Why Do Americans Insist On Buying Cheap Crap Instead Of High Quality Merchandise?

Over at MSN Money there’s an interesting article about the tyranny of cheap crap that we, as a people, are accustomed to living under. Why do we buy a coat every year instead of one high quality coat that will last many years? Why do we buy crappy kitchen knives that go dull and become dangerous? Do we enjoy shopping so much that we’re content to keep rebuying the same stuff?

From MSN Money:

Part of the issue is in the market itself, with the spread of mass production and wide availability of consumer credit. But consumers are also less knowledgeable, explains Paco Underhill, president and CEO of market research consultancy Envirosell and author of “Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping.”

Americans in their 20s and 30s are now at least one generation removed from the era of homemade clothing and hand-crafted wood furniture, Underhill says. “In the 1950s, 90% of homes had sewing machines, which means women knew something about how clothes were put together. They could look at something in the store and tell if was of good construction or crappy construction,” he says. “In my office, I don’t know anyone who has bought a custom suit. They don’t know the difference between off-the-rack and custom.”

This reminds me of a post we did awhile back that talked about the buying habits of millionaires. They buy things gently used or they buy high quality new merchandise. They don’t waste money on cheap crap. I’m not a millionaire, but you don’t need to be in order to shop smart. The MSN Money article offers some tips on which items to buy “cheap” and which ones not to. Here are a few:

* Mattress: SPLURGE. You sit, sleep and God knows what else on this item. Get a good one.

* Men’s dress shirt: SKIMP. If your suit is well-tailored and the tie spectacular, the shirt will be an afterthought.

* Chef’s knife: SPLURGE. One 8-inch chef’s knife is all you need.

It’s good advice, but we don’t think you should think of it as “splurging.” It’s not irresponsible or decadent to buy a quality item that you can use for decades at a reasonable price. (Of course, just because a product is expensive doesn’t mean it is high quality…) And remember, if an item is high quality, sometimes can buy it used!

Which products do you “invest” in for the long term?

Should you skimp . . . or splurge? [MSNMoney]
(Photo: big-film )


Edit Your Comment

  1. bonzombiekitty says:

    I gotta agree with the knife thing. You don’t need a whole big set of knives. One high quality chefs knife and a steel to let the edge last longer is just fine, though it’s nice to have a good quality slicing knife and paring knife as well.

    If you cook a halfway decent amount, once you use a really good chefs knife, it’s hard to go back.

  2. shadax says:

    Yes, I can relate. I’m one of those Slickdeals cruisers who usually won’t buy anything from a store unless I get a discount. However, that didn’t stop me from buying a $2,500 latex bed (I paid $1,800, of course!)

  3. Jon Mason says:

    While I agree with the article’s comment about millionaires – buying gently used is (IMHO) the BEST way to save on big-ticket items – I’ve just furnished my living room with 1/2 year old quality furniture from Craigslist for about the price it would have cost me to buy a room full of crap from Walmart/Ikea.

    One of the problems is that these days discerning the difference between “quality high-priced” item and “over-priced ripoff item” is very difficult. I’ve bought expensive jeans/shoes etc. that have fallen apart and I’ve bought $10 jeans that have lasted me years.

    My rule of thumb is pretty much: Buy the cheapest item that is still decent quality – so when I bought a TV I got a 42 Phillips LCD on sale instead of going with an “off-brand”, when I bought a home theatre I bought a cheap Sony one. A perfect example of buying quality but not the overpriced version is in cars – buy Nissan/Toyota/Honda, don’t be sucked into paying an extra 10 grand for Lexus/Infiniti etc. when the quality does not increase in line with the price premium.

  4. earspasm says:


    For my family:

    Computer: Splurge — for a factory refurb. So I guess that’s Splurping? In almost 20 years I’ve never had one go bad.

    Food: Splurge — buying cheap crap exposes us to flavor enhancers, chemicals, byproducts and generally unhealthy stuff.

    Sofa: Skimp — in 10 years we’ll want a different style anyway. Oh, damn, it’s almost been 10 years too.

    Other consumer electronics: Skimp – their lifespan will be short and their technology will be eclipsed in less than 2 years.

  5. PinkBox says:

    I’m guessing the millionaires don’t buy cheap crap because they don’t have to.

    I know too many people in the area where I live who don’t exactly have the choice between buying something quality, or something they can simply afford. They aren’t replacing those cheap winter coats every year, either.

  6. novacthall says:

    It’s good advice, but we don’t think you should think of it as “spluging.”

    That’s a fun word in which to omit an “r.”

  7. Letsgohokies says:

    Maybe I am in the minority, but I have bought 1 coat in the past 8 years. Is it common for most people to buy a coat every year?

    I totally agree about knives, buy a good set and keep them honed/sharpened and they will last a lot longer than a bunch of sets of cheap flimsy ones.

  8. crabbyman6 says:

    @bonzombiekitty: I completely agree with the knife thing too. I’ve gone through a ridiculous amount of cheap knives, but got really good ones for my wedding. Not only are they high quality they cut through everything so much easier and make cooking much quicker so we can move on to the eating stage.

  9. Gann says:

    Pots and pans – splurge. It’ll get you to cook more, which will save $$$ and is healthier for you. Also, a good set can be left in the will if you take care of it.

  10. RBecho says:

    As many have said here, the big takeaway is “Buy good quality and use it longer is the way to save money” while the word “splurge” may not be the most appropriate, I think they are trying to say feel free to spend money on something if you will get enough use out of it to justify it.

  11. Etoiles says:

    Furniture is good in high-quality (our bookcases are from IKEA, sure, but the sofa and mattress are good stuff) and shoes. Especially if you live in a city where you’ll do some walking instead of just driving (and I always have lived in walkable cities — Boston, New York, DC), it’s totally worth $100 for a good looking pair of sturdy, comfortable shoes that will last a few years.

  12. SkokieGuy says:

    Our culture has created a demand for the latest thing. The latest fashion trend, the newest gadget. Of all the people standing in line for the newest Iphone, did any of them not already own a cell phone or two or three? This wasn’t a need, it was a want. People with fragile self-esteem falsely tie their self-worth to the things they own.

    For me, given the choice of a $100.00 designer shirt, I will buy 10 $10.00 shirts. I’d rather have the greater quantity, (10 things to wear instead of 1).

    Similarly, I’d rather buy a $400.00 sofa at Jennifer Convetibles that will last 5 – 10 years, instead of a $3,500.00 couch at a Pottery Barn. When styles change (or I move, or I redecorate, or I’m just plain tired of it), I can replace the cheap couch without guilt (donate or sell).

    Where don’t I skimp? Organic food, & health care. I’ve never understood people who shop for medical procedures, like the cheapest Lasik eye surgery or the cheapest facelift.

  13. I have to say that I also agree with this. I have 1 high quality stainless steel chefs knife I use for most things with a matching pairing knife. The rest of my knives are an old set of High Carbon steel that my cousin gave me when he retired as a Butcher. That stuff gets SHARP, but will corrode at the drop of a hat.

    So I use the Stainless for everyday stuff, and then keep the High Carbon for when I need to do something specialized.

    I see the High Carbon knives in the thrift store all the time.

    The few expensive things I buy I look into carefully and get the best I can afford.

  14. Consumerist-Moderator-Roz says:

    @novacthall: Spelling and grammar issues should be emailed to the editor – not aired in comments.

  15. boxjockey68 says:

    Ever since my own incident with cheap crap I have been very selective when buying anything. Not only is it very difficult to find some quality items, it’s costly. I have had to make the choice to hold off buying quite a few things because of the quality issue. I definitely stay away from walmart, and I try my hardest to avoid made in china….NOT easy.


    I agree. I’ve said every year for the past five years that I would start saving up money to get one or two really high-quality staples for my closet.

    But every year, I fail and just buy what will hold me over until I get slammed with a speeding ticket, car-repair or emergency trip – dreams of quality items out the window.

    If I had EXPENDABLE cash to spend on quality clothing or furnishings, then I would absolutely spend it on the best quality item I could find. But since my funds (and I wager most Americans’)are not incidental, I have to purchase what I can afford – which is rarely the best item.

  17. sir_eccles says:

    Maybe we just believe the advertising hype too easily.

    Has anyone actually ever bought Chef Tony’s amazing knife set (and then chopped pineapples in mid air in slow motion)?

  18. wildwhuck says:

    i have a lot of friends that live by the buy cheep rule. it amazes me how they will repeatly buy all this cheap junk when you can get high quality stuff on sale, if you are willing to put in the time.

    my splurge is sheets. they have to be 100% cotton and at least 400 thread count.

  19. Lizard_King says:

    I think the problem stems from lack of consumer research. I was in the market for a TV twice in the last two years. Both times I got winners, because of research, and they both happened to be cheap sets at the box electronics stores.

    I tend to skimp on automobiles, I buy a used one every 5 years or so, new cars are a joke. I upgrade my homebuilt PCs instead of buying prepackaged shite and do my own home/automobile repairs instead of paying out the nose for someone doing crappy repairs. I skimp on clothing, I splurge on what I enjoy (bicycles, music, home theater) and what makes me happy (wife).

  20. ogman says:

    High quality my ass! Spending more doesn’t buy enough of a quality difference to make it worthwhile. It’s all cheap crap, no matter what you pay.

  21. Amy Alkon000 says:

    First of all, I learned to shop from going to Paris pretty regularly (and because I’m frugal, I’d go for a month in July, swap my house in Los Angeles, and fly frequent flyer then, when it’s most expensive). I haven’t gone much lately because of the euro. Anyway, they buy a few beautiful things there…not piles of cheap crap, and keep it for years.

    Here, hiliariously, Barbara Ehrenreich is whining in her new book that “the sad truth is that people earning Wal-Mart level wages tend to favor the fashions available at the Salvation Army.” Oh, please. I’m a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist with a book contract with McGraw-Hill (for my second book, thanks!) and *I* “tend to favor the fashions available at the Salvation Army.”

    What kind of moron shops retail? I must confess, I do sometimes shop designer resale. Designer resale off the sale rack, that is. Like, I got a gorgeous Halston evening dress for $30 this spring. And I buy clothes on eBay for $10 or $20. This means I can pay my assistant as much as possible, save a little money, and not live on my credit cards like so many dipshits do.

    Oh yeah, somebody just took a bunch of photos to illustrate an article they’re doing on me for a libertarian magazine. I could’ve worn a jacket from my favorite young (but not too expensive designer in France), whose really inventive and beautifully made jackets or pants I buy on sale for $120 eu or so, one or two a year. But, instead, I wore a really sexy shirt I got at the Salvation Army on 11th in Santa Monica for $5, and a necklace I got on eBay for $3. Okay…to be entirely truthful…plus shipping, I think it clocked in around $4.22.

  22. DeeJayQueue says:

    When faced with the question of “Do I buy the cheaper one that I can afford now or do I save my money and get the better quality one later?” Many people will choose the former. They figure they can have the best of both worlds. Look at the mortgage crisis. So many people bought real estate they couldn’t afford because they thought they would be making more money later down the line and be able to afford the payments when they went up.

