A couple of weeks ago Melissa wrote a post on this site exploring why it can be a good idea to pay a little more in order to buy quality, especially on certain things. While buying lower quality may save a few dollars on the front end, those items often end up wearing out or breaking long before their time. A higher quality item often will last longer and save you money in the long run.
I’m often the first one to cut corners when it comes to things I don’t care that much about. Cleaning products? I buy the cheapest. Socks? I buy a 10 pack of the socks on sale at Walmart. But when it comes to things I care about and that I use on a daily basis, like a car, a laptop or a bike, I tend to prefer buying quality because I know it usually pays off in the end.
Cheap Is Not Always Frugal
People often fall into two camps when you talk to them.
- Price: Those who always consider the price first when making a purchasing decision. If the item is cheaper, that means it’s the better deal.
- Quality: Then there are those who are almost always more concerned with the quality of the product they’re buying, even if it means they have to pay more.
For me I think I fall somewhere in the middle. I tend to go for the cheap things when it comes to things I don’t care about, or when it comes to things that are of comparative quality regardless of price. For things that vary greatly in quality, I tend to come down on buying the quality item instead. After all, just because something is cheap, doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s frugal. If the cheaper item wears out before it’s time you’re going to be spending more money to replace it.
If It Matters To You, Find A Way To Buy Quality
If the item you’re thinking about purchasing is important to you, or is going to be used often, it will often pay to buy something quality that won’t wear out as fast.
While quality items can be more expensive, if you take your time, search around and do your due diligence you can usually find a good deal on what you’re looking for through year end closeouts, coupons, sales, rebates or other promotions. Don’t just assume that you’ll have to pay a LOT more, take your time and find a good deal.
Buying A Quality Bike
Back in 1998 while I was still in college I had a bike that I used to commute to and from school, I used it almost daily. One day the bike was stolen from my parent’s house. I needed a replacement.
In the past I had purchased cheap bikes, and had the components wear out or break on me in no time flat. I had also purchased a better quality bike (this last one) which had held up well for a couple years until being stolen. Having been through both extremes with bikes, this time I determined that I was going to buy a quality bike that would last me for years and save me money in the process.
I searched around at several local bicycle shops to find a bike that would fit my needs. I enjoyed doing some off road riding, and I wanted something that would be durable and light. I found that most of the bikes that would fit my needs were not cheap, they were running in the $700-1000 range, which was a lot of money for me back then.
I was patient, however, and I ended up finding a bicycle after a couple of months in an off-season sale when they were liquidating last year’s models. The bike was originally $725, but I was able to get it for $450 because it was an older model. (I found the original receipt in our files – see below!)
Little did I know just how long that bike would last.
Quality Lasts Longer
So I now had a quality bike with decent components that I figured would last me a few years at least. What I found was that often quality lasts longer than you would think.
I’ve now had the bike for 14 years, and it’s still going strong. The bike was getting a bit ragged from a lot of use over the years, and I just brought it in for a tuneup this past week. The repair tech told me the frame is still in great shape, and after the tune-up and a couple of new components, it’s like a brand new bike (see the picture at the top after the tune-up). It may not have all the latest advances in technology, but for a weekend warrior like myself it is more than adequate. I’m sure I can get another 10 years out of this thing!
Quality For The Things That Matter
For me my philosophy on the quality vs. price debate is to find a middle ground. On the things I use on a daily basis or that vary greatly in quality, I buy quality. For the the things that don’t matter much, or that are throw away items I tend to go the cheaper route.
In other words for the things I care about, I buy quality.
How about you? What’s your philosophy? Do you buy for price or quality, or both?
I always fight with people on the topic of quality when it comes to electronics. For example, when people try to push Macs that they last longer my response is that they are triple the price so I can buy 3 laptops in the same time and be ahead with newer hardware.
I wonder if your bike example is a norm when it comes to bikes?
Peter Anderson says
I think there’s a line that needs to be toed between quality and price. For me when it comes to the MAC vs. PC debate I haven’t found the Macs to be sufficiently higher quality to justify the higher price. I’ve had PCs that have been high quality and lasted for 5-10 years, and they cost 1/3 the price. So I believe you can often find high quality, without buying the most expensive item.
As far as bikes, whether my example is the norm, I can’t say for sure. I do know that the lower quality bikes that you can buy at your local Wal-mart or other discount store tend to be extremely low quality parts that will break or cause the bike to not function as well within a short time frame. For example my wife has one of those cheapo bikes and it’s virtually un-rideable at this point – and not really worth it to fix since it would probably cost more than the bike is worth.
