How to Be a Savvy Consumer

It’s not easy to spot a scam or get the best deal, but sometimes you need to know how. Here are some tips for being savvy when it comes to buying things on Amazon and other online stores.

The “what’s the catch be a savvy consumer answers” is about how to be a savvy consumer. The article will answer what you should do when buying items and what are the pitfalls of being a buyer.

Young man in car leaving home for college illustration.

This essay series is now available as a professionally designed, distraction-free paperback or ebook that you can read at your leisure while offline.

We’ve already discussed how males should seek to generate more rather than consume less. However, less isn’t always better. Unless you’re Dick Proenneke, you’ll spend the majority of your life as a consumer of products and services such as automobiles, clothing, health care, and even education.

Never before in human history has there been such a wide range of options for how to spend your money. And marketing efforts to persuade you to purchase those goods have never been more clever. Companies mine data on your residence, family size, education and income level, favorite books, movies, and hobbies, and history of buying activity every time you swipe a shop loyalty card, use your smart phone, log into Facebook, or browse the web. This information is then put into sophisticated algorithms that create adverts and mailings tailored to your exact goals, dreams, and anxieties. Corporations are on the lookout for you.

Now, I don’t want to put too dark a spin on it – firms are just providing things and services that people desire – but marketers are effectively “predators” on the prowl to the extent that they monitor you. They don’t want to devour you (you’re much more valuable alive! ), but they do want to get inside your head and persuade you to purchase their wares. The playing field is far from even since they have millions of dollars and sophisticated tools at their disposal, but as the “prey,” you can absolutely put up a fight. You must be well-informed and empowered, a clever shopper who does not purchase on impulse and wind up with a home full of worthless or non-functional crap and a pile of debt. The educated knowledgeable consumer makes purchases on his own terms and does his research to ensure he isn’t taken advantage of, gets the most value for his money, and only purchases what he actually wants and needs.

1. Recognize the Value vs. Price Principle

We performed a project a few years ago where we encouraged AoM readers to submit “Lessons in Manliness” biographies on regular guys in their life, expressing how they represented manliness and inspired us.

One thing that struck me at the time was how many of the profiles noted that the guy in question always made purchases based on the product’s quality rather than its price. They sought for long-lasting items while making shopping decisions.

My grandpa was a clever shopper, and it’s likely that yours was (or is) as well. He 1) didn’t care about acquiring a lot of stuff, but he did want the stuff he did have to perform their job and provide him pleasure, and 2) he knew that just because something was inexpensive didn’t mean it was a good deal. He went beyond the sticker price to the price per usage to determine the actual worth of things.


Calculating the Cost Per Use

Let’s take the instance of a leather briefcase as an example. Bob goes on a price hunt and spends $50 on a nylon messenger bag. Frank, on the other hand, spends $500 on a leather briefcase with a lifetime guarantee. Each of them uses his or her bag 200 times every year. After three years, Bob’s inexpensive bag wears out and he has to replace it. Frank’s leather bag serves him well for 50 years, and he passes it on to his grandson. In Bob’s example, the cost per use for his bag was roughly 8 cents (200 uses per year divided by three years = $50). Frank’s cost per usage is 5 cents, and it will continue to decrease as his grandson uses the bag. So, although Bob’s bag was originally a lot cheaper, Frank’s purchase will end up being the better value in the long term.

The frequency with which you utilize the product will also have an impact on this calculation. If someone attempts to save money by purchasing equipment over the internet and it doesn’t fit well, it will lie in the garage collecting dust, and its cost per usage will skyrocket, as Darren pointed out in his genuinely outstanding So You Want My Job interview on being the owner of an outdoor business. If the same individual went to their local mom and pop shop and had a professional salesman assist them pick out exactly the perfect item, one they used as often as possible and enjoyed for years, the cost per use would be significantly lower, making the more costly purchase a genuine value over time.

Another good example is purchasing a mattress — you’ll be sleeping on it for a third of your life, so investing in one that helps you get a good night’s sleep night after night is an incredible value, even if the mattress you choose is more expensive than a cheaper model that would have left you tossing and turning just to save a few dollars up front.

Brand Name vs. Generic

Of course, check at what you’re receiving for the higher price when comparing price to value. It may, but does not necessarily, imply superior quality. The high price might simply be to support a well-known company, a celebrity endorsement, or a large marketing budget. This is why, while deciding whether to purchase generic or brand-name things, you must experiment to see what the additional expense of the well-known brand nets you. Some generic brands are created in the same facility as brand-name products, while others are less expensive due to lower quality. Listed below are a few examples:

At the supermarket:

  • Cheaper toilet paper and paper towels – you’ll have to use more sheets to get the job done. It doesn’t always make sense to save money in this situation.
  • Garbage bags – take a cheap, overstuffed bag out of the can and expect the bottom to fall out. This is something you only want to do once.
  • Zip lock bags from the store are more than suitable since they seal well and are likely to be used just once.
  • Salt is salt, and sugar is sugar.
  • Medicines – The FDA mandates that the active component in generic medicines be identical to that in brand-name counterparts. As a result, a generic headache medication will be just as effective as Tylenol.

