I will freely admit that I am what some people would describe as cheap. This is not quite how I would describe it, but many of my friends and family would use this term for my buying habits. I would describe many of my financial decisions as thrifty and well thought out.
Although cheap is often used to describe the way I decide to spend money, the more accurate portrayal is I am always looking for the best investment. Getting the most value from the purchases I make is the decision process used and not necessarily spending the least amount of money.
Previously I wrote an article, (Why Profits, Greed and Cheap are Hurting America), on the issues with always buying the least expensive things in life. It is true on the surface that paying less for something saves money. However, sometimes when looking at things from a different perspective paying a little more or thinking outside the box is a better decision. This may involve paying a little more upfront or making an investment for long-term savings. In addition, It could also be the decision to invest my own time and not just a larger dollar amount.
There is Some Truth to Paying for What You Get
The old phrase, “You get what you pay for”, is sometimes very true. It is not always the case, but many times it can be. For example, a person that buys a ticket to a concert in the front row opposed to the nose bleeder seats, will get the front row. Services, entertainment, and consumer goods can all have an option to purchase the front row. Sometimes it depends on what a person expects or their preferences. A decision must be made on what is a better value for the money spent or the investment of time for a better deal.
Quality Can Last Longer
Buying things that are quality made to last is becoming much more difficult. Cheap plastics and throw away items are now the new lifestyle standard. Yet, there are things that it only makes sense to pay a little more for in order to have the investment go much further. A good example of this is purchasing a vehicle.
There are many car manufacturers and types of automobiles to choose from. Particularly, there are certain ones that have a much better track record for lasting much longer. Buying a vehicle that has a horrible track record and known to have issues at around 50,000 miles is a bad investment. This is given there are a number of car manufacturers that produce cars that can run several hundred thousand miles with just simple maintenance. Toyota and Honda are two good examples.
If a used car known to die at 50,000 miles can be purchased for $10,000 and there is one that has a good chance of running more than triple the mileage for an extra $4000, which is the better investment? Wouldn’t you rather pay the extra money and get many more years out of it? The other choice is to keep paying for another used automobile every few years when the inferior one dies.
Cars are not the only items that paying for quality can make a difference and save money in the long run. Even simple everyday things can last twice as long for just a little larger investment. An example I recently experienced is a BBQ grill. The home improvement stores have nice looking grills for about $250. I have purchased a few of these over the years only to have them fall apart in just a few short years. My family grills quite a bit and nothing fancy is needed. A small Weber grill that is known for quality and comes with a ten-year guarantee can be purchased for just a few hundred dollars more lasting three times as long or more.
If Quality Does Not Exist or is too Expensive, Think Outside the Box
Taking the time to think a little different or be willing to try something new is an immense investment. Rather than settling for something that is poorly made or too expensive to buy the type that will last, look for ways to make a good investment. If a throw away purchase needs to be made, then it has to happen. But quite often there is a solution.
One example of this is through my own personal experience. Furniture quality is a really big issue for me. I dislike cheap furniture that has a limited life span. It is often made of pressed wood and laminate. Pieces of furniture made from these materials can be purchased cheaply and to its credit can look good. But it is often only for a short period of time before it falls apart.
There was a time when furniture could be handed down through generations. It was made of good solid woods, such as oak, cherry or walnut. These types of furniture are still available, but they can be extremely expensive.
I was recently renovating my porch and my wife wanted a new outdoor sectional. Even the cheap ones were priced at $500 to $1000 for wicker or rattan. The problem with this is it does not take long for them to fall apart with exposure to the elements. Plastic will also have the same results. It fades and becomes brittle.
I started to do some research on wood types that are best for outdoor use. Teak was number one. It looks fantastic and with care will last long enough for my daughter to put it on her porch one day. However, it is extremely expensive. Pricing them online through Wayfair the prices ranged between $3000 and $6000 for the style my wife wanted. This was out of the question.
With teak outdoor furniture being reserved for the very wealthy or insane, I started wondering how difficult it would be to make my own patio furniture. I researched wood types again looking for something that has long lasting durability other than occasionally replacing the cushions. Teak is still expensive and not something readily picked up at the local Home Depot or Lowes.
It turned out that cedar wood is a very good alternative. It is very insect resistant and does not hold a lot of moisture. With proper care it can last 20 or more years! A much better alternative compared to plastic, wicker or rattan.
Make Your Own Quality
Once I decided on a wood to use that was easily available, I started researching how to make my own outdoor sectional and came across a great one that was simple to make using just 2X4’s. The finished result is a solid piece of wood furniture that will last and the cost was comparable to purchasing the cheap plastic, wicker or rattan type. Pictured below is the finished product.
If you are interested in taking on this type of project yourself, here is the site https://www.ryobitools.com/nation/projects/2651 with the build plans and a YouTube tutorial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6liMOuSGZ5g.
Invest the Money and Time for Long-Term Savings
Most of us have chores we need to do in our daily lives. There are services for most of these and seldom they are very inexpensive. Sometimes spending a little more money upfront and investing your time can lead to saving a great deal of money. If you are a home owner, this can be one of the best strategies to follow for saving money.
As a home owner there is always some kind of upkeep or improvements that need to be done. From mowing the lawn to tree trimming or pressure washing. Repeatedly paying for these services adds up over time. If you don’t want to spend a few hundred dollars on a lawn mower and would rather pay possibly $20-$40 or more a week for lawn care, this is throwing money away. Make the investment in a lawn mower. Exercise is good for people in case you have not heard. This means do not spend thousands of dollars on a riding mower unless you live on a lot of land.
I have a lot of personal experience with making an investment to save money. If there is something I know will need to be done on my home routinely every year or every few years, I buy the tool when it makes sense. A few years back I purchased a pressure washer for about the same amount it would cost to hire someone to do the work I needed. Now I have one to do the chores for several years. The result is a savings over time.
Also, the home I purchased was a fixer up type. I would not classify my skills as a professional carpenter, but with a little time I can learn simple to more complex tasks to do myself. The investment in a number of tools and saws has more than paid for itself at this point.
Not only may education possibly earn someone more money, it can also save a lot of it. There is not much that cannot be learned these days for household work with the resources available on the internet. There are things I still call a professional to get done, such as anything dealing with gas in my home, but a lot of things I will at least try.
If You Want New and Can Only Offered Cheap, Buy Used
Quality used items will often be much cheaper compared to them being new. They will last much longer than a cheap throw away item and the investment will cost less for a better product.
Furniture again is a big one for buying quality that will last. Auctions, garage sales and even sometimes thrift stores will many times have quality furniture. If there is a scratch or scuff, taking the time to learn to refinish a piece of wood and making the investment in materials will be worth the time.
Everyday things and even leisure time goods can be bought used for much less and still get the same quality or better as new. I have always played golf since I was a kid. Buying a good name brand set of golf clubs is ridiculously expensive these days. I have only ever purchased used. A good name brand and well-made set used that has been taken care of will cost much less than new. Golf club technology changes and they are just metal and graphite. There is no reason to buy a new set.
With household repairs, tools are another great thing to buy used. Hammers, wrenches and screwdrivers will all work the same as purchasing one new from the store.
Make Buying an Investment
When shopping for things rather than looking for the least amount of money to spend, make the best investment. Buying used, building something on your own or spending a little more for quality only makes sense. It can be a challenge these days to find quality at an affordable price. But doing the research and thinking a little different can equal big savings.