Buying Power

Plugging into savvy consumer shopping habits can add up to substantial savings over the long run .

It’s been more than 20 years since Debbie Slater was caught in the clutches of the welfare system, but the OB-GYN nurse practitioner will forever cling to the memories of those challenging times.
“I was in nursing school and my husband left me flat. He didn’t pay any child support, took all of the furniture and that was [that],” she recalls.

Money was extremely tight, so Slater clipped coupons and practiced strict budgeting. “I couldn’t afford to go beyond my budget because the monthly payments that I received from public assistance were my only income,” Slater says. “So I allotted a certain amount for all of my expenses every month and put the money in separate envelopes. Soon I realized that I could stay within my monthly budget and still get some of the things I wanted by buying in bulk and putting lots of items on layaway. Now, there is a lot more money to budget, and more envelopes, but I still practice the same strategies to this day.”

To call Slater an accomplished professional would be an understatement. In addition to her medical work, the world-traveled 46-year-old reigns as the queen of several entrepreneurial ventures. From the Website www.clipperkeeper .com, she sells equipment cases for barbers. She also sells lingerie and makes and sells party favors. Slater’s strict penny-pinching strategies and supreme bargain-hunting skills have also enabled her to sock away enough money to acquire four houses, several furs, a car and a hefty investment portfolio. “It’s all because I’ve learned the value of delayed gratification and smart shopping,” she boasts. “There is no way I could have these things without being a savvy consumer.”

How do spending habits affect your ability to become wealthy? In this article, we’ll show you how to assess the way you purchase before you buy, while you shop and after you make your purchases. Our goal is to help you become a high-powered consumer as we focus on principle No. 3 of black enterprise’s Declaration of Financial Empowerment (DOFE): To be a disciplined and knowledgeable consumer. Here are some guidelines:

BEFORE YOU BUY

  • Establish the difference between your needs and wants. “A need is never realized while standing in a store,” insists Mary Hunt, author of Mary Hunt’s Debt-Proof Living: The Complete Guide to Living Financially Free (Broadman & Holman Publishers, $14.99). Hunt, a reformed spender, says you should “plan your purchases rather than shop. Instead of wandering into a mall or store to see what they have, only purchase the items you need from your prepared list.” For the most part, any item that will directly impact your basic survival (health, food and shelter) is probably something you need and should take priority over anything you want. But even these items aren’t absolutes. Determine whether you can maintain quality by choosing a less-expensive brand. Or, decide if you can wait until the item is on sale or fits in your budget.
    The same test should be applied to items on your “want” list. The widespread use of

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