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Monday, September 30, 2013

Is a low price really a better price?

You can tell by the shiny cover that this came from the library, like all of my books. I rarely ever want to read a book more than once, I don't care much about the presence of books, and I read at least one book a week, so I think the library is great. And you should, too. Unless I ever publish a book. In that case, you should buy it. But this post is not about libraries.
I started reading this book by Ellen Shell yesterday, and it's pretty interesting. It's called 'Cheap' and not 'Chear' or 'Cheab' in case you hadn't guessed what was behind my fingers. Come on people, those aren't even words. Unless you're a bad speller.

Part of the premise of this book is that just because something is cheaper, it does not necessarily mean it is a good deal. I've been thinking about this a lot lately. If something is low quality and it doesn't last as long, doesn't work as well, is less comfortable or less durable, then you didn't save money. And you will be throwing more into a landfill somewhere. I'm not an environmentalist, but I hate to be wasteful. Like that spatula I bought for $1. It was so bendy that it was not even a functional spatula. I threw it away and bought a $10 spatula. It's higher quality, but it's not really my dream spatula. Yes, I have a dream spatula, ok? It is compatible with teflon, does not bend or become misshapen over time, and it does not have bits of plastic that peel off and sometimes land in your food. If only there was Spatula City where such a spatula could be found.

The other premise of this book seems to be that assembly lines and chain stores are bad. I can't agree with that. Assembly lines and chain stores are able to give us lower prices, and there's no reason that low quality has to result from that. I make stuff all the time, and I know that much of it isn't as high a quality as what you could get from an assembly line. Things I knit sometimes unravel. Things I sew might have bunched up thread. Things I dye don't turn out the right color. Things I paint have problems too. (I sure have blogged a lot of failures). Granted, someone who creates things full time will have a better success rate than me, but they can't offer the same prices as someone with an assembly line.

Being on a budget really makes a person evaluate each purchase. Each month, I have $80 cash to spend on clothes, special coffees, shoes, yard sales, etc. So I ask myself, "is this going to last a long time?" "Am I going to love it?" "Is it going to be out of style soon?" "Is this the most important thing to spend my money on?"  When I think I want something, I often put it on a list. It has to wait until we get our "allowance" again. Sometimes, when I don't buy things right away, it doesn't seem important anymore later. I realize I didn't need it or want it that much. I don't often buy food or coffee with my personal money. Why? It doesn't last. I will consume it once and it will be gone. I can eat much cheaper at home. But sometimes, I just really need a good coffee and some quiet time. 

To make sure that you are purchasing high quality goods, there a few things you can do. Look at reviews online. I think the internet age is great because of all the information that has become available. A business that makes low quality products won't be able to stay in business, if we do the research. When you see something at a yard sale that has already been used, and it is still in good shape, you can bet that it is high quality and will continue to last for a while. At yard sales, you should get 90%+ discount, so it's always a good bet. When you buy furniture, you should save up and buy solid wood. It will last forever! Think about passing it down to your grandchildren. I have some side tables passed down to me from my grandparents that I know will last a long time. I love the unfinished wood furniture stores. When something is already finished, it's sometimes hard to tell if it is solid wood, or if it has some kind of veneer that will peel off in a few years.Yard sales are also a great place to find solid wood.

Not everything that is more expensive is better. Don't pay more just for a certain brand name. A good rule of thumb is, if something costs twice as much, it should be twice as good, or last twice as long. For example, you can buy a pressed board cabinet that might last five years, or you can buy a solid wood cabinet that will probably last 100 years. (Make sure you don't buy something that will go out of style). The wood cabinet will last twenty times as long, but only cost five times as much. You can buy $1 batteries, or you can buy $5 batteries. The $5 batteries will last longer, but will they last five times as long? Probably not. So buy $1 batteries. If you're interested, I will do an experiment to find out just how long they do last.

Have you ever bought something that seemed like a really good deal, but ended up never getting used, or going in the trash?


  1. I do always wonder that about batteries!

  2. Goodness, I don't know why I'm showing up as unknown.

    For what it's worth, the current comment settings are making it super difficult to comment...if you turn off captcha and allow name/url as a comment option, things would be much simpler. And I honestly don't think you'd get that much spam. :D Give it a try!

    Kristen/The Frugal Girl

    1. Thanks for the suggestion! I will ask my in-house IT manager/husband to have a look at that, since I am clueless about it. I got this new blog design for free from thecutestblogontheblock.com, which is adorable, but seems to have messed up a few things.