Book Review: Be Smart About Shopping

Be Smart About Shopping: The Critical Consumer And Civic Financial Responsibility, by Kathiann M. Kowalski

This book is prat of a series of books that are written on the subject of financial responsibility and aimed, it appears, at teenagers. This is the sort of short but interesting book that one can easily imagine being read for fun by young people, to the extent that they are interested in such matters, or that would be assigned as a textbook as part of a high school class on adulting. Lest we laugh too much about the basic nature of the material in this book, the material in this book and its series as a whole (which includes works about college and careers, credit, investing, and money as whole) is certainly a worthwhile endeavor. Shopping is something even the least inclined people among us do a fair amount of, for to live in such a world as our own requires the purchase of a great many goods and services, and how to do so intelligently is a worthwhile skill that can remove from life a great deal of irritation and problems. It is not hard at all to imagine that this book has a large and appreciative audience, and if it doesn’t, it should.

This particular book is about 50 pages in length and is divided into six chapters. The book begins with the author stating that shopping comes from the money that belongs to the consumer (1). This is followed by a discussion of priorities. We buy goods and services for different reasons, and thinking seriously about these reasons is important in making us a smarter shopper (2). After this the author urges the reader to compare and decide, as different products and services we are purchasing can be compared on a great many grounds, including our personal preferences and various cost measures (3). After this the author urges the reader to take care of the principle of “buyer beware” and to be cautious of fine print as well as various other issues relating to such things as warranties (4). This is followed by a call for the reader to be aware of their rights (5), especially those consumer protections that are present in different areas that help deal with the worst sorts of business abuses that exist. Finally, the author urges the reader to consider the bigger picture about shopping (6), including dealing with matters of civic responsibility, one’s goals relating to wealth and others, and even such matters as microlending and the impact of shopping on the outside world. Each chapter has a “do the math” section at the end of each chapter of the book, and the book as a whole ends with a glossary, suggestions for further reading, an answer key, and an index.

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4 Responses to Book Review: Be Smart About Shopping

  1. Catharine Martin says:

    I wish that books like this were mandatory reading material for high school students. The classes that are taught have little to do with real-life issues. Students who will soon come of age should be armed with information which has to do with practical life situations. Knowing and following the basic rules of money management would certainly spare them a great deal of grief. Mistakes in financial issues made during one’s youth can haunt a person for a lifetime.

    • This book appeared to have been written with service as a textbook for teenagers in mind, but aside from some courses like “Senior Survival” which taught basic skills like filling out job application forms and writing checks, and that course was an elective that few took, it does not appear as if many teenagers graduate with this sort of knowledge.

  2. Catharine Martin says:

    The math requirement for seniors graduating in my high school class did not require the ability to understand how fractions work or how to perform long division. Many were not able to fill out a job application, yet they received a diploma. It doesn’t appear as though things have changed, and I find that terrifying. We have been graduating decades of illiterate young people, yet they are armed with the paperwork stating that they are functionally educated. They are living a lie.

    • I remember doing long division and fractions in elementary school; it is terrifying that there is such a gap in education between that which is assumed to be taught and that which is actually learned. I must admit I find that gap to be rather terrifying as well.

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