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Should You Pay More Money For Quality?

By Erik Folgate

One of the biggest struggles for a frugal shopper is balancing price with quality. The old adage, “You get what you pay for” is definitely true in many instances, but it’s very easy to be tricked into paying more money for something that isn’t worth it. The older I’ve become, the more I realize that paying for quality is important, but you must be careful and do your research to make sure you’re getting what you pay for. I’ve realized that buying the cheapest model or brand of a particular consumer item doesn’t always end up being cheaper.

My Real Life Example of Paying For Quality

When my wife and I first got married, we adopted an 8 week old puppy (I know, bad idea, we should have waited a year!), and as you know, puppies shed and get your house dirty. We had registered for a standard $80 vacuum and Target, and started using that vacuum once a week. After about 3 months of use, we noticed that the vacuum was having a hard time dealing with a lot of dog hair, and it clogged and lost suction, so we would clean it out, but it always felt like the suction never came back to what it was before. So, we trashed the vacuum after about 9 months, and bought another one for about $150. We thought this one would do the trick, and it did for about 6 months, then it started to stink the house up when we used it and the filter was never the same. Again, it lost suction. By that time, we lived in an apartment with all wood and tile floors, so we used a combination of manual sweeping and a little Shark vacuum to get the dog hair up. When we bought a house, we finally took the plunge and started looking into Dyson vacuums. We had a $100 Amazon gift card from Christmas, and Amazon had outdated models for cheaper than normal. Stiill, to pay $350 for a vacuum was like stabbing me in the gut, but we did it. This has been one of the best purchases we’ve ever made. Even when the Dyson starts to get a stinky smell and lose suction, all you need to do is clean it, and the suction returns to normal. The Dyson picks up dirt that you never thought you had, and the model we got works great on wood and tile too. Paying for quality was worth it in this instance.

Tips on Paying For Quality and Staying Frugal

  • Do Your Research. This is essential. You must know what you’re paying for and what features are truly worth paying for. This varies from person to person. An avid coffee drinker that will use it every day should pay more for one.
  • Look for Refurbished and Outdated Models. If a name brand truly is worth the extra money like the Dyson vacuums, then look for refurbished models or look on Craigslist for a used one. You can go to the person’s house and test the suction yourself. I think that Apple really does make the best laptops and portable music players on the planet, but you’ll pay a hefty price. If you wait 6 to 9 months, you’ll be able to get yesterday’s model much cheaper than paying normal retail. There are also a ton of refurbished Macbooks floating around the internet.
  • Set up a savings category. It’s a lot easier to swallow paying $100 or $200 more for a higher quality product if you slowly save up for it. Putting away $50 to $100 a month, for 3 or 4 months is much less painful than shelling out $500 up front.

Do you have any stories of how paying for quality paid off? We want to hear them, comment below.

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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  • http://stayingleaninoaklandcounty.blogspot.com/ Tashena Lynette Gonzales

    Very good advise. I may have to link to this post.

  • Gina

    There is a difference between frugal and cheap! You definitely need to determine when the higher price will be worth it in the long run. If you do some investigation, you will find that cheaper is not always worse, and more expensive is not always better!

  • http://mrsnespysworld.blogspot.com Kaye

    Frugality is not about buying the most inexpensive item…it’s about getting the most for your money. We also have a Dyson, but paid more like $500 for it. However, it was the pet hair model and it has done WONDERS that our older standard vacuum could not do.

    I will also pay for quality diapers. The store brands that I have tried just don’t do it for our daughter. We did use them for our son, but they are not enough for her.

  • http://www.weseed.com Joel

    I’ve always been one to spend a little more for quality — I don’t know if that makes me a “sucker” or a “connoisseur.” But I’m definitely taking the advice of putting some money aside for my future gadget purchases (hint: it rhymes with shmy-shmone).

