Money and Marriage
Issue 7. Stretching Your Dollars
$ Why You Buy What You Buy • $ Red Flags of Fraud •
$ Savvy Shopper Habits •
$ A Calendar of Sales • $ Complaining Effectively
$ Why You Buy What You Buy
Today’s marketplace is full of choices. Whether you buy aspirin, a car or
truck, it takes time to sort through the many brands, makes, models or sizes.
Making your selections may pose a problem if you are a discriminating customer.
Whatever your financial situation, it is a good idea to take a good look at how
you spend your income – what is being purchased and why it is being purchased.
Before You Buy
- Use the Rule of 3. Look at three alternatives, such as 3 models, 3 brands,
or 3 stores.
- Compare prices. Do not assume an item is a bargain just because it is
advertised as one.
- Don’t rush into a large purchase because the "price is only good today."
- Ask about the seller’s refund or exchange policy.
- Read the unit price labels at the grocery store. Unit pricing allows you to
compare the price ounce-for-ounce, pound-for-pound, etc. Keep in mind, larger
packages are not always cheaper than smaller sizes.
- Don’t rely on a salesperson’s promises. Get everything in writing. Deal
only with reliable companies.
- Don’t sign a contract without reading it first. Don’t sign a contract if
there are any blank spaces or parts you don’t understand.
After You Buy
- Read and follow product and service instructions.
- Keep all sales receipts, warranties, service contracts, and instructions.
- If you have a problem, contact the company as soon as possible. Keep a
written record of all contacts.
$ Red Flags of Fraud
Consumer protection offices urge consumers to be aware of the red flags of
fraud. Walk away from bogus offers. Toss out the mail or hang up when you hear:
- "Sign now or the price will increase";
- “You have been specially selected …"
- “You have won…"
- "All we need is your credit card (or bank account) number – for
- “I just happen to have some leftover paving material from a job down the
- "Be your own boss! Never work for anyone else again. Just send in $50 for
your supplies and…"
Stay away from telemarketers who want to -
- Send a courier service to pick up money.
- Have you wire funds.
- Automatically withdraw money from your checking account.
- Offer you a free prize but charge handling and shipping fees.
- Ask for your credit card number, checking or savings account number, Social
Security number or other personal information.
- Demand payment in advance especially for employment referrals, credit
repair or providing a loan or credit card.
To plug "spending leaks," first analyze why you decided to buy the item or
service. List 5 items you bought since you’ve been married. Next, answer each of
the questions below.
Was it bought for a need or want?
Was it bought for status?
Was it bought for friendship or love?
Was it bought for power?
Was it bought under pressure?
Was it bought for a collection?
Was it bought as a reward?
Buying status, friendship, or love; controlling or punishing others by
withholding money; and overspending to get back at another family member are
emotional uses of money.
$ Where to Turn for Product Information
Consumers’ Research is an independent, nonprofit organization, for the
purpose of providing the public with scientific, technical, and educational
information. They publish the magazine, Consumers’ Research, using data
believed to be accurate. Consumers’ Research is not supported by manufacturers,
dealers, or any government agencies. Consumers’ Research does not permit any
person or firm to make commercial use of its findings. The publishers and
editors do not assume responsibility for any injuries or damages resulting from
the use of the products or services described in the magazine.
Consumer's Union is one of the most sought after source for objective and
reliable buying data. This nonprofit organization exists to provide consumers
with information and advice on goods, services, health, and personal finance.
Many of their findings are reported in their monthly publication – Consumer
Reports. Consumer’s Union accepts no advertising and buys all the products
they test on the open market. Because of these practices, it’s a good idea to
check out Consumer Reports before buying big ticket items. It is at least
a starting point for a consumer trying to make a buying decision.
