On my journey from mindless consumer to frugality, there was definitely a period when I was cheap.
I looked at the bottom line of what I was spending and that was it. That’s part of how I dropped nearly $200 on earphones over a year. I’d go to Five Below and pick up 3 pairs and destroy them (of they’d hurt too much to wear) in just a few weeks. But I though $5 was the way to go.
In a small step in the right direction, I eventually gave up on Five Below and moved to shopping at Target for $20 a pop earphones. They lasted a little longer, but I still kept destroying them.
I won a $170 pair in a giveaway in April. I use them in the exact same way I used the Five Below and Target pairs. These things are beasts. They show no signs of wear at all and I even dropped them and caught the ear bud in a chair on the train as I was exiting and thought “well, there these go too” – expecting to sever the ear bud from the cable. It didn’t happen! They’re super strong and comfortable.
If I just spent $170 (and I’m sure there are plenty of cheaper, but still quality earphones) at the get go, I’d’ve come out $30 ahead and had a far better listening experience all along rather than getting nickeled and dimed on replacements from cheap stores.
Learning the lesson between cheap and frugal can take a little while. It also takes some time to build the cash reserves to be able to be frugal instead of just cheap. Sometimes frugal buys a $90 pair of jeans they love and wears them for years until they’re worn right through. Frugal might even just patch the tears in the jeans and keep going a little while longer because they just fit so right.
Cheap buys $20 jeans that fall apart in a few months or never fit quite right so you don’t even wear them at all and they join half a dozen other pairs of $20 jeans that just sit in your dresser and never get worn.
I’m not saying you can’t get good deals or that you should shun the Dollar Store, but sometimes buying tools at the Dollar Store is cheap, because they won’t work well and will break quickly, and dropping $50 at Home Depot instead on a drill with a lifetime guarantee is a really frugal move.
Frugal takes some effort though. You often have to do some research. Go out in the field and try on the pants or pick up the drill. See the quality of the item with your own eyes. Learn a little about what makes it a quality item.
For me, something that can make an item a quality item is a lifetime guarantee.
Let’s talk luggage. I travel a little more than the average person. I’ve probably dropped $1,000 on luggage in the last decade because my suitcases keep getting destroyed. The seams burst. The wheels fall off. I’m hard on much luggage (or, to be fair, baggage handlers are really hard on my luggage).
When I started traveling so much for work, I didn’t really know that the rest of my life was probably going to be like that; however, by the time I was buying my second replacement suitcase and definitely by the time I was buying my third, I had a strong inkling.
Suitcases with a lifetime guarantee are notably more expensive than ones that do not; however, I’d’ve saved several hundred dollars overall at this point if my second or even third bag I bought had had one.
A site I’m currently digging is Buy Me Once, a shop that curates sustainable and lifetime guarantee items. They also have a blog attached.
If you’re making a big purchase on something you know will get a lot of wear or you’re planning to keep the rest of your life, it’s worth doing a Google search for items with lifetime guarantees. Think about whether the price difference makes it worth it to you.