    Meanwhile, interesting point about the Dyson being worth it. Sometimes, things are worth their price tags. Other times, however, people just get excited about getting something with an expensive price tag. Check out this book, which talks about how people prefer more expensive wines simply because they pay more for them.

    http://www.thewinetrials.com/

    PS: I have nothing to do with this site/book — I just think it’s interesting.

  • r wentz

    DEFINITELY! We also paid extra on a vacuum – an Oreck. We were so tired of having to buy a new vacuum every 2 years. Oreck provides maintenance for the next 21 years! Whenever it comes back from maintenance, it’s like it’s new. So worth it.

  • http://www.insurancerates.com Leonard

    If it’s something you’ll use for a long period of time, yes, quality is good. Otherwise, go with the cheap brand.

  • http://www.artificialrobot.com Sean

    My expensive, but worth it item was a coffee maker. After doing research on coffeegeek.com I decided to suck it up and drop close to 200 dollars on a capresso machine and a burr grinder. I make myself a thermos of very tasty coffee every morning and it’s been worth every penny for me. Although I’m sure some people think I’m crazy, but for me it was a worthwhile investment.

    • Elizabeth I

      We dropped $500 and used the model for a year, then when it broke, the company offered us a $1000 model for $500. We have been using that model for at least 4 years. We have made 2500 cups of coffee in the new model (the quality is Starbucks level if not better). At least 500 cups in the old model. This means that each cup of coffee I drink is about .60 cents a cup (.33 on the coffee maker and .25 on beans).

      I never buy coffee out (I take a travel mug) and I am happy all day long with my good coffee. One of the best purchases we have made.

      Most people never do the “math” and really see the difference.

      • http://www.artificialrobot.com Sean

        Wow, that is awesome! I actually haven’t worked out the math myself. I just know that the coffee I make at home tastes better than the stuff I can get at Starbucks, especially when I can get some good locally roasted beans. Of course, the next step is to start roasting at home :-)

  • Mike

    Most of the time quality is worth paying a little more for. We got a Dyson a year ago, and love it. It was especially worth it since it has helped my wife’s allergies much more than our previous semi-cheap vacuum.

  • Lauren

    We did the same thing with a Dyson. I didn’t want it at first because it was so expensive and looked like a hamster ball. My hubby convinced me we should get it, so we used wedding money left over and also a sale that the woman at the register helped us with. That thing is the best thing we’ve ever bought. Our friends with two dogs that shed like crazy would borrow it every few weeks and do a major cleanup, and the thing never lost suction. Definitely worth the investment, because it’ll be a loooong time before we have to replace that thing!

  • Cathy

    Yep, I’ve got a Dyson for the same reason. I kept an eye out for sales and was able to get one 15% off not long after getting my dog. When “paying for quality” I usually look at the price per day/week/year/whatever. The Dyson, with its 5-year warranty, worked out to less than $2 per week to clean my carpets better than anything else I’ve used. And that’s assuming it only lasts the 5 years.

    I’ve also done the same thing with shoes. I’m usually a Payless gal but i just couldn’t find any good work shoes (square toe, low heel, ankle boots, black). Finally found some for $80 at DSW but spending that much on a pair of shoes – eek! Did the math and they worked out to ~$0.50 per day if they lasted as long as my last, cheaper, pair. They lasted longer.

  • http://www.chasingprosperity.com thriftygal

    I need to show this post to my hubby! We have a hand-me-down vacuum that is about 10 years old! It does work ok, but we have to vacuum multiple times a week, and he thinks it’s just fine as long as we clean out the filter.

    My real life experience is with mattresses. We initially bought a cheapy model sealy which felt like a rock to me, so I was glad we could sell it when we moved. Then it was a succession of air mattresses, and a no-name brand which began to sink in after a year. So when my daughter was born, I went and purchased a new mattress. A day after it was delivered, I realized that it was too firm for my daugther (who coslept) and returned it and spent an additional $250 which was the best $250 I’ve ever spent as all of us sleep much better.

