George Washington Goes Birthday Shopping

You may or may not know that today is actually George Washington’s birthday. Sure, you had off on Monday for President’s Day, but today’s the day he would have been blowing out candles on a birthday cake. Now, as a consumer blog, you might think that we should have celebrated President’s Day by talking about where to find the best sales and how to take advantage of them. But if you think that then you don’t know how much I love George Washington. I’m a huge fan. If he was still alive, I’d be a groupie but I had to make do with a visit to Mount Vernon instead.

And so in honor of his birthday, I’d like to present you with a few pearls of wisdom from our Founding Father that are particularly useful for consumers, even those of us who do pay a tax on tea.

“Few men have virtue to withstand the highest bidder”

Or as the more popular wisdom goes: Everyone has his price. At some point, the material benefit is too high and most of us will compromise on what’s important to us. This is beginning to apply more and more to us as consumers as we gain recognition of some of the human and environmental cost of the goods that we buy. Things like clothes and shoes are often manufactured in places where we wouldn’t approve of the working conditions but doing the research to find out or even just finding alternatives takes a lot of time and is often more expensive than we’d like. The same goes for food products. You may want to buy only locally grown organic produce but that is likely to limit your options and raise your grocery bill.

“To contract new debts is not the way to pay old ones”

This is particularly easy to do in the age of credit cards. Which George Washington, who hated the idea of paper money, would probably not have approved of. Credit cards make it really easy to use money you don’t actually have. Of course, sometimes going into debt is acceptable but it’s important to have a good plan for paying it off and if you have to contract a new debt to do that, chances are good that you didn’t have one.

“Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s mind, than on the externals in the world.”

This is probably the most important part of being a smart and savvy consumer: Not buying for the sake of buying. Your material possessions won’t make you happy if nothing else will, but they can contribute to things that do make you happy. If buying a new kitchen gadget will allow you to make your wife’s favorite dish more often, then it’s a good purchase and it’s worth spending money to get the best product to save time and frustration later. Make sure you’re buying for the right reasons and you keep your priorities, both emotional and practical, in order as you shop.

Happy Birthday President Washington!

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