Thrift, make and buy: The top levels of the Buyerarchy of Needs

Use the Buyerarchy of Needs to process through a decision before buying an item.

Buyerarchy of Needs. Photo credit: Sarah Lazarovic
Buyerarchy of Needs. Photo credit: Sarah Lazarovic

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is often well-known by those who have studied psychology or human behavior. A newly imagined hierarchy of buying behavior needs was created by Canadian illustrator Sarah Lazarovic that looks at how we make decisions when it comes to purchases. This image is a great way to look at the choices made in buying and to focus on going up the pyramid in how items are obtained that we need or want. The goal in utilizing the “Buyerarchy of Needs” is to save money and keep it for future purchases where buying is the only option. Michigan State University Extension recommends using this image as part of a conversation on money management.

This article will build on a past article about the first three levels of using what you have, borrowing and swapping. Here we will focus on the top three buying decisions: thrifting, making, and buying.


This is a form of buying, but a lower-cost option. There are two levels: buying for yourself or selling so you can have the finances for a future purchase. Thrift or second-hand stores often offer good quality clothes, kitchenware and furniture options. Some pieces may require a small bit of work, but can be cheaper in the long run. Shopping garage sales can also be a great plan as well as searching online selling options. The key is to focus on what you need, not what you want. The second option, selling, is a way to bring in a bit of income from your used items. Someone else might benefit from your old chair, sweater or kid’s toys.


Making an item can involve cost, but can end up saving money from outright buying the ready-made product. The questions to consider are, “What ways can I make or do this myself? Will that save money? Can I repurpose an item, such as a sweater, into something else, like a tote bag?” Doing projects yourself at home can save money. It might take a little time, but you can learn easy ways to fix small repairs at home, redo a room or create your own artwork. Making lunch to take to work is cheaper, and often healthier, than eating out. This is true for dinner too!

Making also applies to party decorations, gifts, cards and other products that you may have chosen to purchase in the past. Making items allows for more personalization and creativity as well!


Only after you have exhausted the bottom levels of the Buyerarchy of Needs, it may be time to buy. There are still wise ways to spend that money. Shop around for good prices including getting quotes from multiple vendors for larger projects. Use generic brands for your food or pharmacy purchases. Use cost-saving techniques such as not having cable. Make a list of food you are buying before you go to the grocery store and only buy from the list. Cut coupons and use deals for purchases. Think about what you need versus what you want.

There are many ways to save to money even when you have to actually buy the item. The best bet is to save up your money to buy the item rather than charging on a credit card and risking finance fees. The key point is to make sure you have the money before you buy.

The Buyerarchy of Needs image can be posted somewhere you can see it, even next to your computer, to help remind you to think through other options before buying.

MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development has many resources to help youth with money management decisions and information. MiMoneyHealth also provides helpful tools to support a journey towards sound financial practices.

Other articles in this series

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