Do you buy ‘because it was cheap’? (1904)

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A woman can save, and she justly prides herself on this ability

Men buy what they want when they want it, but women often buy what they do not want, “because it is cheap.”

The demands of modern life are so tremendous that the woman who is head of a household, and yet desires and needs to economize, wonders where and how she can cut her expenditures. Just at present when food and clothing are at maximum cost, or seem to be, the housekeeper is confronted with a grave problem.

The “vice” of economy

Do you buy 'because it was cheap'Dorothy Dix, an excellent woman writer, has an article in a current magazine upon women’s virtues that are vices, and she ranks economy in the front rank of these. She says that many a woman who may not have a very high opinion of herself in other directions, regards herself as a past mistress in the art of saving, and believes that it is only the accident of her sex which prevents her from being secretary of the treasury. Also she regards a man as the very embodiment of extravagance, because he buys what he wants when he wants it, instead of buying something he does not want because it is cheap. There is a great deal in that and it would be well for women to ponder upon it.

“We all know the temptations of bargain sales; buy things when they are cheap, even if not needed. But this is the falsest enconomy, because what we do not want is never cheap. The writer says that economy in women has be come a virtue through tradition, for in the old order, before women were earners, about the only way for them to make money was to save it, hence it has become a rule for women to regard economy as the chief of their virtues.

But too often an attempt at saving will bring about the greatest extravagance. How many women have run up a big bill buying things that are cheap because they may want them next year. Dorothy Dix says: “Every now and then some prophet in Israel arises and sets forth the economy of buying your summer clothes in November and your winter clothes in August. It sounds feasible and alluring. Most of us have tried it, and that yet no woman has committed suicide when she got out her season-before bargains is a striking proof of feminine heroism under a blighting disappointment.”

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How painfully true that is. How often we buy some expensive thing to cover up a bargain that we purchased with joyful heart because it was cheap.

The best economy is to buy the best if you can — in season, and it will out last all the bargains you could obtain.

Dorothy Dix thinks there is but little economy in having one’s clothes made over, but here we must part company with her, for we believe there is economy, provided, of course; that the thing was worth buying in the first place.

Men vs women

In the matter of shopping, women could learn much from men; not much perhaps on other subjects. But when a man wants a thing, a coat or a hat or some wearing apparel, he goes to the best place, asks the price and if he has it pays it without a murmur.

Few men shop in the real sense of that term. But a woman will walk miles, tire herself to death and become irritable and nervous, in a pursuit of towels marked down to 49 cents. Originally they were 50 cents. Or she will spend 20 cents in car fare to save 5 cents a dozen on eggs. She thinks that walking down town saves car fare, but does not reflect that the wear and tear on her shoes and the bottom of her skirts amounts to more than the 10 cents she would pay to ride. Or she will insist upon putting up the curtains herself when the spring cleaning is over, and if she falls off the step, ladder, breaks a bone, and is laid up with a trained nurse for two months.

It may occur to her that it would have been cheaper to pay a man to do it.

All these inconsistencies are intensely feminine, and also interesting. If women did not do these things, many men would have no texts and writers would be out of a job. Women are exceedingly nice, even if they do these ridiculous things.

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For many a woman with a thrifty soul has been truly economical and saved a fortune for a reckless husband.


First ad: From The Salt Lake Herald (Salt Lake City, Utah) January 10, 1904; Second ad: From the St Louis Republic (St Louis, Missouri) November 27, 1904; Third ad: From The Minneapolis journal (Minneapolis, Minn.) June 15, 1904.

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