  23. The Warrior-Poet says:

    I think that masonreloaded hit the nail on the head: Consumers must be aware of both product (or service) grade AND quality when shopping. MSN Money seems to suggest that consumers’ decreasing ability to judge quality has tipped the balance of power in suppliers’ favor. Yet the internet would seem to offer shoppers more comparative analysis and better price discovery than ever before. Is it a case of information overload? Or a lack of discipline?

  24. xphilter says:

    @Letsgohokies: no, I bought a coat from ‘Structure’ (now Express Men) about 6 or 7 years ago, for $20 on sale. I live in MN too, so you know I use it. But I have a hard time seeing a correlation between quality and price–to a point (and that point is usually above my budget). Especially after traveling to Shanghai and talking with people who worked in the factories that make brand name clothes…it’s exactly the same way they make regular clothes, maybe with a marginally better fabric.

  25. moore850 says:

    I buy cheap if it’s something that will wear out either way, i.e. gym clothes vs. dress clothes. Suppose a cheap knife can last 2 years and 4 with sharpening. Now suppose a real chef’s knife costs 10 times that. Will a real chef’s knife actually last 20 years? Maybe. But in that time, it’s much more likely that I could stretch a cheap knife to 4 years, and have bought 5 of them and still be 1/2 the price of a “real” chef’s knife. That’s not to say there might not be other benefits to a premium product, you just have to figure out if the premium benefit is worth the price. If you have kids, a premium cloth couch is an incredibly stupid idea, because it will have grape juice spilled on it in short order.

  26. zigziggityzoo says:

    It’s easy to figure out. Don’t spend big bucks on things you consider replaceable. Some people consider vehicles to be this way, since they always want a new car to drive. Solution? Leasing.

    For other things that can’t go out of style, or are more permanent, like, say, your kitchen (and its components including food), Spend more so it lasts longer.

    I really don’t understand when people buy a cheap set of pots & pans or dishes, when you can spend maybe twice as much to have something last a lifetime.

  27. balthisar says:

    Knives: I tore out and installed a new kitchen in my house. I sold an SUV that I owned outright to pay for it. Then I bought my 10″ Wusthof chef’s knife, and realized what a waste of money the new kitchen was! (And I miss the Expedition for weekend romping around [never for commuting]). Yeah, it’s that good. I’m saving my pennies for replacing my other knives one-by-one. Funny thing is, my wife just loves our cheap, stamped, dull, throwaway knives for some reason!
    Cookware: Another thing that’s worth the money to get the good stuff. Luckily, I’d been aquiring the good stuff before the kitchen remodel, so I don’t feel as bad about it. Again, my wife would beg to differ: she likes that cheap non-stick crap from the discount store. Good cookware is also readily available on Craigslist, and (don’t laugh) at the charity stores — Salvation Army, Goodwill, St. Vincent de Pauls, etc.
    Shoes: Yeah, as above, don’t get the Chinese made cardboard crap. What a waste. My Red Wings may (or may not) be made in China, but they last for years, stay comfortable, and customer service is always supurb.
    Clothing in general: Thank goodness I know what to look for. Sure, I still buy lots of junk, but often the good stuff just isn’t handily available. I have to plan and make special trips to the right stores for “the good stuff.”

  28. Balentius says:

    From what I’ve observed, one of the main causes is the urge to save money – period. Unfortunately, most people (myself included, sadly…) only look at the “immediate” price, and not the longer term costs. My main issue is shoes – I buy the cheapest pair of shoes that have velcro fastenings, from Payless/Walmart/Kmart, when my older pair is falling apart. (And I do mean falling apart – my last pair looked like I ran over them with the lawn mower!)

    Yes, I am fully aware that I could probably spend ~$100 and get a pair that would last a number of years, as opposed to 3-6 months. But:
    1) I don’t want to spend the time to find a “great” pair of shoes.
    2) The cost of my current shoes is less than a meal at Arby’s…

    For me, the short term benefits outweigh the long term cost. Fortunately, this is about the only thing I buy regularly – Coats last me for years, and then I usually get a free one from work. Furnature isn’t an issue – our house is too small to store a lot, so we only get something when the old one breaks. I’ve had 3 TVs over the past 20 years, and 2 of them are still in service. We still have the same knife set we got ~20 years ago, and they work for most jobs.

    I have to agree with SkokieGuy – health care is the one thing I will pay extra for! I had Lasik surgery last year, and I went to the best place in the area. My eyes are too important to go for “lasiksRus”, or whoever keeps spamming me…

  29. mir777 says:

    Women too should buy the best classic pieces – jacket, suit – even if you’re in a non-suit wearing profession, you’ll need to trot it out once in a while for interviews and such. Buy them on sale.

    Don’t skimp on everyday shoes and sneakers, either. But if you’re going to a party or have to have cute summer shoes for the beach, it’s Payless all the way.

    Buy good bras, cheap panties.

  30. The Warrior-Poet says:

    @novacthall: About the “spluging” thing, I think that one of the bloggers from Fleshbot slipped past the guard. Next time, keep a stiff upper lip, and just look the other way. (We’re Consumerist; no irony, please.)

  31. Spend on the SHOES. Weather you wear dress shoes or work boots to work every day, BUY THE GOOD ONES. I have a pair of $100 black leather pumps (2.5″ heels) I walking-commuted in for two years IN THE PUMPS because they were comfortable enough I didn’t need to swap for sneakers. I’ve worn them when on my feet for eight straight hours. I wore them non-stop for nearly 10 years before deciding the creasing in the leather was showing enough that I should get a new pair at least for court and interviews. Had I bought cheap crappy $20 pumps, they would have hurt my feet and generally lasted a year each. Then, for the love of God, people, TAKE CARE OF YOUR LEATHER. Your purses, shoes, coats will last five times as long if you treat and protect the leather once a year. (It’s skin, it needs moisturizer.)

    I can tell from across the room if someone’s wearing cheap shoes. Or a cheap suit, for that matter. :) But for bar shoes? Cute $20 trendy things are fine. Who cares if they hurt if you’ll be in them for three hours at a time and get beer spilled on them?

    I use two measures, which are basically the same measure, one for occasional-use and the other for daily-use: Cost per use and Length of service. Shoes I’m looking at length of service — this $100 pair that lasts 10 years will be cheaper in the long run than 10 $20 pairs that last a year each. Cocktail dresses you’re looking at cost per use — I’ll wear this five times this year, so this $200 dress is $40/wearing; whereas if I get this trendier-but-cheaper $100 dress that I can only wear twice (as it is inappropriate for some of the events), it’s $50/wearing.

    My mother started me doing this when I was about 13 and had clearly achieved my full adult height. :P It’s surprising how much high-quality stuff you build up over a decade or so, which makes it stop feeling “expensive” because I’m rarely replacing things.

    Right now it FEELS expensive for funiture and some housewares because we’re upgrading from college castoffs to real grown-up furniture (slowly, piece-at-a-time), but I know once we get a few things in and they’re ready to last for 20 years, that’ll stop feeling expensive too, because we’ll know we don’t have to replace anything.

    Another thing I like to do is accessorize; classic, high-quality clothes you’ll wear for years can be trendied up and made interesting by scarves, pins, inexpensive tops, etc. Even overcoats. :)

  32. pandroid says:

    When I’m looking for something, let’s say a pair of pants, I start at the thrift/consignment shops, work my way up to Ross/TJMaxx/Marshalls, and if I haven’t found something of appropriate size/fit/quality, I move on to the outlet malls. I never step foot in a Target, or the regular mall, unless I know it’s something trendy that I’m only going to wear once. And that’s so rare it hardly ever happens.

    It’d be interesting to hear what other people find to be quality brands. I’ve bought both a pair of True Religion ($13) and Diesel jeans ($1) and found the quality of both to be much higher than regular jeans. Banana Republic stuff seems to be about average.. not terrible, but not usually worth the money to buy new, either. Anne Taylor and Talbots is about the same. Van Heusen holds together really well, even through repeated washings, but the dyes they use seem to fade more noticeably than most. Easy Spirit and Naturalizer hold up really well; Nine West doesn’t seem to last at all. Anybody else have brands they want to recommend or un-recommend?

  33. @xphilter: “But I have a hard time seeing a correlation between quality and price”

    That’s part of the problem, and the article touches on it — I’m often the only person in the store turning clothing inside out to check the seams. There can be two $20 skirts right next to each other on the rack; one is a better fabric with finished seams and a lining; the other is cheap synthetic with unfinished seams and no lining. 90% of the people are only checking price; they don’t know enough about construction (or fabrics) to know if it’s good or crap.

    One wedding I was in I got really frustrated with the bridesmaids dresses (well, they WERE bridesmaids dresses) which were made with a cheap-ass $4/yard satin with unfinished seams, half-lined, and cost $180. The bride kept pointing out that they were “really nice” because they cost $180 so they were “high quality.” (And we could, of course, “wear them again” — no, the $4/yard satin makes them look like sleazy prom dresses NO MATTER WHAT.) She’d never heard of the concept of “finished seams.”

    My husband’s favorite jacket, 8 years and running, is also from Structure. :)

  34. Norcross says:

    I think a lot of it boils down to the fact that (a) we all like ‘new’ stuff, (b) we have been geared towards replacing things every few years, and (c) so many items have become technologically based, which usually have a shorter overall life cycle.

    That being said, most of my furniture was built by my grandfather, and is solid beyond belief.

  35. floraposte says:

    Chef’s knives are a good example of an area where price doesn’t reliably correlate to quality, though–Cook’s Illustrated’s top scorer was a $30.00 Swiss job, and it’s freaking brilliant. It’s also a very different manufacturing world now, so the high-end cashmere coat is likely made in the same factory as the T. J. Maxx version with the plastic buttons–and it’s easy to replace those with nicer buttons. That’s where our unfamiliarity with markers of quality means we throw up our hands and buy by color or buzzwords or packaging, because paying more doesn’t guarantee a more rewarding investment.

    SkokieGuy also hit on the head another important contemporary consideration–we like variety. Even the CNN article’s author, rhapsodizing about her mother’s coat, says she wears it once a week; she hasn’t made it a daily coat in the way her mother did, she’s just inserting the classic garment into the contemporary different-every-day wardrobe rota.

  36. ianmac47 says:

    I didn’t know corporate America made anything that lasted more than 18 months anymore. This is the problem with buying American, from the Detroit automakers to clothing retailers.

  37. stavr0 says:

    The Samuel Vimes ‘Boots’ Theory Of Socio-Economic Injustice: [en.wikipedia.org]

    Props to Terry Pratchett for nailing it.

  38. ICherub says:

    I’ve thought a lot about this in the context of consumer electronics, particularly DVD players, etc. People used to buy $500 decks that would last 10-15 years, but now people buy junk for $30 that may last a year. Ultimately, the top end frequently has too little to differentiate itself from the bottom except for build quality, and electronics become obsolete so fast that there is little incentive to pay more for something you won’t want to use in 5+ years (or maybe even 2).

  39. MissPeacock says:

    @mir777: I agree with everything you said, especially the part about the underwear. :) I also think that if you take care of things you buy, they will last a lot longer, no matter how cheap they are. I have bought $10 shirts that have lasted me for years because I always hang them up, never leave them laying around on the floor where they can get stepped on, take them off once I get home from work, etc.

