If you read books and blogs about minimalism and simple living, buying quality is always emphasized. In general, I think this approach is the way to think about our purchases. Instead of mindlessly purchasing low quality but inexpensive goods repeatedly, save up and buy things that will last.
But is it a universal truth that buying quality is always the right answer? I would argue it isn’t. Always buying quality over quantity is a matter of circumstances. Sometimes it’s not possible or desirable to adhere to the philosophy of always purchasing quality. Let’s look at both sides of the argument.
Pros to buying quality
Quality items will last longer. That is the theory anyway. This has been the case for many things we’ve purchased over the years, but not all of them. We spent an above-average amount for a high-quality vacuum cleaner, for example, and it lasted about the same amount of time as our previous, less-expensive machine. The presumption is higher cost equals better workmanship, and better workmanship equals items lasting longer.
Pride will cause you to maintain the item. If you scrimped and saved and bought a high-quality item, you are more likely to carefully maintain the item. If you don’t maintain and care for your purchase (which is entirely possible with our vacuum cleaner), its longevity is imperiled. Having pride in a purchase generally motivates you to take care of it.
Buy quality and you’ll need to buy fewer. This is the predominate thought for most people when buying higher-quality items. The premise is if, for example, you buy cheap t-shirts, they will wear out more quickly and you’ll need to replace your t-shirts more often. If a $30 t-shirt lasts three times longer than three $10 t-shirts, that’s sensible.
Again, this tenet holds true some of the time, but not all. I had two pairs of Liz Claiborne suit pants I wore regularly for over a decade. They were expensive on the front end, but I’ve yet to find pants since that have come CLOSE to enduring that long.
Cons to buying quality
Buying higher quality might be quite a financial commitment. What if you aren’t sure how committed you are to ownership of something? You don’t want to shell out a large amount, only to determine that the item was not what you needed or wanted, after all. Perhaps buying a less expensive version of an item first is the best plan. When we decided to start RVing, instead of paying a large sum for an RV, we bought a fifteen-year-old inexpensive RV first. Only when we were certain we were committed to the RV lifestyle did we sell that vehicle and upgrade.
It’s really expensive! What if you really need or want something? It can be very expensive to buy only the highest quality items. I consistently muse about once and for all replacing my wardrobe with higher-quality (and thus more expensive) items. When it’s time to decide on a purchase, however, I just can’t pull the trigger.
You might have to wait. Saving up to buy that quality item means delayed gratification. And Americans, in general, are lousy with delayed gratification. Can you resist the urge to buy cheaper to feel instant gratification?
I frequently talk about spending time reflecting on purchases as an important practice. Think about the prospective purchase and, based on your current financial circumstances, determine if you should wait and buy better quality. It’s not always the case that you should wait. Buying a less-expensive version is sometimes the best approach.
What are your experiences with buying quality items? Do you make that a priority?