, fridge and being a suite, had a sofa pullout (that way each of the three of us had our own bed) so although it was more expensive for the actual room, it was closer, more convenient and it ended up costing a lot less at the end. And it was a nicer hotel.

If I had just looked at the base price of the room, I would have spent more for the other stuff. This time the WOW factor worked in my favor!

~Carla~ said...

So true! It's just being able to decide! But once you can put a true value on experiences & "things" it makes life easier!

Anonymous said...

I disagree with the " WOW ".
For me it is more " it will do " or "good enough" . As I have aged , matured, I believe I am less Wow'ed and less wanting to go with the flow/keep up with the Jones's.
Our kids see this and do it too and then we wonder where did we go wrong.
Good connection to your last post.

Bernice said...

This is the first time I would have to say I disagree with Amy and you, or I am dumb and dont understand the logic.
Why would you want to settle for something else, instead of spending the money(which you have saved for) and get something you really want?

She and you give all this great advice on cutting costs, saving etc, but then turn around and say continue being a spend thrift on things you really want and have saved for.
Using a few of yours and Amy's examples:

She bought LLBean boots for her daughter for .25cents at a garage sale, which is great, but the daughter really wanted green LL Bean boots,while the daughter was happy,(she had to be) dont you think she would of have been thrilled if Amy said for your Birthday or Christmas if you really still want the Green LL Bean boots we will get them at that time, $25 for a Birthday/or Christmas gift is reasonable in my opinion,but her daughter wasnt given a option, she had to settle.

On the $6000 cruise vs the $600 camping, granted $6000 dollars will get you 10 cheaper( not saying they wont be fun vacations) but most people(myself included) took those $600 or no vacations for many many years to save up for that one time cruise, why would I want to settle, once I have the money?

If I really wanted 2 red diner chairs for my kitchen as you do,why would I want to settle for yellow ones because they are cheaper? If I have saved and done without other things like dinners or movies out why settle for the yellow chairs?

You said you would put the money you saved by settling in a emergency fund, yes everyone needs to have a emergency fund, and we do, we have been lucky that we have not had to dip into it, if for some reason we did and our funds were not enough then yes that 6000 dollar cruise account or the chair account would be used,and we would continue to save...but I am not going to wait and see what unexpected emergency may crop up that may need that trip or chair or any other saved for"______" money..
Thanks for reading my opinion on this.

Martha said...

@Donna: I appreciate the comment you left and your viewpoint. I especially liked that you said that it was the first time that you disagreed with me and Amy.

Everyone else: I wondered if this article would even generate one comment but I do believe I hit a nerve.