  40. ltlbbynthn says:

    Wow. I have to say I think $90 coats are a splurge. Sigh. I are definitely staying away from Ikea and such places when furnishing my new apartment.

    Shoes are always something you need to spend money on. I have a pair of Doc Marten oxfords that I used for work for several years, and they still look brand new. I’ve gotten to buying cheaper shoes recently, and I really notice the difference. They rub my foot and don’t breathe. I am currently looking at Birkenstocks to find sandals that won’t fall apart in a few months.

  41. The_IT_Crone says:

    Food: I cannot stress this enough- DON’T SKIMP ON HEALTHY FOOD BECAUSE IT IS EXPENSIVE, THEN TURN AROUND AND BUY A BUNCH OF JUNK FOOD. Buy quality food, skip the junk food. It’ll cost about the same and you’ll be a lot healthier. If you must buy junk food buy it as a TREAT, not a staple.

    Clothing: I get almost every single clothing item used, EXCEPT for shoes, socks and underwear. It’s likely that I don’t spend more than $100 on clothing in a year, and that’s mostly bras. Clearance sales and gently used are my most common route.

    Entertainmet: SKIMP SKIMP! I buy all of my videogames either used, or I wait until the price drops. I see movies in the off-peak dollar theaters, and I only go to big-ticket junk (Renaissance festival) if I have a coupon.

    Coupons: Seriously, it’s worth it. Also things like “Happenings Books” are hugely helpful. Packed full of “buy 1 get 1 free” deals, in everything from food to amusement park tickets.

    As a rule I’ll either buy gently used, or pay full price for something quality. The only times I’ll buy something cheap and crappy is when there is a high risk of it being stolen or broken.

    The MOST important thing: stop being OBSESSED with technology a fashion accessory! The money to be saved is astronomical!

  42. Trai_Dep says:

    Sort of the anti-Wal-Mart ethic: shopping for value over price.
    Although, I’d place Acura on a somewhat pricey, but good value car. Hondas are great, but an Acura costs about the same as a stuffed SUV – tell me which is the better value.
    Apple products are the same way: resale is higher, you get everything you need, and it simply works. Versus having to repurchase every year or so to run what’s current.
    The thing is, as the article says, it IS cheaper, especially if you shop for needs vs wants.

  43. Elijah86 says:

    I just bought a Kyocera 5.5in. ceramic knife and its the best knife I have ever had the chance to cook with well worth the $60 price.

  44. PinkBox says:

    @wildwhuck: Careful. Even that quality stuff on sale can fall apart pretty easily. I speak from experience.

  45. cordeliapotter says:

    I guess the problem is that if you want to buy one high quality item, you have to have more money upfront, or use a credit card, whereas if you buy cheap items every year, you have the cash on hand to pay for it each year, and don’t have to go into debt. However, you end up spending more in the long run, though the interest from credit cards and loans might make up the difference.

  46. satoru says:

    @Gann: I agree here as well. I’ve got a very good set of Henkles ‘2-man’ knives that do everything as long as you hone and sharpen them occasionally. Those crappy ‘ever sharp’ knives are horrible. They just very clumsily saw through food and a dull knife is very dangerous because you use more force to cut, which increases the probability that a slip up will give you a nasty cut!

    I’ve also gone for Al-Clad stainless steel pots n pans. They retain heat much better, so I find I can cook more quickly with them. Unfortunately this awesome feature is only possible because the the pans weigh A LOT. I try to go for the mid range only for non-stick stuff. Stainless steel is essentially a life-long investment so I don’t mind going high end. But non-stick will eventually become very-stick as the coating wears down. The mid-high end stuff tends to wear down slower than the low end where flakes of Teflon are literally peeling off the pan :P

  47. MotherFury says:

    Shoes, Boots, Outerwear, Mattress, WORK Computer = Spend the money to get something good.

    Clothing*, dishes, pots, pans, HOME Computer = Walmart, Target, and any 1/2 off sale you can find.

    * Years ago, I heard a fashion consultant mention that French women tend to buy 1 high priced fashionable item, and build a wardrobe around that item buying less expensive (cheap) items to go with it. Made sense to me at the time and even more sense since I’ve practiced it.

    The one thing I won’t cheap out on is underwear. Sorry, but my under-comfort is worth the extra few bucks. Because, if your ass isn’t happy, they rest of you is cranky.

  48. Burgandy says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: I have to admit, I don’t know what a finished seam is (I was the only girl in wood shop instead of home ec at my school) so what is it that you are looking for?

  49. Gokuhouse says:

    Coats: I generally buy cheaper ones but to be honest I’ve only had 1 in the last 5 years…I also have one leather jacket purchased by my wife 3 years ago. I don’t think I’ll buy a new one in many years.

    Shoes: Medium price for tennis shoes and low price for dress shoes. The reason I buy cheaper dress shoes is because I have to have more than 1 pair to match what I wear to work so it’s harder to afford nicer pairs. Also, when I only spend 20 bucks on shoes it’s nice to not feel bad when I replace them in 12-18 months. Also kinda nice to change styles every now and then.

    Electronics: I always shop around for the lowest price for something that I need as long as it has the features I want I see no reason to spend more.

    Bed/Mattress: Buy a nicer one, I have a cheap one right now and it sucks! I just can’t afford anything nicer at the moment, but we will make sure to buy a nicer one when we finally get to replace ours.

  50. satoru says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Being currently involved in my own wedding I can verily assure you that the wedding industry has somehow brainwashed brides on a global scale. Though posted before I think, this video aptly describes the mental retardation a bride goes through once they begin the wedding process:

    Bridal shops are the worst. They’re filled to the brim with cheap, horribly crafted shoes, jewelry, and clothing. I’ve seen better stuff in hole-in-the-wall Chinese clothing stores. The stuff should be made of tissue paper since it’s quality is so poor it’s essentially single use. And if it was made from tissue paper at least then you could blow your nose on it after wards :P

  51. failurate says:

    I recently received as a gift a nice Wustof knife set. After years of using crappy knives, 3 minutes with a Wustof and I’d filleted my finger.
    If you are making the transition to quality, take a few seconds to read up on proper knife usage and then buy some veggies to practice with. If you were using dull knives, your technique can be pretty dangerous with sharp knives.

  52. I think most people think they can’t afford the “good stuff”, but then end up paying twice the amount on cheap crap on the long run.

    Personally I learn from my mistakes.

    Couple of things come to mind…

    Furniture. I bought cheap crap before. I am no longer buying cheap crap, because the cheap crap breaks down a LOT sooner than the good stuff.

    Outerwear, especially leather jackets. Made the mistake of buying cheap leather jackets once or twice. They were done in one season.

    Underwear (tops and bottoms) and t-shirts also, to a degree. I won’t buy the $60 t-shirt, because it’s usually $10 for the quality cotton shirt and $50 for the brand premium anyway, but I’ll definitely stay away from the 5 for $10 deals, because that crap deforms after one wash and you end up wearing something that looks more like a rag than a shirt.

  53. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    @bonzombiekitty: I was just about to say….”yeah, go ahead an pare an apple with an 8″ chef’s knife.

    I would also say that a good cleaver is a must have as well.

    “But honey, the chicken is whole AND frozen!”


  54. synergy says:

    @boxjockey68: This is somewhat off-topic, but it’s in relation to quality of goods: You should read A year without “made in China” : one family’s true life adventure in the global economy by Sara Bongi. I just started reading it and it’s interesting so far.

  55. mariospants says:

    I guess the answer is contained in the question: we’re cheap bastards. It’s long been past when people knew what product they were going to buy years ahead of the purchase. People today buy on a whim, whatever is on sale, discount or demo model. We’re all guilty of it. Sometimes the deal works out well (I still have my first serrated 5″ kitchen knife I bought at a cheapy kitchen store even though my wife has successfully melted the handle twice… and it’s still the most dependable knife to cut tomatoes with that I own).

    I guess that’s another thing: you buy expensive stuff and it becomes broken, run-down crap in no time. My wife EXCELS in destroying things. I bought an expensive life-long brand of pots and pans. We have one left. She literally burned whatever-she-was-cooking on the rest of them so badly they were trashed for good. She kills towels in no time, has destroyed two hood fans via stove fires, a vacuum cleaner or two and just recently I had to dissassemble and dry out our cell phone which had ceased to function because she let the baby suck on it.

    That’s why I buy cheap shit now: if my wife destroys it, I don’t care so much.

  56. satoru says:

    @failurate: Ouch! I hope your finger is ok :P Indeed dull knives generally get you into pretty bad habits of pressing very hard on the food or knife. This is dangerous even with dull knives.

  57. mike says:

    What I don’t like is how companies produce things that are cheaper to replace than they are to repair. Back in the day, TV and VCR repair places were everywhere. Now, it’s cheaper to throw the thing away and get a new one.

    HP is on the same line. Inkjet printers that are dirt cheap but the ink is expensive.

  58. wordsmithy says:

    If you’re not computer savvy, spend the extra money on an Apple product.

  59. Lizard_King says:

    @ianmac47: There are plenty of good items still made in the US. My american made auto is up to 200K miles, the biggest problem for it so far was a weeping slave cylinder at the rear wheel (My Honda died at 189K, with no hope of an engine rebuild). American made bicycles (in the custom range) far exceed the workmanship and quality of their European conterparts, but you have to pay for them. Just singling out a location of manufacture as lower quality is a bit foolish.

  60. Notsewfast says:

    A word of advice: Guys, Do NOT skimp on suiting if you work a professional job. Any time someone comes in to my office for an interview wearing an ill-fitting, obviously purchased the previous day suit, it makes a negative impression.

    Always buy 100% wool suiting, it breathes in the summer, keeps you warm in the winter, and if it is silk-lined (most are), it won’t itch. Cotton pants look like you are going to church and your mother dressed you. Throw away any leather braided belts you have, they are a product of the early 90’s and should be disposed of promptly. Pleated pants are fine if you are over the age of 45, but a young professional should be wearing flat-front slacks (see above reference to your mother and church).

    You don’t have to spend a ton of money, and can get by in almost every situation with about 7 items: A navy suit (2 peices), a gray (or brown)suit (2 peices), 2 pairs of nice wool slacks, and a sport coat.

    Shop for suiting on sale. Places like Banana Republic, who make excellent wool dress slacks and J. Crew have outlet stores and frequent sales. Once you find out what fits, shop their websites for even better deals.

    As stated above, buy a good pair of shoes, rubber soles are OK for ‘causal Friday’, but dress shoes have leather soles. Spend over $100 here and feel comfort in knowing that you can have the shoes re-soled at any time for about $50 and basically have a brand new pair of shoes.

    If you are on a tight budget, replace things slowly, but it is very often that full retail Target suiting is only about 10% cheaper than items on sale at an outlet store.

    Unfortunately the clothes make the man, and I promise that when promotion time rolls around, you will stand out as the guy who “just looks like a vice president” (or whatever job title you are seeking.) This is the advice i wish I had gotten when I started working.

  61. Squeezer99 says:

    you probably buy a coat yearly because the fashion styles change yearly. and we buy cheap crap beacuse we’re cheap bastards, duh. and sometimes higher prices stuff is no better then cheap crap, like the knives mentioned, so why take a chance.

  62. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    @satoru: ZOMG, I love that clip, it’s going straight to my fiancee!