In the hardware shop, you should:


  • Purchase the greatest paintbrushes you can. They’ll retain more paint, make painting simpler, and last a long time. You should never attempt to draw a fine bead of paint with a clumsy brush with bristles spread all over the place.
  • Paint – you’ll regret saving a few dollars per gallon when you have to apply a second coat since the first didn’t disguise the original hue.
  • Drill bits – cheap ones shatter or grow dull fast, forcing you to return to Home Depot to complete drilling the last 3/8′′ hole in your project. Unfortunately, this is more difficult to understand given since virtually all, if not all, drill bits are made in China.

It’s difficult to judge if a generic product will perform as well as a brand name one without first trying it. That method works for waste bags, but you don’t want to risk being burnt while purchasing a large item. Below, we’ll go through how to make those higher-end purchases with caution.

Don’t be fooled by appearances

While males claim they don’t allow their emotions influence their purchase choices, marketing expert Martin Lindstrom believes their shopping behavior is best described as “emorational.” In average, women make more emotional purchases than men, although men typically mask their emotional drive to buy by focusing on the product’s practical characteristics. Men like learning about a product’s specifications and may justify purchasing a more costly product with more features. In actuality, it’s usually the product’s coolness — the way he imagines possessing it would make him feel — that draws him in. It’s not a fair bargain to pay a hundred dollars extra for something with twelve features when you only need two.

Of course, you can’t always afford the higher upfront expenses of premium things when you’re first starting out in life, and you shouldn’t go into debt to buy them. Attempt to make your less expensive items last as long as possible; if something isn’t damaged, don’t purchase a replacement; instead, try to repair it to prolong its life. The longer you use it, the more time you’ll have to save for a long-lasting, high-quality item.

To summarize, rather of buying a lot of garbage, a wise shopper buys a few nice items that will provide him with a lifetime of usefulness and pleasure.

Vintage young couple shopping in record store.

2. Do your homework, do your homework, do your homework, do your homework, do your

A knowledgeable consumer does as much research as possible before making a large purchase or hiring a service. Your aim is to determine whether the product will provide the best value for your money while also meeting your quality and safety requirements. If you’re looking to purchase anything, just Google the product’s name, as detailed as possible, with “review.” If you’re looking to purchase an appliance, go to Amazon or BestBuy and study the reviews. is the place to go if you’re looking for electronics. When it comes to public evaluations, you’ll need to exercise caution and patience; up to 30% of them might be phony, manufactured by the firm that creates the goods or the individual who provides the service. Also bear in mind that angry customers are more likely to post a review than happy customers. I prefer to read a few reviews in each of the highest, lowest, and in-between categories and then average them out in my head to get a sense of how the product is most likely to be.


There are various websites and newspapers that provide product reviews. and Car and Driver, for example, are excellent resources for researching car purchases.

In certain circumstances, paying for a month’s membership to Consumer Reports online evaluations may be worthwhile. This is something I’ve done before while purchasing laptops and washers/dryers.

When looking for a particular brand name item, utilize Google Shopping to get the best price, then go to to check out the merchant’s reviews. Saving a few bucks isn’t worth it if you wind up haggling with a shady dealer.

Angie’s List is the place to go if you’re looking for a service provider. Look for someone who has a good reputation for quality, dependability, and affordability. It’s also a good idea to get recommendations from your friends, family, and coworkers. In many circumstances, asking your local friends and family on Facebook for recommendations can provide better results than using a search engine.

3. Before making a purchase, get price quotes from a few different companies.

It pays to look around when hiring someone to do a job since pricing might vary greatly. Again, a cheaper price may indicate inferior quality, but you don’t want to believe that anything that costs more is inevitably better.

Obtaining numerous quotations helps you to put service providers in direct competition with one another. You can always go back to the first guy and say, “This guy’s willing to do it for X, can you match that price?” If you have a guy you want to use for various reasons but another guy offers you a lower price, you can always go back to the first guy and say, “This guy’s willing to do it for X, can you match that price?”

Yes, it takes a little more time to shop around, but it’s well worth it if you can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

4. Learn how to bargain

Negotiating is a strange idea to most young men in the United States. We’ve been trained to believe that you should just accept the price that’s been provided and that haggling is impolite. However, if you want your dollar to go as far as it possibly can, you must learn how to bargain. This ability may save you a lot of money over the course of your life. Is it truly worth thousands of dollars that you essentially tossed out the window to remain in your comfort zone?

Negotiation will be required for some of your life’s most significant purchases, the most apparent of which being vehicles and houses. Even if you aren’t in the market for these high-ticket things just yet, understanding how to bargain might come in handy. Everything is adjustable, from your auto insurance premium to your gym membership.

