Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Tightwad Tuesday

I'll continue in this vein, because it's on my mind.

As I'm thumbing through this tightwad book I keep mentioning, one theme seems to permeate many of its pages. It's a theme I've had at the forefront of my mind this week - and maybe you can relate. First, a little background into why this theme is so relevant to me...

I don't know when it started really, but I'll take a stab in the dark and guess it was probably college. I lived in dorms. I had very very little space, and even less money. I surmised that the things I would buy while in college wouldn't need to last me beyond college - and for the most part, I was right. I shopped primarily at Walmart for any non-food item I would need, and that was that.

Every piece of furniture I bought was made of particle board. Every electronic item (save my laptop) was bottom-of-the-line. Virtually everything I bought was cheap. I don't mean to say it was all inexpensive (although most of it was that, too) I mean it was cheap. You know, cheap quality.

Knowing in the very very back of my mind that these things were cheap, I had no expectation that they would last a really long time. And I treated them as such. Without my even knowing it, or paying attention, this way of buying followed me (or us, I should say) on into marriage and adulthood. After all, we've never really been "rolling in dough", so we've always tried to buy inexpensive things. And what did that leave us with? You got it: A collection of things that don't hold up to long-term use, and a long list of things that need replacing.

Which brings me to the theme running throughout the book I'm reading: Buy good quality things, and take excellent care of them.

For us, that means we are going to start saving to buy the higher quality choice within the category of items we're looking for. Why? because it will save us money in the long run. I need to get this idea of "temporary stuff" out of my cheap brain. Living frugally means so much more than spending less money - it means getting MORE for the money you spend.

Note that I did not say buying quality things means buying expensive things. Sometimes the higher quality item can be found used - which, in some cases, would still last longer than a lower-quality new item. Do you get where I'm going with this?

Note that I also mentioned taking good care of the high-quality things you buy. Taking impeccable care of a low quality item may actually be equivalent to, if not better than, taking poor care of a high quality item. I'll use one of my own possessions as an example...

Last year we bought a humidifier for Levi's room. It was a nice one - I got it at Walgreens. It was not top of the line, it was a generic, but I'd say it was a nice one. We used it every single night in Levi's room throughout the winter last year. Then what did we do? we left it in his room, full of water, all throughout the summer. Mold grew in it. I would look at it every-so-often and think "you know, I should really try to clean that", at which point I would decide that it would take too much time and effort. After all, it called for "distilled water", a requirement we never took seriously, and I figured I had probably ruined it long ago. And I had. In all honestly, it would have been better for us to have purchased a cheap humidifier, if we were going to ruin it. We would have saved some money.

This winter we purchased an equally nice humidifier with a filter. It does not require distilled water. Needless to say, I plan to care for this one very well. I intend for it to last us many winters. Speaking of winters, we are also considering the purchase of a snow-blower. As per our most recent "ah-ha", we plan to buy a nice one, with a good track record, and a good warrantee - and not settle for the cheapest workable option we can find. If it lasts, it will more than pay for itself in the time and energy necessary to remove snow from a long driveway and sidewalk year after year after year - or however long we're in Nebraska.

Please don't take this post as anything more than a reasonably-new-mother trying to get her thoughts out. If anything, I'm preaching to myself. Take from it what you want, but there's nothing I'm trying to convince you of. You don't need my convincing.

So, Your thoughts?


Brian said...

I have kind of a hybrid philosophy when it comes to buying cheap vs. quality, and it's not very logical at all.

For example, I used to do a LOT of cooking, so I got a quality knife for around $100. I figured if I was going to be using it 5 days a week I might as well have a good one that makes me glad to be able to use it.

I also did some research and decided that, with the kind of work I do, I could realize a time benefit by having more "Screen Real Estate" - a larger monitor or multiple monitors. I really wanted to get a 24-incher but they were so stinking expensive. Then I found a really good deal on two (cheap) 22-inchers, so that's what I use now and they really are a big benefit to me. This contradicts the "quality" knife decision I made because I use my monitors WAY more than I use a knife, but these monitors are sufficient (if not slightly blurry in a few areas if you really look for them) and accomplished my goal of more screen real estate. We also got a new (cheap) 32-inch LCD TV, partly because I've been wanting one and partly so we could have more room in our living room by removing the entertainment center housing our old HUGE TV, and partly so that we could keep the little boys' fingers off it until they were old enough to reach it but understand they're not to touch it. We got a cheap one because we don't watch a lot of TV anyway so it should (theoretically) last us a long enough time to justify the reduced expenditure, given that it won't be used much and won't constantly be fiddled with by two year-olds who don't know any better.

One thing that we DO cheap out on that drives me crazy, is paper towels. To me, the higher priced ones (I'm looking at you, Viva, made by Kleenex) are TOTALLY worth the extra cost. They absorb an order of magnitude more than the cheap ones. But we cheap out on them because Brynn is the one who uses them the most and she prefers the cheapsters (no clue why!)

I have a $90 (cheap) digital camera that I use to take thousands of photos with (I've taken probably 15,000 photos with it in the year I've had it) and it's holding up well despite having been dropped a few times.

In the end, like I said, my philosophy isn't really consistent and doesn't follow any hard and fast rules, but it has worked for us. Looking back on these few examples it looks like I tend more toward "cheap". Everyone has to find that finesse between cheap and quality, weighing the pros and cons of each individual purchase.


Chelsie Hardy said...

I agree. And it's nice to hear it said, you don't have to buy the cheapest! I may have had somewhat of a similar mindset in the past, as well. But I really love to get a great deal on nice quality things!