  63. debegray says:

    I learned years ago when working in retail that it made sense to buy high quality clothes, especially shoes. They last forever. Just wait for holiday sales. Also, you can buy gently used, and sometimes new, high quality clothes on eBay.

    Good quality used furniture can be found at yard sales or at Goodwill. You just look carefully.

  64. I would never, under any circumstances purchase a brand new car.

    I’ve always gotten cars with relatively low mileage that were 3-4 years old.

  65. stanner says:

    I have 4 kids, so have learned this over the years:

    When your kids are in jr. high and want to join band, buy good quality band instruments used. Don’t buy or rent cheap ones (the ones the school pushes) – they are harder to master and discourage the kids. Ask folks in your local symphony where to buy, and who the proper tradesmen are for refurbishing them. Get one that’s of the quality expected of an upper level college student. As long as there is no structural damage, a good refurbisher can make a used instrument play like new. Even if the kid quits band (which is most likely), you can sell the instrument for what you paid for it.

  66. ppiddy says:

    People need to remember how to take care of stuff. They’ve totally forgotten that anything built to last a long time requires attention. It drives me nuts to see people letting their durable goods deteriorate. It’s 10x easier to maintain than to repair and the only objects I truly love are the ones I put that maintenance time into. My old bicycles, my 20 year old BMW with 230K miles on it that runs like new, the 1930’s desk fan I just rebuilt, my knives, my wallet and shoes and belt, the bombproof 1970’s GE dryer in the basement, my camera gear, the few nice pieces of furniture I own, etc. If any of those things broke, I’d cry. If my iPhone or my newish Passat died, I’d be pissed off to be out hundreds/thousands of dollars, but I wouldn’t be _sad_.

    Buy half as many things, but spend twice as much on them and keep them in good shape.

  67. @Burgandy: I looked for a picture but failed. :) So if you grab a pair of jeans (Levis or something, nothing designer) and look inside the legs …

    The seam running down the outside of the legs is typically finished with an overcast or overlock. The two pieces of fabric are brought together and stitched, then the edges flailing around are stuck together with a stitch that binds off the raw edge. This is FAIRLY sturdy (especially on a fabric like denim) and will hold up pretty well. On a more delicate fabric, this won’t last as long.

    The seam running down the INSIDE of the legs has two lines of stitching (double stitched — a nice detail that typically connotes quality because it typically shows this following kind of seam) and a “self-enclosed” seam. You can’t see any raw edges because they’re tucked up inside each other by fancy folding. This is a higher-quality seam that is stronger AND lasts longer in the wash-and-wear stress (no seam visible to unravel). It’s also typically more comfortable to wear against the skin, which is why the inside of your jean leg gets it. This kind of seam is technically called a “fell.”

    There’s another kind of self-enclosed seam called a “French” seam which has the flap of fabric flopping around, but the seams have been folded back and enclosed in the fabric, so the seam itself will be stitched twice, but you won’t see the double stitching on the right side of the garment. (Which doesn’t always suit the look of the clothing.)

    French Seams and Fells will last longer and be far more durable than seams with exposed edges. The fell in particular spreads the force that you put on the seam, so it helps eliminate weak points in the garment.

    The lowest seam on the totem pole is a seam that isn’t even overcast (as the outside seam on the jeans) but is just left completely unfinished (raw edges showing) or is “pinked” (cut with pinking shears to make a pattern of “teeth”; it slows unraveling). These are most often seen in lining, which isn’t necessarily a deal-breaker if the outer construction is good, but the highest-quality clothes will be fully finished all through.

    The best thing you can do is go take some clothes from your closet and look at the seams (which hold the garment together) and the hems (which finish arm and leg holes and things). Which ones are wearing away faster than others? Which parts are always finished? Which parts are never finished? Which fabrics tend to be more finished?

    Not EVERYTHING needs finished seams, but you can tell a lot about the quality of the clothing by the seams.

    For example, I tailor my husband’s shirts, and I just overlock the side seams when I take them in — I can’t be bothered to reproduce the fell seam! It takes forever and the overlock seam down the side looks fine (from the outside) and will outlast the shirt, since my husband is hard on his shirts. But when I buy skirts, I take a close look at the seams and the lining, because I’ve found poorly-finished skirts tend not to wear well, even if the seams hold up.

  68. mzhartz says:

    @RGISMYFAVORITECANADIANMORMON: @PinkBox: Exactly! You can’t save up to buy a knife when you need one now. You can’t wait a couple years until you’ve saved up to buy a winter coat. Usually the things that are worth saving up to buy a better quality one of are essentials that you can’t live without.

    I’m just wondering out loud here, but does life span have something to do with it? How much stuff that gets passed down from generation to generation is being held by the older generation longer, so the new generation buys their own stuff instead of inheriting it?

  69. BustedFlush says:

    These buying habits have also worked their way into the very food we eat. If corn fed beef and high fructose corn syrup were suddenly banned, segments of the population would have serious problems feeding themselves.

    I’m done with Ikea furniture. I’m done with McDonald’s. I would rather have a grass fed, dry aged steak once a month than eat a 99 cent cheeseburger everyday. My next dining room table will be hand crafted, solid wood and the price will make me cry, but it will last my lifetime and hopefully my daughter’s lifetime. I’m just sorry it took me long to learn this lesson.

    We’ve become too focused on cost at the expense of value.

  70. synergy says:

    A cheap store isn’t necessarily somewhere you avoid. I have a leather jacket that I’ve had for just under 20 years. My mother bought it for me at Kmart. Granted, I live in south Texas, but it did live through 6 years of harsh Midwest blizzardy weather. So far I’ve only had to repair the collar and that was only because I didn’t moisturize it properly one summer and the leather cracked along the bend. My mistake.

  71. satoru says:

    @Wormfather is Wormfather: One other thing I can suggest for you is that your wedding photographer is going to be money down the drain no matter what. With the advent of digital cameras, any moron with a pulse is buying a digital camera and calling themselves ‘wedding photographers’. My experience is that unlike in days of film photography, in the sub $2000 range price does not correlate with quality in any way. It’s really only when you begin hitting the $4000 range does quality become consistent.

    Also digital wedding photographers have somehow convinced people that burning a god damn DVD of your photographs should cost $500. I’ve have unsuccessfully tried to argue that I could help them cover the cost of their platinum plated jewel encrusted DVD with a 5 cent one (I can only assume it is platinum plated and jewel encrusted because the cost is so outrageous). Or offset their costs entirely buy buying them a whole stack of 500 DVD for 1/10th the price in exchange for ONE DVD with my pictures on it. Alas my attempts were in vain!

  72. ChrisC1234 says:

    @Elijah86: A week after Thanksgiving, I bought a Kyocera knife and potato peeler combo at Sams Club for $10. I’d never heard of a ceramic knife before, but figured $10 was small enough that I could blow and find out if it’s a piece of crap or not. It is the BEST knife I’ve ever owned (I never use any of my other ones). Of course, once I wanted to get more, they were all gone, and I now know how great of a bargain I got. :)

  73. Jaysyn was banned for: https://consumerist.com/5032912/the-subprime-meltdown-will-be-nothing-compared-to-the-prime-meltdown#c7042646 says:

    I have the same two coats that I’ve had since highschool, They are both well over a decade old & still look & wear great. Granted I live in Florida & I’m not hard on my clothes at all.

  74. TropicalParadise says:

    I don’t buy expensive clothes because I get bored of them.

    I have donated perfectly good clothes because I was tired of wearing them. I have been the same size since I was 12 years old. I think after wearing a shirt for 6 years, no matter what the quality, it’s time to get a new one.

    Recently, I have only been buying unique interest pieces and I NEVER buy anything with a) rhinestones (they fall off), b) glitter (it washes off) c) phrases (what self-respecting adult wears a shirt that says ‘Bitch, formerly known as princess’) d) commonly ripped off designer brands (no one I know can tell the difference between a 20$ Louis Vitton knock-off and a $500 real one without careful inspection)

    So maybe that counts as buying quality items?

    Still, I’m in limbo about my upcoming purchase of pots and pans. Do I get expensive ones that will last forever despite the fact that it means I will be lugging it around forever because I’m in university and don’t plan on living in the city I graduate in?

  75. exconsumer9 says:

    Isn’t saying that the rich buy high quality merchandise kind of like saying that a Black Belt always uses more effective moves to defend himself? Of course the rich buy “the best.” They can afford it. The rest of us have to live with compromise to some extent. I could save up for years and years and still not get “the best” of something.

    I bought a straight edge razor awhile ago. So I’ll never have to buy another razor blade again, but the thing was $200. That was alright for me, but there are those out there who would take years to save up that much discretionary cash. What do they do in the mean time? Not shave? The “buy high quality” ideal seems reasonable most of the time, but there are certain things that you can’t reasonably do without: Renting is never as financially sound as buying a house, but if you can’t afford to buy or mortgage a home, what do you do? I think the reason that the poor buy cheap merchandise is not so much an example of irrational consumerism, but an example of the vicious cycle of poverty.

  76. Wormfather is Wormfather says:

    @satoru: Well I feel better about my spending $4500 on a photographer. He had just done one of our friend’s weddings, so we went on down to see him. The reason we went with him is because he took pictures of us at the wedding and then right in front of our eyes, photoshopped 20 pounds off of us, cleared some blemeshes up on our faces and made my package biggger, not that it needed it of course.

    On the DVD front he made the mistake of throwing it in to the our friends so we demanded the same thing.

  77. satoru says:

    My fiancee has aptly noted in many consumer situations that a very SMALL increase in quality, results in an EXPONENTIAL increase in cost.

  78. Snakeophelia says:

    One issue here is that Americans, I think, are no longer willing to defer gratification and “do without” while they save up the money to buy the nicer big things. In the past, it seems like it was more common for young people to use castoff furniture and not buy nice things until they got married and bought their own houses. You could be in your 20’s and own very little furniture, and that was fine. You weren’t expected to have a room full of stuff. These days, though, even college students living in dorm rooms are expected to have a ton of trendy furniture, decorations, etc. Then, as soon as they graduate, they spend all their money on inexpensive furniture so they can have an apartment that is as fully furnished as their dorm was.

    Graduate students still get a pass, though, which is why I didn’t buy a single stick of furniture until I was 30.

  79. @mzhartz: “How much stuff that gets passed down from generation to generation is being held by the older generation longer, so the new generation buys their own stuff instead of inheriting it?”

    I think you have a point, but there’s a contrapoint as well: when my grandparents died and my parents inherited a bunch of stuff, my PARENTS’ castoffs came to us. (And we will keep some of the sturdier stuff for the long haul, but the stuff that’s in more crappy condition, we will pass off to my younger siblings, ranging from 2 to 12 years younger than I am, as we buy real grown-up furniture and THEY furnish first apartments.)

    Similarly, my parents began empty nesting and redecorating for a kid-free home right about when my husband and I bought our first home and my brother got his first post-school apartment, so we got to pick through castoffs there, too.

    We’ve already sorted through a ton of stuff *I* had leftover from college and grad school to give to my younger sister who’s in grad school, and she’s been very grateful for it — inexpensive-but-chic dinnerware, lower-end cookware, decor that’s cute in a dorm but hideous in a house — she gets all that stuff free so she, in turn, can spend more money on higher-quality things that will last. :)

  80. miramesa says:

    But where do you *find* high-quality stuff? All the traditionally good brands seem to have sold out to Made in China or Wal-Mart.