Tyler Tervooren provided a very thorough tutorial on haggling for us last year. I strongly advise you to read it. Also, read Getting to Yes, which is jam-packed with advice on how to bargain like a pro.


5. Don’t Pay Attention to Up-Sales

Businesses want you to spend more money than you expected when you go into a store or even purchase online. They utilize a strategy known as up-selling to get you to open your wallet. Upselling refers to offering clients upgrades, add-ons, and more services before they pay for their initial transaction. When done correctly, it’s really effective. According to studies, merely introducing up-selling at the moment of purchase may improve sales by as much as 40%.

You may have come across up-selling before but had no idea what it was called. It’s particularly frequent in restaurants. “Would you guys want to sample some of our fantastic fried pickles as an appetizer?” the waitress would undoubtedly suggest once she brings your drinks out. You were just up-sold.

When you shop on, you’ll very certainly see a list of goods that other consumers purchased in addition to the book you’re purchasing. Another example of up-selling is this.

These forms of up-sells are generally harmless and even be beneficial. I can’t tell you how many times Amazon’s recommendations have led me to a terrific book. However, you do not want to be enticed into purchasing anything you do not need or cannot afford.

When purchasing huge appliances or laptops, discerning buyers should be on the lookout for up-sells.

Consider the last time you purchased a computer or other high-priced gadget. You’ve got the merchandise at the checkout counter, and the clerk says, “Would you want to purchase an extended warranty?” before ringing you up. It’s just $25, and it’ll safeguard you even if you sacrifice your laptop by throwing it into a volcano.” As a general rule, a wise shopper should turn down the majority of extended warranty offers. It’s unlikely that you’ll need it; the manufacturer’s guarantee is generally enough. Companies know how unlikely it is that you would utilize your warranty, which is why they push it so aggressively. In reality, over 80% of extended warranties are never utilized. So if a corporation can sell you one, it’s usually just for profit.

Also, keep an eye out for up-sells in the form of unnecessary add-ons. When you purchase an HDTV, for example, the man at BestBuy will undoubtedly tell you that you need a special $75 HDTV surge protector as well as diamond-encased HDMI cables to achieve the finest possible picture. You should always, always say no to these item, according to my brother, who used to work at Best Buy. “They don’t do anything,” says the narrator. They have very large profit margins. That’s why we’re advised to refer them,” he explains.

Bottom line: know what you want before you buy anything, and don’t succumb to high-pressure up-sells.

6. Before signing a contract, read everything thoroughly.

Contracts are required for a variety of services and goods, including renting an apartment, joining a gym, acquiring mobile phone service, and buying health insurance. These contracts legally bind you and the other party to specified conditions. If you don’t keep your half of the bargain, you might face heavy fines and potentially a lawsuit. That’s why it’s critical to read a contract properly before signing your name on the dotted line.


Many individuals, however, do not bother to read contracts since they are lengthy and often daunting. While it may be inconvenient, make it a practice to read all contracts before signing them. Take it home if necessary and read it when you have more time. Look for the following items when you’re reading:

  • When and how much will you pay?
  • What is the duration of the contract?
  • What are the penalties and ramifications if one party fails to follow through on the agreement?
  • What happens when the contract expires? Is there an option for auto-renewal? And, if that’s the case, how can you stop it if you don’t want the service anymore?
  • What are the reasons for contract termination?
  • What are the methods for resolving contract disputes? Arbitration? Mediation? Courts?
  • Have you filled in all of the blanks? Contracts often have blank spots where pricing and dates are filled in. Before signing, double-check that those areas are filled in so that no modifications may be made without your awareness.
  • Is the deal complete without any oral or handshake agreements?

If you have any queries, don’t be scared to ask them. Also, if you come across any words with which you disagree, request that they be modified. Any of the contract’s conditions are negotiable before you sign it.

Make sure you acquire copies of the contract once you sign it for your records, which takes us to…

7. Save all receipts, agreements, contracts, and other important documents.

Before you buy something, you should always check the store’s return policy, and you should keep your receipt after you’ve made your purchase. You’ll need it, as well as any contracts you’ve signed, if you ever have a problem with a product or service and wish to return or complain about it. As a result, make it a practice to store your receipts and agreements in a folder for safety. You’ll never have to search through your vehicle or odd drawers hunting for the receipt for your broken television again.

Better better, scan and keep all of your receipts and contracts in the cloud. This is becoming a habit for me. I’m taking images of receipts and labelling them with “receipt” in the Evernote program on my iPhone. Large papers, such as contracts, are scanned straight into Evernote on my laptop. I no longer have to worry about misplacing receipts, and I can retrieve them at any time and from any location.



As consumers, we are faced with a brand new challenge. We now have to find ways to be savvy in order to get the best deals and products. This is no easy task, but if you know what to look for, it can be done. Reference: savvy customers branding challenges.

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