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Another aspect of taking care of what you have is to think carefully before you acquire an item. By buying wisely in the first place, you can make sure that the stuff you have serves you well over a longer period of time.

TACTIC: Avail yourself of consumer information when making buying decisions.

A variety of good sources of consumer information can give you advice on purchasing items. I'll talk about how to find these resources more in "Tap into Resources," but it is worth mentioning here that the US Consumer Information Center is a good first stop.

In general, consider not just price in making a decision for an item. Look for quality, so that the item will serve you well over a long time with low maintenance costs. Also make sure that the item is the style that you really want. A cheap item that breaks or an item that you don't use because you don't like the style represents money poorly spent.

TACTIC: When you buy electronics, computer supplies, or any technological item, look for standard, stable, and competent technology that is as simple as possible.

When looking through resources for consumer information, look for maintainability and simplicity in the design of computers and electronics. Avoid the latest fads, test ("beta") software, or equipment that locks you into replacement parts or accessories from just one company.

TACTIC: Buy miniature or travel versions of appliances or supplies.

When your stuff takes up less space, it is easier to store and transport. For example, a travel clothes iron takes up less space than a conventional iron. A laptop computer might cost more, but it gives you the ability to go almost anywhere with it and takes up a fraction of the space of a desktop computer and monitor. Similarly, smaller lamps, audio speakers, clocks, printers, fax machines, telephones, radios, hairdryers, shavers, luggage, furniture, and appliances can save you room in your home and give you more mobility.

TACTIC: Buy compatible items in terms of style, color, and parts.

For example, a handheld computer might take AA batteries. If your digital camera also does, this commonality gives you a way to share batteries.

Another example is color and style. When you buy an item of luggage or a backpack, consider buying all the same color. Same with furniture and clothing. By paying attention to color choices in this way, you can achieve a harmonious look.

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