  • Audra

    I’m a firm believer in paying for quality clothes. I’m not talking about paying a high price for a brand or a “label”; I mean paying for well constructed, quality fabric clothing. I have shirts that I’ve paid (more than the average cost for a shirt) that has lasted me for over 10 years. While on the other hand, I’ve caved and bought a cheaply made shirt from (I won’t say where, I think you could probably guess), and had it shrink, fall apart at the seams, and be unwearable in less than 3 months. The same goes for shoes, you usually do get what you pay for. Unless of course, you are buying soley…can’t pass that pun by…for the sake of wearing a name. I have shoes that still look nice, and they are over 8 years old. I just try to keep the investment aspect of an article of clothing in mind while shopping, and not try to pick out something only because it’s cheaper.

  • Karmella

    Oh my, now I am kind of coveting a Dyson. I wish I had not been cheap when I bought my washer/dryer – the cheap dryer is fine, but it was really a mistake on the washer and now I am stuck with it.

  • Erik Folgate

    Hey Everyone, thanks for all of the examples of paying for quality and how it was a good choice. I think we all agree the extra money is worth if it’s something that you need and use on a regular basis and it truly is superior to its competitors.

  • http://blog.budgetpulse.com Craig

    I think it is. A lot of times especially if it’s something you plan on using all the time it is. Because higher quality could mean a longer life span. For example I saved and paid in full for a top of the line TV about a year and a half ago. I watch TV every day for shows, movies,sports, and to play video games. To me buying the best was worth it. Same could be said for other things you use.

  • Skirnir Hamilton

    I have to agree on it is worth it to pay more for a vacuum. Our history was that we kept buying cheap vacuums that lasted two or three years and then we bought from a local vacuum dealer a lyndhouse. It has a great filter, so that vacuuming no longer bothers my asthma. And we have had it for more than 5 years with 2 cats and it is working great. When the hose had a problem, the dealer fixed it, no cost.

    Now, our more expensive dishwasher model, I am not as happy with. We were talked into it by a salesman and I am not sure if it has been worth it.

  • Efren

    Frugality, quality and inexpensive things cannot be had all the time. There are instances that we can use inexpensive or cheap products depending on the period of usage. If you will use a product just once or for a day only why not get the cheapest that would do the job. Why buy a quality product that can be used only once. So we better use wisdom when buying things.

  • Dale Wyrick

    This is also very true for food.
    When grocery shopping, many people may scoff at the prices of “grass-fed, pasture raised” meats. I have found through reading and research that it is much healthier to eat this way and can actually save you money in medical bills.

    I now look to get the most bang for my buck in groceries by eating healthier. Fruits and vegetables are not that expensive and its much better to fill up on them, than fill up on a $4 bag of Doritos.

  • Elizabeth I

    Be a bit wary of out dated models. They can cost you more money in the long term because you cannot find parts when they break. I had this problem regarding a fryer. The cord broke and because it wasn’t a current model, the company no longer had replacement cords. After much fussing and a couple of phone calls. The company shipped me a new fryer for the cost of a replacement cord (which the company was out of stock on). I think I got a lucky break on this one.

  • Elizabeth I

    We have had our car for over 10 years. It was purchased new. Yeah, we have had to put money into it from time to time. All in all, it has cost us less than $150 a month so far, the longer we have it the lower this cost will become.

    I balanced price with quality. I bought new, I bought quality and now I am reaping the benefits.

  • DG

    I think extended guarantees are good for things such as laptops but not necessarily every piece of electronic luxury you purchase!

  • DG

    I think quality for some things such as computers is important but quality for furniture and everyday clothes? Not necessary!

  • http://madsaver.com Mac

    Good advice on research, buying refurbished, and save. As far as buying quality is concerned, I tend to buy the best value…which tends to be more on the quality side anyway. If I can’t wait for the newest models to fall in price, I just get the best bang for the buck. Amazon is a great site to determine the sweet spot for most of the big ticket items.

  • JuliaA

    doing research is key. i look at amazon reviews a lot, along with reviews on other sites, before i decide.

    i keep contemplating a dyson–i have cat hair all over!

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