Is It Worth It To Pay More for Better Quality?

by Miranda Marquit · 5 comments

One of the debates that comes with frugal living centers around the idea of whether or not price is the only the consideration. Is frugal living really about getting the absolute lowest price? Or is it more about getting a good deal, getting quality items, even though you may have to pay a little bit more.

Sometimes it is Worth it to Pay More

Frugal living is not just about a knee jerk reaction to pay the lowest price all the time. Instead, it involves measured choices, and a long term view. Something of low quality may wear out and break early, requiring you to buy again, while something of higher quality may cost more up front, but last longer, saving you money over the long haul.

Even if you are not worried about an item breaking down immediately, there are some things that you should consider paying a little extra for. At Moolanomy, there is a great list of things that you should not cheap out on. These items include cars, mattresses, computers, TVs and Internet service. These are purchases that could have a big impact on you down the road. Cheaping out on a car now may mean more expensive repairs later. And, depending on your situation, it might be best to get high quality electronics since you use them a great deal and they are expensive to replace if they burn out in a year.

Another interesting thought is the mattress. Since so much of your health depends on sleep, a good mattress (it does not have to cost thousands of dollars) can be a wise decision, since you can forestall some health problems down the road if you get good sleep now.

Buying Used is Not Always the Best Idea

Buying used is a central tenet of the frugal lifestyle. However, it is not always the best idea. Some items bought used can result in bigger issues down the road. Used bike helmets, used tires and used car seats may not be safe. Used electronics may be in poor condition, or just a small step from breaking down.

When you do buy used, make sure that you inspect the item thoroughly. Whether you buy it at a thrift store or at a yard sale, you want to make sure that the item is in as good condition as possible. If you can’t look at used merchandise before buying, that could be a red flag. When you buy used items online, it is a good idea to confine them to inexpensive items that you can replace if the merchandise does not suit your needs.

Bottom line: Frugal living is about making solid choices and getting the best value for your money. Sometimes, the best value is not always the cheapest thing in the room. Instead of just looking at price, carefully comparison shop, considering the attributes of the item, how long you are likely to use it, and its overall quality. In some cases, it really is better to pay a little more for something that will last longer and serve you better.

Bonus Tip:

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Anthony K August 6, 2010 at 4:28 pm

Great article Miranda. I know of people (and one in particular comes to mind) who seem to spend $5 to save $1. One factor people often forget is the value of their time. If you have to take a day off from work to drive across town to save less than you make in two hours… that’s really not a savings at all. It is sad but there are so many people who just don’t learn the first time and keep making these mistakes over and over.

~ Anthony

Slackerjo August 7, 2010 at 8:00 am

I usually avoid any product that is heavily advertised on TV or endorsed by an actor/athlete. Much of the cost associated with the item is related to paying for the brand/endorsement, not the product.

Miranda August 9, 2010 at 5:24 am

You both make great points! I, too, am baffled by those who don’t consider the cost of their time, or who drive around town, spending money on gas, to save a few cents. You really do have to consider the costs. Also, I like the point about how a name brand may not be higher quality — it may just cost more.

Jeremy June 8, 2011 at 9:35 am

There is a phrase for this. That is “total cost of ownership”. However, this is a dangerous slope to go down in the “frugal” lifestyle. You do mention only the monetary value of these things.

But the frugal lifestyle is not just about getting value for the dollar. The frugal lifestyle almost by definition, is cutting back “value” on the dollar, in order to spend less, right now, in order to have less impact, and more time, less consumption and more connectedness. And sometimes this is exactly about having a cheap ass POS car, or no car at all. A sufficient mattress, instead of good, or even good enough. And using the computer at the lIbrary rather than buying a mac at home.

What you are describing is different. And when you start including value as more important than “frugal”, you are giving up on the compromise that is being frugal. You can be ANYTHING but frugal, and ride the quality train. Over consumption is not a usual trait in the rich. Many are rich because they followed a “value” and sufficient life style. But you would NEVER consider these folks to be “Frugal”.

I understand really what you are saying, but it is seriously a challenge to the value of “frugal”. And a better article, is how do you stay frugal, and be true to the core and principals , even in the face of this argument. How do you find value in other things that make up for the losses in quality, because you are frugal.

There really isn’t anything wrong per se in the article, it just isn’t “frugal”.

pbrower2a August 28, 2012 at 10:17 pm

Don’t scrimp on…

1. Paint. You want paint that goes on with one application and lasts.

2. Stereo speakers. They are extremely durable — and they do not get better with age. They determine more than anything else (except their placement) how good the sound is. Electronics? Not so much.

3. Anti-virus protection. Enough said.

4. Winter clothing. Did you ever see the usual anti-Communist propaganda? It showed Russians or Chinese in dowdy winter coats. Don’t imitate that style.

5. Helmets for cycling. Enough said.

6. Mattresses. Your back is precious.

Oh, yes — get a dog.

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