Whenever you need to buy anything, always work your way up the “shopping hierarchy” from the cheapest to most expensive to find the best deal, urge Steve and Annette Economides, authors of the book America’s Cheapest Family Gets You Right on the Money.
Here’s how the hierarchy works:
- First, try to borrow the item from a friend or neighbor. If you only need to cut down a few trees, borrowing a chain saw makes a lot more sense than buying one.
- Can’t borrow it? Try to get it free. Websites such as craigslist.org or freecycle.org will identify all sorts of useful items that people in your area are giving away free. Steve is well on his way to collecting thousands of free bricks he wants for building a walkway—instead of paying hundreds of dollars for new bricks.
- If you can’t get things free, buy a slightly damaged version. A new washing machine may have a small scratch on the side but will still work perfectly fine.
- If a dinged version isn’t available, then shop around for a store offering the item at a discount.
- Finally, if you can’t get the item free or cheap, only then should you pay full price. But odds are very good that you’ll find what you’re looking for long before you have to settle for the most expensive option.