by Katherine Curtis, 4/1/08 • From a young age, my parents exemplified how to maintain a cheap and practical lifestyle. We snuck food into the theater rather than buying the over-priced candy at the concession stands, dad only allowed us to buy new shoes when we had decent coupons, and no matter how much us kids whined, mom refused to buy us the brand-name clothes: it either had to be on sale, thrift store, or hand-me-downs from siblings and cousins.

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Though we did live cheaply, we did not ignore practicality. Sketchers aren’t the cheaper shoes, but we purchase them because we usually outgrow them rather than out-wear them. We bought (and still buy) Columbia jackets because of their durability (we haven’t had to throw one out yet) and because of the company’s generosity (if the zipper on a jacket breaks, you send them the coat and they will repair it, free of charge). We realizes that the cheapest deal isn’t always the best deal, but either is the most expensive deal.

Because I was constantly in the “cheap and practical” mindset, brand names didn’t matter. Material durability and price were (and still are) the first thing I check. Whether the item is from Old Navy or Family Pathways, it doesn’t matter; if it fits, if it’s cheap, if it’ll last, it works for me.

There are times that it is necessary to purchase an item that is expensive, such as an ink cartridge for the printer. Before I would go out and buy a cartridge, I would ask around. What store sells cartridges the cheapest? Where do you buy yours? How long do they last? Even after asking around, I would learn from experience. Perhaps OfficeMax sells cartridges cheap, but if the cartridge doesn’t last long, I have to try another place. Eventually, I find a decent price range and an efficient product (Cartridge World).

Since then, my father has been promoted and the family income has increased. However, our spending habits have not changed.

“The average American family overspends and is in debt,” comments Mary Curtis, my mother. “We aren’t in debt; we live within our means and actually save our money.”

In our family, brand-names are of no importance; efficiency and practicality dominates our decisions.

Katherine Curtis is a PSEO student taking an on-line community college journalism class taught by Rich Broderick.