    Where do you get good quality coats these days? Good quality shoes? Good quality camping gear? Someone help me out here.

  81. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    I’m a big advocate of “it’s better to own one good thing than several crappy ones”.

    My cookware is All-Clad. My kitchen knives are Henckels and Shun. Yes, it was expensive, but I accumulated it gradually over the years, and I expect it to last the rest of my life.

    I have a friend who thought I was nuts when he found out that I had paid eighty dollars for a shirt. When I pointed out that I’d owned it for almost ten years (of regular wearing and washing) and it still looked almost as good as the day I bought it, he started to get it.

    And nice doesn’t always mean fancy or expensive. One of my favorite skillets is cast iron. Five bucks at a garage sale, and it will still be going strong long after I’m gone. I have a table that has been in our family since the Great Depression – it’s not particularly valuable, but it’s nice. And it’s unique. I don’t know what it cost originally, but it didn’t cost me a dime.

    When you try to apply this mentality to your whole life, it really is amazing – you have less stuff, but you enjoy it more, and you replace it less. And eventually you discover that when you surround yourself with nice things, you have a much nicer life than when you’re living in a house full of cheap Chinese crap.

  82. knyghtryda says:

    I go cheap on most things (clothes, daily use stuff, etc), but for things that matter, I’ll pay the extra money for the quality things, but only to a point. When I shop for something major, its all about finding the point at which the increase in price does not correlate to the same increase in performance/quality. I’ll use a couple examples. For graphics cards, I tend to buy at around the $200-300 range. While some find this expensive, I find that at this range, the performance is within %20-25 of a card costing $500-600, and a good deal more powerful (more than 2x normally) than a card costing $100, so that $250 goes a long way. The same goes for photography equipment. Yes, I would love to get that canon 17-55mm 2.8, but I got a Sigma 24-60mm 2.8 instead. Why? The canon was $1000, and the Sigma was $200. The canon is is a much better piece (L series glass, wider, built better), but it wasnt $800 better. On the other hand, I am looking at getting a 70-200mm f4 L, which costs north of $500, but the thing is, there’s really nothing in that price range that can compete with the quality of the canon lens, and so I’m willing to spend the money for the quality without having to spend $1000+ going to the slightly better next step up. Other random things to spend good money on?
    1)Auto servicing (depending on your car, that means either the best local mechanic you can find or just suck it up and go to the dealership)
    2)Anything to do with home repair (do it right the first time)
    3)Tires (the most overlooked and most important part of your car. If you have crap tires, no amount of HP, brakes, or suspension is gonna do you any good)
    4)Food (spend wisely but don’t cheap out. You may be able to get away with cheap cereal, but there’s no such thing as good cheap seafood or cheese. Buy the quality stuff and you’ll enjoy it a whole lot more)

  83. MaytagRepairman says:

    I used to buy a new winter coat each year. Usually the zipper would break and I’d just buy a new one. One year I bought a coat from Columbia. I’ve had that coat for so many years now my family is complaining that they are tired of seeing it!

    I also inherited a rough running and hard to start lawn mower this spring somebody didn’t want any more. A new air filter and spark plug and it is running like a charm!

  84. dondiego87 says:

    What about luggage? Not only does Briggs & Riley luggage comes with a very high build quality, but they offer a lifetime limitless warranty. My ex-wife’s parents have had suitcases damaged by airlines to the point where a replacement would have been necessary, but B&R did it for free. I compare this to my mother, who ends up getting new cheap bags every few years because they fall apart.

  85. P_Smith says:

    Pots and pans: stainless steel or cast iron *only*. If it’s stainless, the handle should be bolted on or screwed on, not welded. And yes, quality knives pay off; mine is a six year old single piece of steel (blade and handle) that has outlasted a sharpening stone.

    Furniture: particle board is evil. Buy real wood or metal tables or desks. Even plastic is better than glued sawdust.

    Clothes: natural fabrics only. They feel better and look better, even if they sometimes don’t last as long or aren’t as easy to clean as polyesters.

    Stationery: there are no expensive versus cheap brands, so buy, test and stick with one. And give the company feedback to let them know what they’re doing right, wrong, or need to change.

    Food: invest in a good freezer, at least 7 cubic feet. You can’t buy in bulk if you can’t keep it, and buying in bulk lets you buy higher quality for less.

    Video games: buy from the “reduced” bin. Odds are, your computer has higher specs than the older game requires. To quote Shakespeare, “The play’s the thing,” not the latest or fanciest graphics.

    Newspapers: don’t subscribe, buy the Friday or Saturday paper off the stand. Most news you can get updated elsewhere daily while getting summaries in the week ending paper, plus (in many areas) a free TV guide.

    Glasses: the quality of lenses is usually the same everywhere, so buy based on the wearer. Go for two-for-one deals for the kids (they break and lose them), but buy good ones for the older kids and yourself because you’ll take better care of them.

    Buying: stop buying “things”, period! Too many people buy small “luxuries” to make themselves feel richer (e.g. a toy shoe for a keychain) instead of pocketing the money to stay richer. There are too many things that we want (never mind need) and shouldn’t buy yet waste our money on. No, you *don’t* need a phone that can play MP3s or take a picture.

  86. dtmoore says:

    It makes sense to a point, but I do tend to buy a lot of cheap shit. I’ll buy a 30 dollar set of pots and pans and with the amount I cook it will last me 3-4 years before I buy another set. That’s $10/year – it would take me 40 years of use at that price to pay off a good set. Same thing with knives. Shoes I don’t skimp on however – i wear those everyday :)

  87. Zyada says:


    I, on the other hand, try to always buy quality new cars, then drive them till they fall apart. My current car is a Mitsubishi Mirage that I’ve had eleven years now and the only problems it has are cosmetic.

    The problem that I have with buying used cars is that you don’t know how the previous driver(s) treated the car. That could make a big difference in its actual quality.

  88. Cookware – definite splurge. My partner and I are in the process of replacing cheap “store brand” pots and pans with higher quality cookware (Le Creuset and All-Clad). Typically, we get these on sale at cookware stores or make a trek out to the Le Creuset outlet store, since their factory seconds are usually blemished paint or “out of season” items.

    My mom also bought/buys her cast iron skillets at garage sales – spend a couple bucks for an already seasoned skillet that last years.

    Clothing – skimp and splurge. Skimp on the everyday items, such as jeans, t-shirts and underwear. Splurge on dressier items (pants, jackets, blouses), shoes and bras.

  89. ahwannabe says:

    Definitely agree on the knife thing. One of the best ways to save money is to do all your own cooking, and for that a good knife is essential.

    As far as coats go, I get one about once every 10 years. The reason is simply that my body is so freaking weird that the only way I can get one that fits is to have one custom-made, so it behooves me to choose a style that will last forever.

  90. pandroid says:

    @satoru: The reason they charge so much for the CD/DVD is because back in the day, wedding photographers would hold onto the negatives and only sell you the prints. They would mark up the prints they were selling you, as a second revenue stream to the flat rate they charged for the photography itself. Now that the industry’s gone digital, a CD/DVD is the same as a negative, so if they sell you that, *poof* goes their second revenue stream, hence the large price. However, another reason (besides money) that photographers like to do this is that they want control over the product they’re selling you. If you take the CD and get reprints at Walmart instead of a professional photo place, chances are the photos aren’t going to look as good and the photographer’s reputation might be adversely affected if you show the Walmart photos to all your friends. Some more modern wedding photographers are switching to a flat rate/free CD model, but most of the older pros are having a hard time with the recent change in business structure.

    And if you think I’m picking on Walmart unjustly, I can assure you I’m not. I used to know someone who’d managed both a Walmart photo lab, and later, a professional one. She said the difference in training, quality of work, and even machine maintenance was remarkable. So pro photographers do have a reason to be nervous about that.

    That said, the wedding industry is a ripoff. One of my family members owns a wedding-related web business, and got chided by her wholesaler for not charging enough. Apparently other online retailers were complaining that she was undercutting them. That said, though, it does depend on what you’re buying. If you’re looking at the basics, the wedding industry is usually overpriced. But if you start asking for silk or other fancy fabrics, or special beading, or out-of-season flowers, or other difficult/expensive details, they’re probably not making as much money on you as you’d think. Hand-beading anything is time-consuming!

  91. @miramesa: “Where do you get good quality coats these days? Good quality shoes? Good quality camping gear?”

    LL Bean, Discount Shoe Warehouse if you have the time to hunt and the ability to search several times (Nordstrom’s has good (not spectacular, but sturdy and well made) shoes and a reasonable price if you’re willing to pay retail), and REI.

  92. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    @Eyebrows McGee:

    Cost per use and Length of service.

    Well put. That’s the entire discussion wrapped up in two phrases. Sadly, many people would rather own lots of stuff, or always want the newest, trendiest, latest, etc. I really believe that the issue is about whether you own your stuff or your stuff owns you.

    It’s surprising how much high-quality stuff you build up over a decade or so, which makes it stop feeling “expensive” because I’m rarely replacing things.


    Right now it FEELS expensive for funiture and some housewares because…

    And that feeling is what makes most people balk.

    You can pay $800 dollars for a set of pots and pans that are great to use and will last you for the rest of your life. Or you can pay $80 for the cheap aluminum ones that were made in China and then use the remaining $720 for a nice plastic patio set and a beautiful pressboard TV cabinet.

    Sadly, most people prefer option B. It’s the WalMartification of America.

  93. @TinyBug: Definitely agree on the cookware. I have one good Henckels chef’s knife (made in Germany, not the Chinese sets they sell at Costco), a sharpening steel, and two pieces of All Clad. I will probably never need to buy such things again.

    Americans have spent themselves into oblivion thinking they’re getting a good deal on something.

  94. forgottenpassword says:

    I prefer the cheap stuff. I make sure it lasts. I bought a coat for about $30 at walmart (Its a cheap carhart cotton-duck knockoff)…. I’ve had it for 3 years now & it is still good.

    My $150 mattress is still going strong 4 years now.

    I am cheap!

  95. Jean-Baptiste Emanuel Zorg says:

    @satoru: Hahaha. Excellent video.

    It reminds me of the time I tried to get the girl in the pet store to explain the difference between the “food mice” and the “pet mice”. They were out of “food mice”, and even though I was willing to pay the extra cost she wouldn’t sell the “pet mice” once she knew they were going to be used as food.

  96. tz says:

    Most of the stuff today is crap even if it has a high price tag. There are a few suppliers of good merchandise (e.g. Duluth Trading for clothes), but I’ve too often paid high prices for something that doesn’t work, and where I will be composing a story for the tipline if I try to get it fixed or return it.

    Are the Mattel toys made in china better than those from the dollar store? Maybe. Still “made in china” – but to their specifications, at least when they are really diligent about checking.

    Yes, I will pay extra – a lot for high quality. But I usually get the same junk with a thicker veneer when I try. When I find something of substance, I do go back.

    But the problem is since there will be a significant chance I will get stuck with something with a problem, I’d rather be stuck with a bad $1 item than a bad $10 item. And some of the $1 items have been as durable as the $10 items!

