Smart Spenders Recognize Quality and Pay for It Gladly

  • March 14, 2018
  • by Emily
Smart Spenders Recognize Quality and Pay for It Gladly

As a society we tend to judge each other on how we spend. So and so is “cheap”, or so and so “spends too much”... How much a person spends in dollars is a limited way of looking at it. What really matters is how our purchases impact our lives. Sometimes spending decisions are stupid, but spending on the things that matter is completely worth it.

One misconception about frugality is that it always means buying the cheapest option. To me being frugal means being smart, not being cheap. I budget for quality items when called for and it makes my life so much better. It isn’t about prices, it’s about utility.

When it comes to saving money and ultimately using that money to reach financial goals, sometimes the cheapest item is a form of self sabotage. There are cases where buying that high end ski gear, mattress, or aged cheese really “pays for itself”. Then again spending $3,000 on a huge TV that is off most of the time is a bit of a waste. Money alone is not enough to quantify a good or bad spending decision. We’ve discussed the concept of utility (please read this if you haven’t already), and now that you know what that is, let’s look at when paying for quality makes sense.

When You Should Pay for Quality

If you answer yes to any of the following items, a quality product makes sense:

  • Will I use this item frequently or intensely?
  • Do I want this item to last a long time?
  • Will the premium version save me a significant amount of time in the future?
  • Will I actually use the premium features in the more expensive model?
  • Is there actually a difference between the less expensive and more expensive models, in terms of quality?
  • Will this item pay for itself because it is more efficient or lasts longer than an inferior alternative?  Energy efficient appliances come to mind here.

When You Shouldn’t Pay for Quality

If you answer yes to any of the following questions, consider a lower priced item:

  • Do I want to buy this so I “look good” or so I can “impress my friends”? If yes, whoa, stop right there! This a form of emotional sabotage on your financial goals.
  • Is this a generic item dressed up in a fancy box? Think about the difference between Corn Flakes and the store-brand equivalent. If there’s no real difference between the two expect the packaging.
  • Are the bells and whistles unnecessary? Many premium models have a lot of features that most consumers just won’t use, or would use so rarely that they aren’t worth paying for.
  • Does the product seem overly complicated? Related to bells and whistles, they sound cool in the brochure but add up to additional ways the thing can break, leading to extra maintenance costs down the line.

Hidden Costs To Consider:

Sometimes items come with hidden costs regardless of being cheap or expense.

When it comes to razors, the money is in the blades, not the shiney handle. It is important to evaluate not just the initial price but the ongoing operating cost of any purchase.

Some more questions to consider:

  • Does the item come with a warranty?
  • What are the maintenance / usage costs of each option?
  • How many headaches am I willing to put up with?
  • What is the resale value going to be in 3-5 years? Depreciation of high end items kills your net worth!


For Example - Do You Need A $400 Blender?

Let’s say you are in the market for a blender. You could buy one for as little as $20 or as much as $400.

We’ve all seen the loud and colorful infomercials for high end blenders. They slice, dice, grate, and churn and look good doing it. Your friends will be so jealous.

Is an expensive blender really worth it?

But, which one do you choose? Let’s consider utility and price.

A $400 blender can handle a bag of frozen fruit, with no water, and churn out a thick, smooth smoothie. A $20 blender given the same task would give you a chunky fruit salad after the motor overheated. If you were to use the cheap blender for this kind of project daily, it would probably need to be replaced in under a year.

Not everyone requires silky smooth, liquid-free smoothies every morning. For some whose blender use isn’t so heavy, an expensive blender is just a waste of money, or a status symbol to keep on the counter. If, however, you are the kind of person who relishes luxurious frozen smoothies, spending $400 on a top-of-the-line blender is likely a good investment.


The bottom line is that evaluating when to pay for quality involves thinking carefully about how you will use the item, what the actual difference is between the options and how the overall cost of ownership differs. Sometimes the cheap option is better… and sometimes you really do “get what you pay for.”  If you have the luxury of picking the quality option you are in a great position.

The post Smart Spenders Recognize Quality and Pay for It Gladly is part of a series on personal finances and financial literacy published at Wealth Meta. This entry was posted in Personal Finance, Budgeting
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