I like to think that the difference between being cheap and being frugal is you get to spend money on items that you will use regularly and get a longer lifespan out of, saving money over the long term. But there are products that last roughly the same, independently of their cost.
Do you sometimes break things and say “they don’t make them like they used too”, thinking the equivalent product would have lasted for a longer time if you had bought it 20 years ago? We are still using a chair that belonged to BF’s mum in the 60s. The sturdy woodwork will last many more years, while an Ikea chair will probably not last for half a century.
The case of clothing
Kathleen wrote a post recently on The College Investor where she said she would never drop $228 on a pair of Diesel jeans no matter how much money she made. It got me thinking about my last few pairs of jeans. I found a great pair that was really fitting me well on a trip to the US three years ago, and since then, I have bought two more pairs of the same from Ebay (because Levi’s discontinued the exact model and I don’t have a Levi’s store nearby to find a new model that fits well). I paid extra to have the pants shipped to France once, and Guatemala the second time, but I think it was always coming to around $50 per pair.
I own one pair of jeans at a time, and they last for a year or so. Because I have fat strong thighs, the denim wears off with the friction when I walk, makes a hole and I just throw the pair. Intense traveling where I would spend 8 hours per day on a motorcycle, getting on and off added to the wear those past years. Even though the cost per wear is very low, I wouldn’t spend more than $50-$80 on some piece of clothing that is only going to last for a year.
Determine the lifespan of the item
If I knew for a fact a $228 pair of jeans would last more than five years I would maybe pay the high price tag to avoid shopping every year, but the wear comes from my body shape and it is almost sure that I will use the jeans just as fast.
Over at Save.Spend.Splurge, Mochimac was recently criticized for buying $600 worth of underwear. Her point was she knew she would use that quality underwear for at least 10 years. Another thing I can’t relate to, because I lose things. I move house, travel, stay with friends, pack a box and forget about what is inside… while some items have miraculously survived since high school (and even more miraculously still fit me!), most of my clothes stand a very small chance of still being mine five years from now.
Will you keep using it?
Last but not least, life happens. Five years ago, I was just starting what would be my last cubicle job. I wore business casual, lived in London and enjoyed going out in a nice dress, I even owned several pairs of heels! Flash forward today, I live in the jungle, most of the time wearing shorts and a t-shirt, and the workers look at me like I am the first lady when I wear jeans and a clean shirt to go to town (and shoes! the rest of the time it is flip flops or barefoot).
Back to Mochimac, she drastically changed her diet all the way to vegan and lost a lot of weight, so after looking for perfect long lasting pieces she had to get rid of some and buy some more.
It can be pregnancy, weight loss, fashion, taste, even allergies or intolerance, … so many factors that may prevent you from using something you thought you would use for years.
While I usually advocate buying the best things you can afford, and see no reason to make your life miserable by using inconvenient items like a sticky pan, knives that are not sharp anymore, or itchy bed sheets, sometimes the difference between medium quality and high quality will not be worth the big price difference, because of the use you will get out of the item.