Spend Now to Save In the Future

I’m sometimes guilty of focusing too much on getting something for the lowest price right now. Many people are like this. We want to pay the least amount possible so we hunt for inexpensive items. Whether it’s an appliance or something as simple as sheets, I tend to want the least expensive (but still decent) model I can buy. But over the years I’ve learned that this isn’t always a great strategy. Sometimes I am better off paying more now so that I won’t have to pay as much in the future.

Take something simple like sheets, for example. For years I just bought the cheapest sheets I could get that were still comfortable. But over the years I noticed that the elastic broke quickly on the fitted sheets, or the sheets wore thin rather fast. It seemed like I was buying sheets at least once a year. So I started trying some of the more expensive sheets. Guess what? The elastic lasts longer, is sewn in better, and the sheets are thicker and don’t wear out as fast. I haven’t bought sheets in probably five years. While the sheets cost more to begin with ($20 more than the cheapest model), I’ve saved that much and more by not buying sheets every year.

The same has been true with some clothes. Cheap but poorly made clothes last a season. Better quality clothes may cost more but they last for years. This may not matter if you’re clothing kids who grow out of everything in a year anyway, but when you’re buying for yourself it can make a big difference in your clothing expenditures.

I’ve found the same to be true of electronics, as well, although it’s not always only about quality, it’s also about staving off upgrades for as long as possible. I recently bought a new computer. I knew what features I needed, but I ended up buying a computer with a much bigger hard drive, more memory, and a better graphics card than I needed. It cost me a bit more, but it will be worth it because this one will last for at least four or five years. It will keep up with many advances in software and technology without requiring upgrades or a (too soon) replacement. TV’s, appliances, and other electronics can also be looked at in the same way. Sometimes paying more today will save you money because the product will last longer and keep better pace with changing technology.

There is also something to be said for paying more to get the item you really want, rather than settling for something so-so. When we bought our house, I was trying to be cheap so I bought light fixtures that I didn’t love, but I thought were okay and that were inexpensive. We weren’t in the house three months and I hated those things. They didn’t put out good light and they weren’t attractive. So I bought new ones. I would have been better off buying what I loved the first time around. A friend bought a refrigerator that she knew would do the job, but it wasn’t what she really wanted. Two months later the one she wanted went on sale so she bought it and gave the other one to Goodwill. She would have been better off simply buying the one she really liked in the first place. If you can afford it (even with maybe a little stretch) it can sometimes save you money to get the product you love rather than buying more back to back.

Of course you have to know your quality when paying more to save later. Just because something is more expensive doesn’t mean it’s necessarily better quality. It takes some trial and error but eventually you’ll get to know which manufacturers make quality items that will last and are worth a premium and which are just over-hyped names. And you still want to get the best deal you can, so watch prices, look for sales and be ready to jump on any deals you find.

Saving money isn’t always about getting the best price for something today. It’s also about buying things that last, provide good service, and have enough features so that you aren’t constantly replacing and upgrading. It’s also about being happy enough with what you buy so that you aren’t buying another one two months later because you hated the first item. Every replacement and upgrade just eats into what you “saved” by buying the cheaper model. Before too long you’ve spent as much as you would have had you just bought the more expensive one. Sometimes paying more today can actually save you a lot more money in the future.

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10 Responses to Spend Now to Save In the Future

  1. Well you’re right about buying quality and durability!

  2. I agree that we sometime save a penny and end up spending dollars. Good quality investment always pays off in long term.

  3. Ben Levy says:

    I always say there are certain things you can’t go cheap on. Two that come to mind are shoes and mattresses. If you are comfortable on your feet and when you sleep you’ll be a much happier, healthier person.
    Great article!

  4. valletta says:

    I agree with this.
    Spending well is like saving.
    I bought some luggage and purses about 20 years ago for a pretty penny in Paris. I now look at it as the best bargain ever. Price-per-wear or as my friend says “buck-a-use” :)
    Certain things are worth buying quality.
    Each of us gets to decide what those things are based on our values :)
    Best buck-a-use? Toothbrush. Free.
    Worst? Generally a wedding dress :) YMMV.

  5. CarolH says:

    I agree with your comments about sheets and clothing. Quality in these categories is important for durability, but just price alone does not make for a high quality item.

    I’ve learned to make decisions based on “bang for the buck.” In our new condo in a converted factory building, we only needed to do 2 things before moving in: paint the walls/ceiling and tile the wall behing the stove.

    Because the ceiling is 20 ft high, we hired a painting company who would use scaffolding to paint. We selected a high end/high price/high quality paint that would do the job in just one coat, saving many hrs of labor costs.

    For the tiling, we priced 3 tiles we liked: #1 cost $50/sq ft, #2 was $25/sq ft; and #3 was $12/sq ft. We went with the least expensive and are happy with it. I don’t envision having to replace it ever.

  6. Omar says:

    My father has always had this mindset of spending more on quality and I didn’t understand it. I have clothes that lasted more than 5 years because of superior quality.

  7. Minny says:

    I depends – if one only has a minimum amount of money one buys what one can afford. Later, when the item gets thin for example, the money may be there to buy better quality.

    I buy good shoes in the sales.

  8. Susan says:

    I totally agree with you, it’s taken a lot of trial and error purchases for me to recognize the importance of ONLY BUYING what you truly love. This is particularly true with clothing. Just because something is on sale and I need it doesn’t mean that I should sell-out for something I don’t really like just because it’s cheap. So my motto really is, “Only buy what you truly love and it will be worth it.” Same goes for a lot of other things in life :)

  9. Kyle Montgomery says:

    I’ve learned this lesson early in life and with my model trains no less. When I was young I found that the $20 engines I would buy would always break on me. I splurged and bought a $100 engine that worked beautifully. It was an odd way to learn to pay for value.

  10. David says:

    Sorry to say I disagree with the computer savings. No matter what you buy now, it will be ready for the trash in two years. It will still work but it will not be up to date. Take a look at today’s laptop for around 500 you get what you need today. 999 for the latest and greatest. I will pocket the 400 and in two years I can buy what i need them. The prices will continue to fall for the standard laptop.

    Just my two cents…………

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