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Spending More on High Quality vs. Saving on Cheaper

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When my future husband and I were dating, we started playing tennis together. I was a rookie, but he loves to play and patiently showed me the ropes. We were playing so much that I got tired of borrowing a racket, so I decided to buy my own. Little did I know this purchase would raise an issue we’ve faced our entire marriage: spending more on high quality vs. saving on cheaper products.

An Unpopular Opinion

We went to the sporting goods store together. There was a cheaper Wilson tennis racket that was fine, and then there was a fancy racket that was apparently super good and on an awesome sale, but still cost a lot more. I don’t remember the exact prices, but it was a no-brainer for me—I was going to get the cheaper one. We got into a brief philosophical discussion standing there in the aisle: when do you justify spending more on high quality and when do choose to save on something of lesser quality?

I bought the Wilson. Later that day our discussion came up with my husband’s sister-in-law. She didn’t get it. “Why wouldn’t you get the better racket?” She told me she always buys better quality because it holds up better over time. She pointed to an expensive bike she had just bought, even though she and her husband were poor college students. (I didn’t get THAT.)

But I reasoned that I might never get really into tennis, and I hated to invest in something that could potentially gather dust. I’d rather wear out the Wilson first and prove to myself that I’d make a high-quality racket worth it. We just didn’t understand each other.

You should know that 15 years later I still have that Wilson racket. I play about once a year and it needs restringing now and then, but it’s still kicking. BOOM.

Spending More on High Quality vs. Saving on Cheaper

My husband’s tennis racket and my beginner’s racket… because I’m still a beginner

Less Expensive Isn’t Always the Right Call

I’m inclined to be a bit of a cheapskate, but I know my husband (and our sister-in-law) are often right. You have to take into account something’s value over time and your ability to resell, as well as the thought of filling up our world with cheap, one-use-only junk.

There are times I’ve learned to pay more. For example, clothes. Even though I was raised wearing clothes from K-mart and Ross, I’ve come to learn that you get what you pay for. A cheap blouse will pop a seam or stretch out quickly, and it probably wasn’t made well or in a humane, eco-friendly way. (I read “Fashionopolis” by Dana Thomas last year and it haunts me every time I shop for clothes.) We’re on a budget, so I’m not shopping on Fifth Avenue. But I do try to get basics that will hold up for as long as possible and hopefully save me money per wear.

But there are other times when I still refuse to pay more. One of those times is food staples. Cheaper food can mean it’s less nutritious or not as flavorful. But just because it’s generic doesn’t mean it doesn’t work just as well. My husband has convinced me that generic peanut butter ain’t the same, but you better believe I buy generic basics like flour, sugar, pasta, and frozen vegetables. I thought this article that discussed just how often chefs buy generic was fascinating.

But what about you? When are you okay spending more on high quality items? When do you think it’s fine to pick the cheaper option?

 


8 Comments

  • Reply Hope |

    Love this and it’s definitely a lesson I’ve long taught my children. There are things to splurge on for the quality and longevity and then there’s not.

    Princess loves clothes, like a lot. But she shops at Goodwill. Today she came home with a Sak purse, Tommy Hilfiger shirt and some other name brand stuff. She spent 2 hours there. But she has learned to look for quality and low prices. Proud mom moment.

    On the other hand, Gymnast wants the latest fashions. But while he is not a Goodwill shopper, he has learned to only by what he will wear. He spends a bit more per piece, but has alot less and happily wears them over and over and over again.

    Two sides of the same coin, I guess. And I’m with you on the food… there are some items that I only by name brand and have learned the hard way trying to be cheap (cream cheese, chicken noodle soup (when I bought canned), etc.) And then there are others that name doesn’t matter, like the staples you mention.

  • Reply Ellen |

    I have to agree with you. My biggest fight with the males in the house was tools. They always wanted to buy the cheap supplies. We all love working with our hands and the tools all get used regularly. As things started to break, I started to buy the better quality items.

    As for food, I will let you know with my years of working with different manufacturers, a lot generic products, (food and drugs) are made by the same companies or the same manufacturer as the brand names. So when the labels say “compare to …..” it really is comparable because they are exactly the same.

  • Reply Jen |

    Once I am sure I will use something consistently, I purchase the high quality item. I run, have for 5 years. I waited 2 years before purchasing a treadmill, which I got used. Within a year, it had died and repairing it was more than I paid for it. I could’ve gone and gotten a $500 treadmill from a sporting goods store, or I could pay $1000 for a better model with a better warranty from a local place. I went with the $1000 treadmill because I was confident I would use it.

    My big exception are things that relate to health or safety. I don’t cheap out on my running shoes, because poorly fitting shoes can cause harm in the long term. Same goes for things like tires, mattresses, safety equipment. If a lesser quality item could lead to injury, I always go with the more expensive.

  • Reply Joe |

    For years I used cheap luggage. Traveled a couple times a year and it held up fine. But then came a stretch where I was going to traveling much more often, and I bit the bullet and purchased the somewhat more expensive brand. That has ended up being pretty bulletproof but unexpectedly was wonderfully more ergonomic and had brilliant design features that made things so much easier.
    So yes, it can definitely be worth it to not buy the cheapest.
    At the same time, I sincerely doubt the most expensive luggage (many multiples what I paid) would have been worth it for me. But someone must be buying it, right? It would be telling to know if the clientele were simply wealthy, or true road warriors.

    • Reply Sara S |

      That’s a great point. There’s a difference between cheap and quality, and quality and luxury. I wonder if luxury is ever truly worth it.

So, what do you think ?