Tuesday, October 16, 2007

A Question of Value

Yesterday, JD over at Get Rich Slowly wrote about how the choices we make when buying goods affects our environment. While I might get into that discussion some other time, I want to touch upon one of the points he made, that of "pursuing quality" in our selections.

Value, in my opinion, is a balance between getting a quality item that promises to be long-lived, and getting it at a good price.

Having lived through some pretty lean times, especially when I was a single mom, many times I felt I had to go with bottom-dollar pricing, even if the item's quality was bottom-dollar, too. The majority of the time, I made out just fine. But there were more than a handful of times when I'd buy something of cheap price and quality, only to have to replace it again (and again). Had I just decided to (or been able to) fork out a little more money at the outset, I probably would have had a longer-lasting item for less money.

When I met Shane, he was a little more "spendy" than I am. He wasn't over the top by any means, but if he really wanted something, he didn't hesitate to buy it then and there.

Over time, our spending styles have merged. Now we research before we buy, figuring out what features we need in a product, what we don't need, and what average prices run. Many times I'm able to talk him out of buying items with more options than we need, and he's been able to convince me to go ahead and spend the money on the options we do need. Whether we're buying a car or a coffee maker, we try to find the best value, not just the best price.

That being said, here are a few things that we've been willing to pay full price for when we couldn't find or weren't able to wait for a sale:

Good shoes: Shane's job requires specifically-styled work boots and like many people, tennis shoes are a mainstay in my wardrobe. As much as we wear our shoes and boots -- usually 12 or more hours a day, 7 days a week, for each of us -- we won't cut corners. Shane wears Thorogood boots and my shoe of choice is New Balance. Whatever brand you prefer, if you're on your feet a lot, it's probably a good idea to spend a few bucks for comfort, support and quality.

Bedding: Quality sleep is at the top of our list of health requirements. A few years ago we paid full price for a Select Comfort Sleep Number bed and wouldn't hesitate to do it over again.

Tools: Shane uses a lot of tools, both common and specialty, at work and at home. He doesn't insist on the most expensive tools out there, but he does insist on quality. Even poor-quality tools can be expensive, but when tools are used and abused like his are, durability and a replacement guarantee are worth paying for.

My Bosch Universal mixer/blender combo: If you bake a lot of bread, this mixer is worth every penny. I used the well-known brand of stand-up mixer until the gears were stripped from too many batches of heavy dough. The Bosch is made differently, with a belt drive under the mixing bowl. Even with heavy use it has an average life expectancy of 20 years. Well worth the few extra dollars it cost over the other brand.

Reliable transportation: During the aforementioned lean years, I struggled to just keep a vehicle running and could only dream of getting something new enough to be reliable. Finally, enough was enough and I bit the bullet and bought a small truck that was just a year old. I had to take out a loan and the interest rates were horrible, but the peace of mind was worth every penny. Shortly thereafter, I was able to refinance at a better rate, which took a little of the sting out of the purchase.

We have a different vehicle now. My truck was still running fine and looked great, and best of all, it was paid off. But with Kat around, it didn't fit our family anymore, so we bought something more suited to our needs. I hate having a vehicle loan and the resulting payment, but I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE not having to worry about expensive and potential dangerous breakdowns. Our goal is to get out from under our van payment and to save enough money so that we don't have to take out vehicle loans in the future. But until we're in that position, I'll happily (OK, not happily, but willingly) fork out the money each month for a safe and dependable ride.

These are a few of the things that we'll scrimp in other areas in order to be able to afford at full-price, if necessary. Assuming you're here because you consider yourself a fellow "fruggy", what items are you willing to spend full-retail on?


Tug said...

I'm NEVER willing. ;-) But I'm with you on the car, most definitely - which is why I still haven't decided exactly what I'm going to get!

Annie Jones said...

Tug: Doing research ahead of time is always a good idea, IMO. I've never been one to think of a car as a status symbol or a direct reflection of "who I am". In my younger days it was a matter of whatever piece of junk I could afford, and lately it's been a matter of either something large enough for the whole family (our van) or sturdy enough for Shane's job (our truck).

For our next purchase, which I hope isn't for a very long time, we'll also be considering whether a hybrid is the right choice for us.