  97. RabbitDinner says:

    Buying disposable, single use is expensive. I have a lightweight, breathable leather condom that’s served me well for years. Just treat the leather and disinfect and it’ll pay for itself in no time.

  98. TouchMyMonkey says:

    @ogman: Unfortunately, this is true. On lots and lots of items, the difference between the $39 item and the $49 item next to it isn’t worth ten bucks. You can thank Wal-Mart for that.

  99. Ninjanice says:

    I grew up with parents that taught us that certain things are worth paying for and to make sure that things are well-made. My mom still teases me about when I was 7 and was looking at a sweater to buy and couldn’t decide between purple and white. Then I looked at the fiber content on the label and saw it was ramie-cotton blend. I went with the white because ramie-cotton fades and I wouldn’t get much use out of it. I’m pretty sure I was the only kid that knew what types of fabric held up well, what a French seam was or how to tell if a garment is well-made.

  100. Powerlurker says:


    All those TV and radio repair shops are part of the reason why the US consumer electronics industry went down the tubes. While they were busy building up their service networkss, the Japanese manufacturers were busy building TVs and radios that didn’t need to be serviced.


    I definitely agree with this. Student grade music instruments are a losing investment, pro-grade ones hold their value very well. My pro-model French horn that I got in high school is quite likely worth more now than I paid for it originally. Another thing regarding instruments, if price is a concern, try to get your kid to take up a brass instrument. Strings (violins, viola, cellos, basses) tend to be incredibly expensive, followed by woodwinds (saxes, clarinets, oboes, bassoons, etc.) While a high-quality violin can easily cost into the five-figures or a sax or clarinet can be around $6000, pro-model trumpets can be had for maybe $2000 or so.

  101. jillian says:

    I think there’s an equation somewhere. We also move around more than in previous generations. Therefore, it’s cheaper to buy inexpensive things and dump them when you leave, than it is to buy quality things & pay to have them shipped or moved.

    My big one is to SPLURGE on all kitchen things – knives, pots and pans, appliances. Only exception is dishes. I have an extremely nice set of wedding china, but our everyday dishes are inexpensive(actually, right now they’re a mishmash of cheap dishes from mine & my husband’s previous residences). But I like to cook, a lot, so having my quality knives & high-end Cuisinart makes sense. We’re also starting to splurge on furniture, but that usually involves hitting sales at high end stores, and surfing the for-sale ads.

    My biggest SKIMP is baby stuff. We got most of our baby equipment secondhand off Craigslist. This includes the travel system (car seat & stroller), the swing, the glider/ottoman, the co-sleeper and the Pack’n’Play travel crib. All my baby son’s clothes are cheap, because he’s going to outgrow them in a couple months. I see no point in buying designer clothes for a small child – it seems to be a grownup form of playing dolls, and showing off for other adults. I may buy him trendy clothes when he’s big enough for it to matter, but right now, a five-for-$10 onesie is fine. Plus, you can T-shirt transfer designs onto the cheap onesies to make them LOOK cooler.

  102. TouchMyMonkey says:

    Oh, and DVDs. I have a whole shelf of DVDs that I never watch. I’m about to put the whole kit and caboodle on Amazon Marketplace because Netflix has made it utterly unnecessary to actually own DVDs, especially the ones I watch once and put on a shelf. I’m sure some other fool will love to have mine for a few bucks apiece.

  103. unpolloloco says:

    Buying cheap crap can oftentimes be the better investment. For example, my $7 iron from Walmart would probably give out in the first month if it was used on a regular basis. However, since I’m in college, I use it maybe once a month, and it will last me for years. Over 4 years, I will have earned $7 in interest on the $50 I would have spent on a higher-quality iron that I can then spend on a new one when this one craps out on me.

  104. PinkBox says:

    @tz: True that. Most of my wardrobe is higher end, but it seems to fall apart just as much as my cheaper clothes.

    Jeans are an exception. They just feel better, fit better, and they last me for years.

  105. Triborough says:

    The problem is that high quality stuff used to be the norm.
    If it got broken it could be repaired for less than it cost to buy a new one. Of course that meant less profits for the companies selling things.
    Just look at the automotive industry.

    Then with these big box stores who wanted to maximize their profits force companies to make cheap stuff in countries where they don’t give a flying feck about the environment, working conditions, etc. and pass the savings on to you.

    I spent about $150 on this 1950s vintage waffle iron. It was refurbished and will probably wind up out lasting me. $150 may seem expensive for a waffle iron, but it will be the last one I ever buy since it isn’t going to break like these POS Chicom prison labour made things you can get from absurdly cheap to absurdly overpriced.

    All hail the Sunbeam CG!

  106. JiminyChristmas says:

    The flip side to consumers being educated about what makes something of higher quality is who the typical sales staff consists of. Most big box or chain retailers are staffed primarily by people who know next to nothing about what they’re selling. Ergo, the consumer can’t rely on trained sales staff much anymore, so they have to educate themselves.

    The alternative is going to specialty shops when you are in the market for something durable and high quality. You might not get the price you would at a discounter but if a knowledgeable salesperson saves you from making a bad choice you will still come out ahead.

  107. luckybob343 says:

    I have a few comments, and they are varied, so bear with me:

    1. I think a large part of our buying habits are established in childhood, when we do none of the buying ourselves but we’re taught, either expressly or subconciously, that new is better. A barrage of toy advertisements selling NEW toys, cars in NEW colors, etc. You go to get ready for school every year, you buy a NEW backpack, a NEW pack of crayons and, because you’ve grown since last year, NEW clothes. Buying new stuff becomes a yearly, if not seasonal, thing and the good vibes of getting new stuff keeps you repeating the behavior into adulthood. The quickness in which technology moves and the fact that you’re buying a new phone, PC, iPod, printer, etc. every 2-5 years certainly doesn’t calm this ingrained urge.

    2. It’s very hard to buy, or at least rationalize buying, high quality goods when so much of what we use now have become commodities. Televisions used to be 10-20 year purchases that could be repaired. Now you’re lucky to get three years out of a CRT set (too early to tell on LCD/Plasma/DLP) and replacement parts aren’t even available from the manufacturers. Furniture, even the high quality stuff, isn’t made well. Our $2,000 sofa is sagging and haggard one year in. Clothing can be held onto longer, but styles change drastically (for instance, is it even still ok for a guy to wear pleated dress pants?)

    3. There’s more pressing economic concerns on this generation than there were on previous generations. When my parents were my age, they had a mortgage payment, gas, electric, water, phone and a car payment. Everything else was expendable income. We pay for more (cable and internet are arguably necessities given the current requirements for school homework) while making comparatively less than the previous generation. So between a $50 knife and a $10 knife set for this non-chef, I’m going for the more for less option.

    Car – buy the cheapest thing that seats my family comfortably and has the longest warranty.

    Furniture – (from here on out) whatever looks nicest and appears to be quality. Brand name and price paid, as I’ve learned, doesn’t mean anything.

  108. MrMold says:

    Barbara E wrote not about richie bitchies that can choose to browse the Beverly Hills Salvation Army, but the drones that have no choice but to shop at the Pennsyltucky Mall store. Makes a huge difference.

    My spouse has used an inexpensive piccolo for years. It was tough to play and seemed to be a bit off. This year we went to Woodwinds and Brasswinds (Indiana) and bought new. Pricey. Ten minutes of play and it was worth it.

    You also have to have the background and education to appreciate good tools and workmanship. If your entire world is WalMart, it is likely that fine clothing, food, jewelry, machines, tools are outside your experience and you would have now way of judging them. Sort of like educations. Many people have tried to tell me that Barney Fife’s Baptist Bible College is just as good as Yale Divinity. To them, it is. I just happen to know better.

  109. digitalgimpus says:

    Great post.

    I’ve found that buying more expensive stuff is sometimes way cheaper. A few examples:

    Computer RAM – college roommate one time decided to buy cheap store brand ram… nothing but crashes, ended up pulling the crappy ram out. Of course no refund. Just wasted money/time. I buy Crucial/Micron online… save but spend more than the cheap stuff. WAY better quality. Have it running for years on machines. Never a bad stick.

    Printer Paper – If you have a printer or copier that has a duplex unit (can print both sides) don’t go cheap on paper… besides looking cheap to anyone who reads something on your paper, cheap paper can jam (and even ruin if it happens just right) a good device. Some of the stuff out there is so thin and dusty your printer just gets clogged with fragments of paper. Good paper is not much more. Don’t need top of the line, good is adequate.

    Computers – Buy a good one and you can easily go 4-6 years with it. Rather than spend $500-800 every year or two. Easier to upgrade too. If your technically inclined you can even build your own to save.

    Mens Dress Shoes – Good shoes last soo much longer, and look soo much better than cheap ones. Again you don’t have to spend several hundred, but moving up a little bit can go a long way. In several months of daily use they can still look good. Cheap shoes look pretty cheap after the initial polish gets a chance to wear off. And polishing them doesn’t really help hide the cheapness.

    Chairs/Seats – You spend a ton of time in them. Think about it. Not only is a good comfortable seat going to last longer, but you’ll prevent injuries (back in particular). Especially important if you have a home office. Back pain to save $50 just isn’t worth it. The doctors appointments will set you back way more.

  110. fever says:

    I’m 27 years old. I’m a man. I own a sewing machine (actually three but the others are never used) and my house is full of hand-crafted (expensive) furniture, most of which was not built by me. The reason people buy cheap crap is that it’s easier to find something that works but is low in quality & price, versus finding something that is very well-made that works well for you, regardless of price. If you’re going to be using something for even just a handful of years, it had better be exactly what you need. However, if I buy a new teapot every two years (poor example, I’m sure), I’m more easily satisfied when the price is low. However, I don’t buy teapots. I have a Mr. Coffee whish has the “Coffee” word removed, and replaced with “Hot Water”.

  111. mythago says:

    @stavr0: Exactly. Yes, there are people who buy useless cheap crap, and there are people who don’t understand the difference between “price” and “value”. But a lot of the ‘amazement’ here is “why are they buying bread instead of cake?”

  112. floraposte says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Wow, great tutorial–thanks! I’d been vaguely aware of these things but never really known them.

    I think another part of the equation is the personal economics of enjoyment. A lot of posters are mentioning enjoyment of their belongings, and I think it’s helpful to know what brings you enjoyment and how much it’s worth to you. I could have bought sheets that cost 1/5 of the price, but I definitely get easily five times more enjoyment out of my nice soft ones. On the other hand, I get about as much enjoyment out of my green Payless shoes as I do from my single designer pair. Amy’s clothes economies would make me crazy and miserable, because they’d eat time I can’t afford and leave me with a collection of reindeer sweaters, while my retail purchasing (online to boot, mostly) would be emotionally uneconomical for her. It’s always good to know more about possible ways to economize, but there’s no one size fits all budget, because we don’t all value everything the same.

  113. Yurei says:

    See, I hate shopping. Especially clothes shopping. If I can avoid it for 5 years, then it’s a great 5 years. Heck, i’d skip out going to get groceries if i could. You can only buy so much online through clicking though. Most of my clothing is at LEAST 5 years old, many of it is hand-me-downs from my grandmother, my mother, and stuff my other grandmother bought used at the Salvation Army for me.