Consumer Resource Handbook is updated every two years by the U.S. Office of
Consumer Affairs and lists offices you can contact for help with consumer
problems or questions. The handbook also provides tips on several consumer
issues. To order a single copy write: Handbook Consumer Information Center,
Pueblo, Colorado 81009 or order online at
$ Savvy Shopper Habits
Compulsive buying and the urge to spend are best controlled by developing
savvy shopping habits. Complete each of the 10 statements by using one of the
phrases in the list at the bottom of the page. Answers are at the end of the
_____ 1. Clothing goes on sale
_____ 2. Shop
_____ 3. Decide how much money you have to spend, then
_____ 4. Shop when you are refreshed and not when
_____ 5. Avoid shopping
_____ 6. Use a shopping
_____ 7. Compare
_____ 8. Reduce the number of
_____ 9. Resist promotional tactics by
_____ 10. Find a substitute activity for
B. shopping trips by planning ahead.
C. towards the end of the season.
D. shopping such as participating in an active sport or volunteering to help
out at the local hospital.
E. alone. It’s easier to say no to yourself than to a spouse or friend.
F. becoming familiar with prices before you shop.
G. aimlessly. Leave the store after you have made your purchases.
H. leave extra money, your checkbook, and credit cards at home.
I. before you buy.
J. you’re tired, hungry, or rushed. Chances are you won’t take time to
compare prices, brands, or features, to try on clothing or test furniture.
$ A Calendar of Sales
After Christmas clearances on toys, decorations, cards. White goods. Shirts.
Washington’s Birthday sales. Furniture and housewares.
Pre-season sales on spring clothes. Post-season clearances on winter clothes
and sports equipment.
Post-Easter sales. Spring cleaning and gardening specials.
A slow month for sales. But you may find some pre-season discounts on summer
Furniture. Semiannual sales of clothing.
Mid-year warehouse clearance sales of regular and "as is" merchandise. White
Back-to-school sales. End-of-summer clearances. Clearance of current model
TV and appliance sales prior to model changes. Back-to-school clothing.
Summer sports equipment. Columbus Day sales.
Fall merchandise. Pre-Christmas sales on some items before Thanksgiving.
Bad month for sales until after Christmas. May be a good time to shop for a
$ Complaining Effectively
If you have a problem with a company, make your complaint known. If you think
the product doesn’t live up to its sales claims, complain. First, discuss the
problem with the seller. Calmly and accurately describe the problem and what
action you want taken. Keep a record of your efforts to resolve the
problem. Allow time for the person you contacted to resolve the problem. Don’t
give up if you are not satisfied. Use the following sample complaint letter as a
guide to assist you in addressing your problem.
Keep copies of your letter and all related documents.
Here is a sample complaint letter
Sample Complaint Letter
(Your City, State, ZIP Code)
(Name of Contact Person, if available)
(Title, if available)
(Consumer Complaint Division, if you have no contact person)
(City, State, ZIP code)
Dear (Contact Person):
Re: (account number, if applicable)
On (date), I (bought, leased, rented or had repaired) a (name of the product
with serial or model number or service performed) at (location, date and other
important details of the transaction).
- describe purchase
- name of product,
- include date and
place of purchase
Unfortunately, your product (or service) has not performed well (or the
service was inadequate) because (state the problem). I am disappointed because
(explain the problem: for example, the product not does work properly, the
service was not performed correctly; I was billed the wrong amount, something
was not disclosed clearly or was misrepresented, etc.).
- state problem
- give history
To resolve the problem, I would appreciate your (state the specific action
you want – money back, charge card credit, repair, exchange, etc.). Enclosed are
copies (do not send originals) of my records (include receipts, guarantees,
warranties, canceled checks, contracts, model and serial numbers, and any other
- ask for specific action
- enclose copies of documents
I look forward to your reply and a resolution to my problem, and I will wait
until (set a time limit) before seeking help from a consumer protection agency
or the Better Business Bureau. Please contact me at the above address or by
phone at (home and/or office numbers with area codes).
- allow time for action
- state how you can be reached
Cc: (reference to whom you are sending a copy of this letter, if anyone)
Savvy Shopper Habits Answers: 1c, 2e, 3h, 4j, 5g, 6a, 7i, 8b, 9f, 10d
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