Everyday Items You Might Want to Pay More For: Frugality Versus Quality

If you are trying to pay down debt or save money, you may try to be as frugal as possible.  Maybe that means shopping at discount shoe retailers instead of buying full price shoes or shopping at the dollar store instead of a mainstream store.

On the surface, by saving money shopping at these retailers, it looks like you are making financially smart moves, but are you?

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Because we have been living on a restricted budget for most of our marriage, we used to try to skimp on most things.  However, now we realize that skimping isn’t always the best way to save money.  Here are some examples:

frugality versus quality


Take the example of shoes.  I live in the Midwest where we typically get a generous amount of snow every winter.  I used to buy my boots at discount shoe stores for about $40.  Every year, those boots would wear out, and every winter I would have to buy new ones.  Finally, my husband convinced me to buy more expensive but sturdier boots.  I spent nearly $150 on those boots, but I have now had them for 8 years.  If I would have instead bought a new pair of boots every winter for the past 8 years, I would have spent $320.  Buying a better made pair has saved me $170 so far.

That is not to say that discount shoe stores don’t have their place.  My kids seem to have growth spurts every other month, so I buy their shoes at discount chains.  By the time the cheaper made shoes are worn out, my kids have usually outgrown them.

Kitchen Appliances

If you don’t go out to eat much and prepare every meal from scratch, having durable kitchen appliances is essential.  I have gone through three food processors in our 10 years of marriage; each cost about $40.  Now, we are looking into buying a more expensive model that will hopefully last longer.  If I don’t have to replace it every few years, it will pay for itself just as the more durable boots did.

If you don’t want to splurge on expensive kitchen appliances, consider visiting garage sales.  When I was getting ready to go to graduate school 15 years ago, I found a blender for $3.  It was made of glass and was old already.  I figured anything that old that still works had to have been made well, and it was.  I have gotten 15 years worth of use out of it, and now I finally need to replace it.


While you don’t want to go into debt for education, sometimes a more expensive school has better offerings.  We are committed to giving our kids a Catholic private school education, in part because that is what I had when I was young.  We first sent our son to a school that was offering ½ off tuition for the first two years of a new student’s education.  However, the school had personnel issues and the computers were very outdated and often broken.  We were so dissatisfied with the school that we transferred our son to a different Catholic school less than 7 weeks into first grade.  The second school was double the cost, but they had more rigorous academics and a state of the art computer lab that rivaled some colleges’.  In addition, they have wealthy alumni who offer generous donations which help keep the school up-to-date with technology and trends.

Because he is now receiving a better education, we hope it will pay off in the future when he applies to college and then when he begins his career.  (Of course, we don’t know yet how much this investment will pay off, but we do believe it is important to establish a firm educational foundation from the time our children are young.)


While being frugal on the small things can often save you a great deal of money, for some bigger items and purchases, you may want to splurge to get better quality.  Doing so will very likely save you money in the long run.

What items do you no longer skimp on?

Last Edited: 9th May 2012

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  1. says

    How about food? My post today is on how to decide how much to spend on food. Obviously there are many other important factors beside costs – for me, they are health, sustainability, and convenience. But it’s difficult to decide how much is enough.

    • says

      I agree with you that it is better to spend more on healthy, nutritious food rather than junk food that can be had for pennies (using coupons). Good point!

  2. says

    Of the ones you mentioned I tend to spend a bit more on the shoes because I know they’ll last longer. At one point in time I used to buy cheapo shoes, but then I realized that they were lasting a lot shorter time than the quality shoes I used to buy, so I went back to the good quality shoes.

    I also tend to spend a bit more on some electronic gadgets because they’re known to be better quality – or to last longer – although it depends on the item. Some items I’m Ok with buying an item that is more of a throw away quality if it costs less because I know I’ll want to upgrade at some point anyway.

  3. says

    I agree with you about buying higher quality kitchen appliances. Good knives are another thing you need if you cook a lot.

    One thing I like to splurge on is coffee. I love a good cup of coffee in the morning. I just can’t stand starting the day off with a lousy cup!

  4. says

    Sometimes buying cheap things doesn’t really cut it, just like your example for shoes, buy cheap shoes and by next month, they’re not usable already, or sometimes it’s really not comfortable to wear. Buy original shoes that’s a bit expensive and it will last for years and that’s how you can actually save a lot.

  5. says

    Sometimes it’s true that you get more if you pay more, and vice versa. We’ve gotten dollar store stuff that lasted for exactly one use or one wearing.

    With the way a lot of things are made these days, though, it’s seems more often that it’s just a matter of lucking out. We have gone through several toaster ovens in the last few years; some were more expensive, some were cheap, and none of them have lasted or worked nearly as well as the one I had in the 1980’s. We’ve bought kids’ socks and undies from the discount store that lasted and lasted; and other times we’ve bought what seemed to be similar quality stuff but which wore through or fell apart after a very short time. I’ve been using the same freebie calculator now for, I don’t even know, seven or eight years?–and it still works fine. I bought the nicest patchwork placemats today at the thrift store where I volunteer; I hadn’t seen any I liked or could afford in the stores.

    And the only running shoes that fit my husband’s feet are the ones from the discount shoe store–he says their brand is the most comfortable.

    So yes, you have to use common sense and pray for wisdom–and then hope that whatever it is works.

  6. says

    One of my splurges involves two sets of good dishes – one for everyday and spring and summer celebrations; the other for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I asked for the startup pieces as birthday and Christmas gifts.

    None of the holiday dishes have broken, and even with everyday use for 8 years only a couple of pieces of the main set have broken.

    The frugal hack is: because both of these patterns were recognized “patterns,” I can find individual replacement pieces from the Internet dealers. I will never need to buy another entire set of dishes as will happen when too many pieces from a cheap discount store dish set breaks.

  7. says

    There are things you can skimp on and others you shouldn’t. I like to save our money to buy quality items as opposed to items you have to buy over and over. I hate doing the job twice so I spend more money on quality materials for renovations around the house.

    We like to spend decent money on shoes and socks because we only have one set of feet and shoes that fall apart are no good for your feet.

    I also like to buy good oil for my truck when I do my oil change as I believe the cost of repair will outweigh the small costs of upkeep. I could go on and on. One I’m not sure about is the small appliances.

    We drink alot of tea and we purchased a $100 kettle that went belly up in less than 6 months but our cheap kettle I think we paid under $10 for it is 6 years strong and going… I think we got the raw end of the stick with that one. We do keep our receipts for everything as well.

    Great post, lots to think about!

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