Thus far, living with your partner has gone like gangbusters — until the fateful night when your dream TV dies during the Big Game, and suddenly the two of you find yourselves in negotiations as tense as the Cuban Missile Crisis over what to replace it with. Surprise! You and your SO are now staring down the barrel of your first Joint Major Purchase.
Don’t stress. While it’s certainly daunting to negotiate the rocky shoals of collectively dropping a hefty chunk of change on a major electronics item/appliance/piece of furniture/whatever, it doesn’t have to derail a good relationship. Here’s how to talk about, shop for, and make a big buy while staying stress-free and keeping the domestic peace.
Answer a Few Questions
It’s Thanksgiving evening, the Tigers have lost, and your fridge, groaning under the weight of all those leftovers (you’ve really got to stop making so much cranberry sauce, nobody eats it), has finally given up the ghost.
So for some ungodly reason, the next morning — Black Friday! — you and your SO decide to just hop in the car and drive to your nearest major home appliance store to replace the thing. But you’re not going on some carefree apple-picking trip; you’re parachuting into a war zone.
Back up. Before you guys head out, you need to make a plan of attack, making sure to answer the following questions:
- How much can you spend on this item without bankrupting yourselves?
- Are there any features of X purchase that either of you particularly want?
- How will you resolve any disagreements about what version of an item to purchase?
- What’s your safe word, in case you need to emergency-eject from a bad salesperson situation? (Recommendation: “Credenza!”)
Compromise on Shopping Styles
People have vastly different shopping styles: Some like to clip coupons (like the $1 off to the left!), hunt for online discount codes, hit up several different stores to compare prices, and try to negotiate with the salesperson for a better deal.
Others want to get in and out in five minutes flat, buying the first curved high-def TV they lay their eyes on. Neither approach is necessarily incorrect, but you’re going to find yourself in a world of stress and bad vibes if the shopping trip you thought was going to take a half hour max in between playoff games ends up stretching into spring training.
If you’re of the mind that the less time spent in a store or mall the better, and your SO is a happy comparison-shopping warrior (or vice versa), here are some ways for the two of you to move closer to one another’s styles beforehand, and avoid problems on the day of the big purchase:
Do Your Pre-Shopping Online
Honestly you can probably do 90% of the work of figuring out which model washer-and-dryer set works for you and your partner online — though for a purchase of this size you still want to head into a store to make the final assessment. But if you do your homework ahead of time, this will eliminate the need for such a high dosage of aimless aisle-wandering that you’ll start to feel like an undead extra on a zombie apocalypse TV show. Identify three or four versions of the item you’re after, compare online reviews, and then confirm which stores actually have them in stock IRL.
Let Whoever Wants to Talk, Talk
Shutting down debate prematurely is just going to make things fraught and fractious between you and your SO. And just because *you* know exactly what you want doesn’t mean the other person does — and you may not know what you want as precisely as you think you do. All it takes is one smart question from your SO to the salesperson about whether or not that sleeper sofa mattress is in fact made of discarded bean-bag chair innards, and you’ll be very glad you have her along. (Trust me, having a reasonably comfortable guest bed will save you a lot of grief when your parents visit.)
Set a Hard Stop Time
Make a plan to hang with friends at a specific time post-shopping trip. That way, you’ll know there’s a definite light at the end of the tunnel. If you know for certain there’s beer and wings waiting for you at 7pm, you’ll be more chill about a few hours compare-and-contrasting dishwashers.
After the Purchase
As you and your SO walk away from the cash register in triumphant slo-mo, receipt and delivery info clutched in one upraised, victorious hand, a sense of accomplishment washes over you: The war has been averted, the battle won. And you will no longer have to store your milk in a snow drift.
Start a File
You may, however, have to call in a repair/deal with a warranty question/claim it on your taxes/etc. (The TV can be claimed as a business expense due to your income from one-week fantasy football, right? Right?) With that in mind, it’s a good idea for all couples to start a file folder (whether virtual or physical) to keep track of receipts, warranty information, repair documents, and the like.
That way, the next time your stove craps out while your partner is away on business, you won’t have to eat cold (but increasingly warmer) hot dogs for a three meals a day, seven days in a row: You’ll be able to quickly jump on the phone with the company that made the appliance or a repairman, with all the necessary warranty and model information at the ready, and get it fixed or replaced before your SO even knows it was down — thus avoiding another Saturday lost to the wilds of the big-box store.
You should feel proud. Major purchases such as these can be a huge source of stress — not to mention financial drain — for young couples. But if you follow the above tips, and make sure to stay cool with a swipe or two of Gillette Clear Gel, you’ll be well on your way to your first successful buy as a pair. #NoSweat
Hunter Slaton is a senior writer for Studio@Gawker. One time he and his wife bought a TV together, and, suffice it to say, he could have used this story then.