    The last time I went clothes shopping was in October of ’07, and that was to get stuff I absolutely needed, and could not take second hand- bras, panties and socks. I wear all my clothes until they fall apart. The last time I did any shopping before that was in the summer of ’05 because I needed more than 4 pairs of shorts that fit and a few dressier shirts for work. The only time I really splurge on clothing is for shoes- you only have one back, and you need to take care of it, else you will be in for a miserable life by the time you’re 30. and by “splurging on shoes” I don’t own 30 pairs- I buy good quality inserts and sneakers for work, because I tend to be on my feet a lot. I ave a lot less shoes than most people I know- a pair of walking shoes to work in, a pair of running shoes to work out at the gym and jogging in, a pair of slippers, a pair of work/snow boots for winter, a pair of flip flops for the pool/beach, and a pair of dress shoes. That’s all a girl ever needs :)

    I don’t recommend shopping at Wal Mart for anything, but especially clothes- I made the mistake of picking up a pair of pajamas once there and they literally fell_apart_in under a _week. Needless to say I was not happy, and have not repeated the mistake. I tend to buy most everything used that I can, I would much rather own an antique bed room or dining room set made of actual, real WOOD than this pressed sawdust/fiber board crap. you get it wet at all, and forget it, you’ll prob have o throw it out eventually. Wood gets wet, you wipe it off and you’re good to go. Most of the furniture in my grandparents’ house is real, solid wood from some relatives’ house, or bought back in the 50’s or 60’s.

    What really annoys me today though is electronics. Why is it, a refrigerator down in my grandparents’ basement made and purchased almost 40 years ago still works fine, but one that was less than ten years old craps out and has to be replaced? the same goes for the microwave, dishwasher and probably our stove soon enough. I would much rather spend double or even triple the amount on an appliance that lasts 10+ years. My mother still has a tv that works that is older than I am, and i’m 21. Cars too, are irritating in how cheap they are made and how quickly they fall apart. I am much more a fan of buying antiques or at least cars from the 80’s and 90’s knowing I can get my money’s worth out of it.

  114. HogwartsAlum says:


    ppiddy: Hear hear! And remember, just because something is “cheap” doesn’t mean that you can’t take care of that also.

    I buy stuff used all the time, except for clothes (I’m tall for a woman, and most things don’t fit)and shoes (ick factor!). I got a solid wood coat rack at the flea market for $12. All it needed was a little glue because the hooks were loose. I bought several cheap cotton blouses for summer at WalMart, and when I wash them I only put them in the dryer for a short while to get the fabric softener on them. Most washable clothing (especially jeans) lasts much longer if it’s not fried to a crisp in the dryer. Just hang it up. Saves energy, too.

    I bought one $100 pair of Ecco shoes a few years ago for a work thing where I had to be on my feet for three days and they are still good. But I spilled grease on them when taking out the trash. So I will never buy nubuck shoes again. It’s too hard to clean them. For the money, something else would have been better, because now they’re ruined.

    Back when U.S. Cavalry still sold surplus clothing other than BDUs, I bought an authentic Swiss Army overcoat for $32 through their catalog. Gray wool, with a large collar that I can turn up and button under my chin, sleeves that are actually long enough AND adjustable, and cool buttons with the Swiss cross on them. I have it dry-cleaned once a year. It’s probably 15 years old and still looks great!

  115. poetry1mind says:

    I think this is a very interesting post. Since I am only 29 and just experienced the whole “living on your own” gig, I have learned alot.In the last five years I have been a big saver and often called cheap.

    So, when I moved into my first apartment, I went to some place called “American Furniture”.This is basically the same place Welfare gives their client’s vouchers to buy furniture. I should have known better! I brought a bedroom set (that I was allowed do a layway plan) and a mattress set. I probablly paid about $800 for everything.

    I thought I did a good job. However not even a year later, my dresser would not close, paint started to chip off, and I could feel the mattress springs sticking my butt! Needless to say, I felt like a moran. However, a lesson has been learned.

    In the mix of all of this, I had started getting into personal finance, reading “Millionaire Next Door” and learned to buy quality items, that will last alot longer.
    Also, I think my generation’s spending habits has alot to do how we were raised. Most us received new jackets, expected new kicks, and school clothes every year. Most of us don’t even think to buy a quality coat that would last us for 3-6 years. I do think with the way our economy is going, alot of us are forced (without even realizing) that we have to find better spending habits. Hence me needing a new computer. It is 8 years old and instead hoping on the next great deal, I am waiting for it to die or become unbearable.

  116. Shadowman615 says:

    Someone gave me an electric knife sharpener as a gift recently:

    It’s a bit over-the-top for a small family kitchen, but it’s been wonderful nevertheless.

  117. Shadowman615 says:

    I forgot to add, there are plenty of those available for a more reasonable price. They do a much better job than I can do with a steel.

  118. I hate this article. Not because it is badly written or incorrect. It is neither. The issue is, that this means my parents have been right this whole time. I didn’t understand why they spent so much on unfinished wooden wardrobe or several thousand dollars on pots and pans, but still refuse to get cable or finance a vehicle.

    I guess the irony is that even though I am mostly debt free, & I out earn my parents, they still probably see more of the money they make than I do.

  119. JaguarChick says:


    To me, buying good luggage is worth it, BUT there are other items which you would probably want to make the splurge on (clothes, etc) before you get to luggage. If you have to choose between good luggage and a good suit, choose the suit. That being said, I’ve had tumi luggage for several years and am thrilled with the quality and construction. When I use it, I feel like whoever designed it actually thought about someone using it to travel and really tried to anticipate the needs of a traveler. Tumi will also refurbish/spiff up the luggage because it does tend to get banged up no matter what you do. But depending on your travel needs, good luggage can be worth it.

    Shoes, especially women’s dress shoes, are one of the crucial splurges to me. A cheap pair of shoes can ruin an outfit AND your feet. Buy some good pairs and get to know a cobbler. Four years ago, I found a pair of Jimmy Choo dress pumps that I loved. They were comfortable, classic, looked amazing, and went with everything. I bought them in several colors and actually bought an extra pair of the black. HUGE splurge, but I will NEVER again have to shop for dress pumps.

    For clothes, buy classic. Ignore the trends…make your own trends and style. Learn how to shop for your body type and buy quality ON SALE. Don’t impulse buy! Learn a little about fabric…try for natural fibers…cotton, silk, linen.

    I’ve never understood the buy cheap crap mentality. I don’t think a lot of people factor in what it takes to replace cheap crap. You can’t just look at the price, you have to think about the time you will spend buying a new one, the costs of getting to and from the store, the annoyance of something being broken or not working well, and so on. Many people tend to view purchasing something as a objective ‘price-only’ transaction, when there are multiple subjective costs to consider. What it really comes down to is what your time is worth to you. You really need to put a value on your time and go from there when it comes to purchasing things.

  120. farcast says:

    I guess this isn’t the best post to mention that I work at an audiophile shop that sells a $25,000 record player? :) Oh, that doesn’t include a $5,000 needle cartridge and $2,000 tone-arm. But let me tell you, it sounds incredible! It reminds me of Epcot Center where they had a $4,000 audio system in one room and then a $40,000 system in the next room playing the same song. 99% of people don’t know the difference or don’t care, but there is a difference!

  121. Tylas says:

    I buy most clothing items (shoes, boots, coats, hats, etc) at a camping store (REI, Moosejaw). They have rigorous items that are proven in the harshest of environments, so if you are in the city it will last and last.

    And I love my Global 8″ chef knife! Won’t cook without it, but you also need a pairing knife and a flexible deboning knife if you cook a lot, but seriously those are the only three knives you need. Just keep your knife sharp enough to cut bread.

  122. Orv says:

    @Yurei: I’m not with you on the cars, sorry. Cars made today are much more reliable than cars made in the 1980s. Most modern cars easily make it to 200,000 miles, whereas cars made back then were considered worn out at 100,000. Unless you’re a shade-tree mechanic who wants something easy to work on at home, stay away from the 1980s heaps — especially American makes.

  123. cozynite says:

    I have a friend that does buy one new coat a year. The kicker? It’s either a black, brown or dark gray coat. Every single time. I used to be like that too, but then I got smart. Now, I will only purchase clothes when they are pretty threadbare and I actually need it.

  124. FangDoc says:

    A lot of us who buy classic, well-made stuff wonder why people can’t recognize poorly-made junk when they see it. Well: have you been in a new-construction house recently?

    So many of these homes are made out of plastic and tissue paper, as far as I can tell. Craftsmanship is a lost art. Even the resin/pressboard/fake woodgrain trim isn’t matched and mitered properly. The siding isn’t parallel. Everything is made to look good from the street, but up close it’s a mess. Yes, it’s “new,” but what’s it made of? And more importantly, what will it look like in 5-10 years?

    Someone recently backed their car into the facade of the Ruby Tuesday’s at the mall near my office. That fake stucco was actually some sort of heavy-duty styrofoam underneath. It got me wondering what vandals could do with a hot knife and a tank of acetone.

    And no, officer, I was out of town when that happened.

  125. @luckybob343: “Clothing can be held onto longer, but styles change drastically (for instance, is it even still ok for a guy to wear pleated dress pants?)”

    Part of this is finding YOUR style rather than what’s IN style. Some classic things will be around forever, and those are good to spend on for quality. But the more important thing is finding the things that suit YOU … whether they’re in or out of fashion, they’ll look right on YOU. Some seasons I buy nothing at all because not a bit of it is my style, and even though it looks fine on me and may be well-made, it simply isn’t “me.” The pieces that are “you,” it won’t matter when fashion changes.

    It also helps to have a couple honest friends who can tell you if your style happens to be “what you were wearing in 1993 and now looks totally ossified and outdated” rather than “an eclectic selection of pieces that suit you personally and express your style, some of which happen to be from 1993.”

  126. ChuckECheese says:

    There are inexpensive good quality knife options available. You also need to consider how you will clean and sharpen your knives. If you’re a busy home cook, you want a knife that is reasonably priced, good quality, but is also easy to keep clean and easy to sharpen. People who purchase expensive knives understandably freak out about putting them in the dishwasher. You want a knife that you don’t have to baby. Plastic handles are easy to grip and easy to clean and sanitize.

    The other issue is knife sharpening. You should have a steel for maintaining the blade each (or every other) time you use it, and if you use your knives frequently, you should sharpen them once or twice a year. Like barbers, all the good ol’ knife sharpeners are dead, and in many cities, you will have a hard time finding somebody to do a good job of it, in a reasonable amount of time at reasonable cost. Therefore you may need to buy a sharpener to do it yourself. Expensive high-carbon stainless is difficult for an at-home sharpener to maintain on your own, so again it’s better to have a cheaper knife with softer metal, so you can use at-home tools to maintain a sharp edge.

    The Martha Stewart Easy-Grip 3-pc knife set is modeled after the Cook’s Illustrated-recommended Forschner knives. They are more than adequate for at-home use, and a set costs less than $10, including an 8″ chef, 6″ slicer, and 3 1/2″ parer. You will have to go to K-Mart though. [www.kmart.com]

    And for you ceramic knife lovers, you are going to be in a world of hurt when your knife becomes dull, and must be mailed away to a specialty shop to be sharpened (2 weeks and $40 later), or worse if the blade chips, which instantly turns your knife into trash.

