Stop Buying Cheap Stuff: An Argument for Saving by Spending More for Quality

By Zina Kumok
June 8, 2017

There’s an old parable about a rich man and a poor man. Both need to buy a pair of boots. The poor man can only afford the $10 pair that will only last a year. But the rich man buys a $30 pair that will last five years. Because the rich man spends more money upfront, he has to spend less money on boots overall.

Unfortunately, the things we buy in life aren’t as clear-cut as this tale. Some things work the same whether they cost $1 or $10, but not everything. Sometimes, how much you spend directly correlates to how well it works – and how long it lasts.

When to Pick the Cheaper Option

If you’re just getting into a hobby, it might be tempting to splurge on the best gear. But if you decide you don’t like painting watercolors or golfing, you’ll be stuck with hundreds of dollars worth of equipment just collecting dust.

Try buying used or cheap items at the beginning and upgrade when your equipment becomes a clear limitation. You can also try limiting the amount you buy initially and purchasing more equipment or supplies as you go along. For example, if you’re a newcomer to painting, start by buying primary colors before getting the whole rainbow. You can mix them together (along with white paint) to create any shade you want. If you fall in love with painting later, then you can buy whatever colors you use frequently.

By this time you should have a better idea of how to spend less money on your hobbies. Here’s another tip: If you use your Chime card for your purchases, you can save even more money. How? Each time you make a purchase using your Chime debit card, Chime will round up that purchase amount and deposit that amount into your Chime Savings account. Every little bit adds up. In fact, if you use your Chime card twice daily on average, you can save about $400 a year without thinking about it.

When to Spend More

It might feel frugal to continually pick the cheapest option, but sometimes you need to invest more money to get a higher quality product that lasts longer. Mattresses, shoes, and tires are some of the best examples of this. Other examples include tools, camping gear, kitchen knives and furniture. For example, a pair of flats from Payless costs $30 while a leather pair made by Cole Haan costs $100. And, as you can probably guess: The Cole Haan shoes are higher quality and will typically last you much longer.

Here’s a general rule to follow: the more often you do an activity, the better quality accouterment you should have. If you rarely hike, it’s ok to wear tennis shoes or sneakers when you hit the trails. If you do it every week, a solid pair of hiking boots will last longer, be more comfortable and keep your feet warmer.

How to Make Stuff Last Longer

Buying quality is important, but it’s not a guarantee of lasting utility. You have to take care of your goods in order for them to last as long as they should. Here are a few tips to get the most out of your toys.

  • Learn to fix things. Even the best product will eventually fall apart. Instead of replacing items when that happens, learn to fix them yourself or find a qualified repairman. It’s not hard to learn basic stitching or rudimentary mechanical principles, but most people don’t bother trying. Try to take care of issues at the first I sign something is wrong. A basic fix will be cheaper than a more extensive repair.
  • Perform regular maintenance. Everyone knows a car needs regular oil changes to keep it running well, but other household and personal belongings should have a maintenance schedule as well. Did you know your mattress should be flipped or rotated every quarter? Or that your comforter can be put in a dryer with a few tennis balls to redistribute its feathers and extend its soft texture? If you’re going to splurge on quality products, you might as well preserve that quality.
  • Store it well. Part of responsible maintenance is finding the right storage space. A cast iron pot shouldn’t be kept in an area where it’s likely to get wet, for example. If you’re wondering why your possessions wear out quickly, ask how you’re storing them. Are you letting your swim trunks stay moist in the bottom of your beach tote? Are you letting salt build up under your car during the winter? Is your pricey road bike decaying from being left out in the elements? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, it’s time to reevaluate how you store your possessions.

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