Money Beagle says
I agree in pirnciple that this can work on a number of items, but the issue for many people is having the cash to pay the difference. If your fridge goes out and you are faced with buying one for $400 vs. one for $1,000, many people will go for the cheaper one because of their cash restrictions.
Peter Anderson says
That’s true, cash on hand can be an issue. That’s why at our house we have saved up a nice 12 month emergency fund because then having the cash available isn’t as much of an issue.
Josh @ Live Well Simply says
The best bike I ever owned was given to me. I fixed bikes out of my garage 13 years ago and one guy like my work so much, he gave me an older high end Japanese hybrid road bike. 13 years later, it’s still running strong. I even used it to commute to my first full time job every weekday for almost 2 years. Quality is worth it on big ticket items.
Jenna, Adaptu Community Manager says
I’m definitely a quality purchaser. I like when things last a long time (maybe because I hate shopping?) Seems worth it to spend a little bit extra on clothes that will last a couple of years, then cheaper ones that barely make it through a season for example.
Peter Anderson says
I do something similar with shoes. For the longest time I would buy cheapo shoes, until I realized how long they lasted. Often they were in shambles within a couple of months because of poor stitching and poor quality materials. Now I buy decent shoes instead that will last longer.
Couldn’t agree more. I bought a pair of canvas shoes for 18 dollars. They lasted maybe 6 weeks. Then I bought a pair of Allan Edmond shoes, they cost about $100, but they’ve last 6 years.
Thanks for talking about this! It’s so easy to take short cuts to save money but, as you mentioned, spending less on important items can actually cost quite a lot more in the long run. In the past few years, I’ve bought two cheap laptops and both of them died. So now I finally invested in a good laptop that I can count on and I don’t feel guilty for spending the extra money because I know this will last longer and the higher quality has even helped me to work more efficiently.
Peter Anderson says
I hear you on the computers. I’ve been tempted before when I saw amazing deals on laptops, only to read poor reviews of the models online. The price was right but the value and quality were not.
John @ MarriedWithDebt.com says
I think part of “growing up” with money is the realization that you should look at value as well as cost. It took a long time for me to beat back the knee jerk reaction to always buy the cheapest option. Now I seriously think about other factors like quality.
Peter Anderson says
That’s a good word that I was looking for earlier – VALUE. It’s important to actually calculate the true value and cost of an item that you’re buying.
Eric J. Nisall - DollarVersity says
I’m with you on this one Peter. I tend to fall in between, where I like to go for quality while also getting some savings if I can. There can be a lot said for being in both camps, but going the cheapest route and forsaking quality can be detrimental in the long-term. At the same time, as Evan said, sometimes perceiving quality from a higher price is simply wasteful too. Guess like anything, a balance should be struck between the two in order to maximize the money and the product.
Glen Craig says
I definitely prefer quality items. There’s a huge difference between a good bike and one you get at the toy store or Target.
And here’s the thing, I tend to use a quality item better and more often than a cheap one. A crappy bike becomes a nuisance and you don’t want to ride as much. A good bike is a joy and makes you want to go out more. Many items are like this.
Also for me, buying quality means I put more research into the item. This way I not only know I’m getting the right item for me but I’m also taking time to make sure it’s something I really want or need. Many times I’ve taken some time to research and realized I can do without what I’m researching. This saves me money in the long run.
Matthew Doyle says
When it comes to electronics or sporting equipment I have always felt that you get what you pay for. I will shop around for a long time until I find a good deal on a quality product. There are times when there is specific product that I want that I just buy no matter the price. For example, I could buy any computer at a fairly cheap price that would work just fine, but I am a Mac snob and feel the quality of Mac is far superior to PCs. I am like you when it comes to things that don’t matter I just by generic.
This is a topic that I’ve briefly talked about with my fans before. I am in the middle as well like you. There are items I purchase that I simply look at the price and I’m good to go. Socks are not one of them as I like quality when it comes to socks. When it comes to cleaning supplies, and piddly items that I know won’t last no matter if I spend alot of money or not I look for the “best price”.
An example I gave once was a kettle I purchased for $100.xx and it was a top of the line stainless steel kettle. Being British I like to drink quite a bit of tea so I wanted to make sure I had a good Kettle. Well let me tell you that Kettle was good for the garbage in less than 6 months. Out came the super duper cheap kettle from Zellers which is still in our kitchen today 6 years and still making me a cup of good brew.
So now I’m very picky about what I want in terms of getting it for the “best price” or the “best price” for the “best quality” product I can find.