Why Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

iStock_000006548705SmallI’ve never been much of a frugalista. I do try to get good value for my money, and I do try to get the best possible price for what I want, but I don’t always subscribe to the idea that cheaper is better. Indeed, there are some cases that I think that cheaper definitely isn’t better, and that there are times when it’s worth it to pay more.

How Many Times Will You Have to Buy That?

The first problem with some cheap items is that they can be of lower quality. If you are buying something that you hope will last, it can make sense to spend a little more for higher quality. By spending a little more on garden tools, we have higher quality items that don’t break as we use them. Indeed, our neighbor, who buys the cheapest he can find, has been through three sets of tools in the last seven years. We’ve spent less than he has in the same amount of time because we bought higher quality tools the first time.

This philosophy works for shoes, furniture, and many other items. We don’t buy overpriced items that are just expensive, though. We look for true quality. We usually end up paying more than the cheapest we could get something for, but we don’t usually buy the most expensive item, either.

For something we know we will get a lot of use out of, we like to spend what it takes to get better quality, so that we aren’t just turning around and buying it again in a few months.

Purchasing Convenience

I’m known for being willing to pay a convenience fee. Pay an extra $50 or $100 for a flight that leaves at 11 a.m. instead of 6:30 a.m.? Sign me up! I’ll pay a convenience fee to buy movie tickets and concert tickets online so that I don’t have to stand in a line at a ticket booth. Pay a little extra for a hotel closer to a downtown area and public transit? Sure thing! I won’t have to drive so much; maybe I won’t even have to get a rental car.

While you can’t always pay for convenience if you don’t have the financial resources to spend the extra, if convenience is important to you, and you can afford it, there’s no reason not to. In this case, though, it comes down to personal preference. I know people who are perfectly happy flying a red-eye, and glad to save the money. I’m just not one of them. I’d rather leave on my own terms, and I’d rather be in a position use my time more efficiently — and maybe get a little extra sleep.

Consider what’s important to you, and how much you value your time and convenience. If you can afford it, it might be worth it to pay extra.

Do You Really Need That?

Sometimes, it’s tempting to buy something just because it’s the cheapest version of something that you’ve seen in a long while. We like to find good deals. However, buying something just because it’s on sale, or cheaper than it normally is, isn’t usually the best plan.

Ask yourself if you would have bought it anyway. No matter how cheap it is, if it isn’t a planned purchase, you are still spending money — not saving it. Buying something cheap just because it’s a good deal falls into the category of “mindless consumerism” and it can lead to long-term money problems down the road. You are usually better off taking a step back, and evaluating the purchase. What will you use it for? Is it really necessary? Will it truly make your life better? If not, pass it up no matter how inexpensive it is.

Deciding to forgo the cheaper option isn’t always easy. Often, it’s ingrained in us to pay as little as possible, every time. However, you might not be better off in the long run. Evaluate the value of your purchase, and consider the likelihood of buying it multiple times, as well as the convenience factor. Try to stick with items that have true worth, and that are more likely to enhance your life.


Why Cheaper Isn’t Always Better — 10 Comments

  1. Great tips! I often find that buying used items of higher quality–like furniture or clothes–is a better deal than buying cheaper/poorly made items new. And I totally agree with you on the tools–we were able to buy a bunch of high quality tools at a garage sale last month, which will serve us far better in the long run than cheap, new tools.

    • We are moving, and the only major things we are taking with us are the nice pieces of furniture we have that are high quality and that we will get many more years out of. It really does make a difference. It’s not worth it to move some of the cheaper items.

  2. My husband would agree on the tools….he insists on Snap-On.
    There are conveniences that I will pay for….such as parking…instead of driving around for 10 minutes and/or having to park over a mile from my destination.

  3. Great tip, I like the idea of looking at per use value rather than whether the item is cheaper or not.

    For example, say a pair of shoes cost you $50 and another pair cost $100. The $50 pair breaks down after 50 days of usage while the $100 pair lasts for 400 days. In this case I’d certainly buy the $100 pair.

    Talking about flight… which one would you buy? Save $200 but having to do 2 extra connections and a total flight & transit time of 15 hours, or spend the extra $200 to have only 1 connection and a total flight & transit time of 8 hours. For me I’d spend that extra $200.

  4. I definitely prefer to spend the money upfront for high quality, long-lasting goods. I also only buy things that I will get a lot of use from. That helps with not overspending. Lastly, I believe in paying a premium for socially and environmentally responsible products and supporting those companies.

  5. I think quality is often overlooked. If people, especially men, had a few high quality pieces of clothing that matched each other, they could literally have the same wardrobe for 10 year or longer. Quality trumps savings sometimes.

  6. The “Value” question always comes into play with my purchases. Is the price worth the value. Many times, the cheapest option doesn’t have enough value because it breaks right away. When I shop for something, I generally decide “what” I want….then find the best price.

  7. Yup sometimes I’ve been guilty of buying things because it was an awesome sale but I didn’t even need it. Not too much thankfully. I definitely echo the sentiment of looking for value over cost in certain things, especially in tools and appliances.

  8. Miranda, I agree fully with this point. Buying for quality (and value for money) is always the better strategy. I’m applying it for handbags (fewer but higher quality), shoes, food and many other items. What I’ve been trying to do is to limit consumption rather than consume a lot of low quality. Does this make sense?

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