    Check out NexTag or similar to find the following products:

    Chef’s knife: Forschner Victorinox Fibrox 8″ <$25;
    Martha Stewart Easy-Grip 3 pc knife set <$11.

    Paring knife: FORSCHNER Fibrox 4″ Paring Knife <$6

    Serrated knife: I found an 8″ Henckels serrated bread knife at Target for $10 last year.

    Knife sharpener: AccuSharp Knife and Tool Sharpener <$15;
    Anolon Universal Knife Sharpener 3-Stage Wet Stone <$30.

    You can have good knives and a sharpener for less than $70, possibly as cheap as $25 if you snag the Martha deal.

  127. Trai_Dep says:

    @satoru: Err, I’d respectfully disagree. What you’re buying when you get a decent photographer to document your event is his/her eye for what makes a memorable photograph. It’s the same as any art: anyone can buy canvas and paints, but talent separates the good from bad. Who wants an ugly painting defacing their wall? Probably the same person that skimps on hiring a part-timer wedding photographer.
    You’re forget what everyone ate and drank, what horrid things the bridesmaids wore, or what arrangements went on which table. Your pictures and videos are forever: spend accordingly.

  128. Orv says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: Ever since watching “What Not To Wear” I’m paranoid about hanging on to clothes for too long. Actually, I stopped watching because I figured sooner or later they’d have someone on who had clothes from the same era I do.

  129. e.varden says:

    Quaity camping gear: North Face products. Store: Mountain Co-op (Google)

    Canoes designed/made in Quebec or Minnesota.

  130. Breach says:

    I agree, If I feel I can skimp or wont use something much, I wont spend much on it.

    But for things I use all the time, Id rather go spendy once and be happy with it instead of cheap and hating every second until I throw it away some day.

  131. Ubik2501 says:

    @Eyebrows McGee: I definitely like the “Cost Per Use” and “Length of Service” principles, and I think you can combine those with “Price/Performance Ratio” for a solid purchasing rubric. I’m occasionally a little careless with money, but that’s my general purchasing strategy.

  132. Parting says:

    @masonreloaded: One thing against used furniture : BED BUGS.

    If you bring these f@ckers to your house, it will cost you a fortune to get rid of these. So your savings will be your nightmare.

  133. JDAC says:

    I have had the same coat since 2001, still looks pretty good too. I’m not really one for name dropping, but I paid good money for this Kenneth Cole coat and it’s more than paid for itself.

    While I wouldn’t call Skechers shoes splurging as such, I had a pair, worn daily, that lasted some 3 years. Since I stop paying peanuts for shoes, they last a lot longer.

    But I will skimp on things too, like DVD players. I’ve gone through a bunch of those identikit Trutech (who?!) DVD players.

    But I will never buy cheap kitchen knives again, that’s a waste.

  134. Techguy1138 says:

    There are many sides to this.

    One of them I noticed is that America is highly mobile now. When I was in college I had pots,pans glasses and furniture. It only worth it move with some of the items,moving is expensive, and buy new at the new location.

    The other thing I hate to admit. Low price items ARE good quality. I have all clad pots and pans that cost over $100 each and I have a Chinese made cuisneart pots. Both are aluminum core stainless steel pots and pans and cook just as well.

    I noticed a years(8?) ago that the quality on the cheap Chinese crap improved greatly. This goes for most items. Tools, car parts, appliances, AV gear, fans, etc…

    I buy American for personal reasons. Some of the items I get ARE legitimately higher quality but also require maintenance. I have a $200 pair of Red Wing boots. I also have had a cobbler resole them. Without a cobbler that $200 pair of boots is only slightly better than a $50 pair.

    Almost all products now are made in similar factories. The $30 knockoff dvd player is the same as the $100 Phillips made there earlier in the day. That pair of Levis was made by the same Mexican worker who makes $10 walmart specials.

    The quality difference has greatly disappeared on most items.

  135. DWalk says:

    Replacing everything every 5 years has a really bad effect of filling landfills. We throw out tonnes more stuff than our grandparents did, and our kids and grandkids will pay the price.

    Buy quality (in cash, of course) and if it lasts 20 years, thats 3 sets of things that don’t end up polluting the environment.

    Tip for cookware: buy professional grade/restaurant grade pots and pans. Built way better and usually cheaper than good cookware you get at LnT. Nicer to cook with too.

  136. Orv says:

    @Victo: Yeah, and I’ve heard of people getting body parasites from thrift store clothes, too. Ew.

  137. Imaginary_Friend says:

    @xphilter: This is true. You used to be able to go into a high-end store like Bloomingdale’s or Neiman-Marcus and come out with clothes that were of better quality, but nowadays, these stores sell a lot of the same mass-produced, made in China crap that the lower-tier stores sell, just at ridiculously higher prices.

    If the author tried to buy a “classic cashmere coat” like her mother’s today, the weave would be so thin she’d be able to see through it.

  138. varro says:

    Tip: shop at yard sales in yuppie and rich neighborhoods. The wealthier someone is, the more likely they are to get rid of things that are “out of style” or “don’t go with my new decor”, and aren’t used that much.

  139. I live in a poor neighborhood and work in a rich one. I could tell what habits wealthy people have that poor people don’t have, and buying quality over quantity is one of those things. Specially in the two things that matters: Clothes and food. If you buy less clothes, to buy something of real good quality (custom made is best), then you’ll be playing in the rich kid’s playground. Do not confuse them with celebrities, who dress like bums unless a designer gets them a red carpet outfit. Do your research and find quality. Ask wealthy guys. A friend just retired his 1983 Mercedes Diesel, which means he did his homework back when he bought it. I trust Apple products for electronics. Every Mac I bought since 1991 has performed trouble-free until I gave them away or sold them, it takes forever for them to become obsolete and have a good resale value.

  140. temporaryerror says:

    @Amy Alkon:
    You sure do like to talk about yourself whenever the chance presents itself! We get it.

    Anyway, for a VERY short time in college, I was suckered into selling Cutco knives ($15/hr in your spare time!) and while I think that they are a bit over priced, they are fabulous knives. I’m sure that there are better knives out there for less, but I’ve gotten a great deal of use out of them, and the ones with the serration rarely, if ever need to be sharpened and they do hold an edge. I think that with the discount that I was given, it was a great purchase.

  141. RabbitDinner says:

    @temporaryerror: Yeah, completely OT, but where’s the mod? Roz you’ve srsly got to stop the shameless self-promotion

  142. quagmire0 says:

    Freecycle and Craigslist all the way! There are always plenty of people trying to either get rid of stuff that you can use, or having to sell some pretty nice stuff that they couldn’t afford in the first place.

    Overall, the idea of the article is right on. There are things that you should skimp on and things you should splurge on, and there are also a lot of things that you just shouldn’t buy in the first place – lest you need to sell them to me on Craigslist. :)

  143. yagisencho says:

    Years and years ago, when my wife and I started dating, I was struck by her seemingly extravagant taste in merchandise. Louis Vuitton wallet. Burberry jacket. Tag Heuer watch.

    But after getting married and watching her build a fat personal savings account while mine stayed slim, I learned that *I* was the one being extravagant, with my constant replacement purchases of computer hardware and media.

    That watch of hers is 12 years old and looks/functions good as new.

  144. wildness says:

    Fantastic advise. It is how I make my own purchasing decisions. I have had the same high quality winter outerwear for the last five years (with no end in sight) and I have pants that cost twice as much but have lasted four times longer.

    One place to always buy the best you can: footwear. Whether it is running shoes, hiking boots, or shoes for the office, taking care of your feet is of utmost importance.

  145. drjayphd says:

    @varro: Yard sales, thrift stores, you’d be amazed what you can get in the wealthier areas. Goodwills in Norwalk and Westport have been pretty good to me, all things considered. ;)

  146. proficiovera says:

    Skimp on dress shirts? I don’t think so. There’s few things worse than squirming in an uncomfortable cheap shirt. Best bet is 100% cotton. Also make sure you get properly measured for size.

  147. RabbitDinner says:

    @proficiovera: I agree. While I don’t think it’s necessary to necessarily get a $3000 suit, I want a suit that doesn’t look or feel cheap, and a comfortable dress shirt. I don’t necessarily need an Armani or Zegna shirt, but a mid range comfortable one. You’re not your fucking khakis, but I’m a major advocate of dress for success. Mattresses and sheets as well.

  148. zeroaxs says:

    Many people commenting on this particular article keeps saying… “buy the best quality knives you can afford.” Well, for people like myself, who have some disposable income, often times “the best” can look like those knives that have people’s names associated with them, etc. How do I know which ones are “the best?” Is there a particular brand I should be looking for, or a specific look to the pieces? HOW DO I KNOW WHAT IS “THE BEST?”

  149. Crabfeast says:

    Umm… use the internet?

    Honestly, Whenever I research for the “best” product, I goto places like Amazon and type in whatever I’m looking for. If there aren’t enough customer reviews, I just type in “[product] reviews” in Google and browse around for a legit site with a decent amount of reviews.

    I mean, there has to be a certain number of people out there in the world who like knives, and some of them probably love them enough to dedicate a website to knives. The internet is your friend.

  150. I don’t get this… why people buy stuff like this.

    I used to buy a bunch of this rubbish and, just as others have learned, it breaks and falls apart. Now days I always buy extremely high quality products which, though they cost more, last an extremely long time. From a nice well-made Japanese car (GM was my mistake) to Apple Computers, excellent kitchen items to good appliances. Everything has been holding together for years and I’m surprised whenever something breaks. I’ve got more money each month now than I ever did while I was constantly shopping for that rubbish.

  151. Shrink_Ray_Bandit says:

    @zeroaxs: Knives have a couple of things to look for. First, anything with a wooden handle is right out. Today, the best knives are made with a plastic/composite handle. The next thing to look for is called the tang. that is the depth the blade extends into the handle. A “full tang” is best meaning it extends all the way to the base of the handle. Sometimes you can see it (like in a Cut-Co knife, sometimes you can’t (wustof of Henkel) but high quality knives will always advertise this feature on the packaging. (or if buying from a blade shop, the salesman will be able to tell you.) NExt thing are rivets. If the knife has rivets you want them to be nickel, not steel. They will last longer and wont corrode or break as quickly. If the knife doesn’t have rivets (again, Hinkel or Wustof) then you OK too. Look for “carbon-stainless” Steel which is the highest quality steel type. Both high carbon and rust resistant, it will hold it’s edge well without rusting, and is an excellent home-chef alternative to high-carbon varieties. Also, look for “forged” steel not “stamped or pressed” steel. Sometimes it’s difficult to find these days but the extra will payout big over the lifetime of the knife.

    A really good starting knife if you are looking to buy that “one perfect knife” is a Santuko style, or a similar “french chef” Both will be 7-10 inches and will be flat 80% up the blade from the handle and then round up to form a sharp tip, This is a great knife to begin with because it is very easy to handle and does about 75-85% of anything you will ever need a knife for anyway.

  152. Shrink_Ray_Bandit says:


    Umm… use the internet?

    I find it highly amusing when people give this advice on this website, happens all the time though. I didn’t realize the consumerist was an off-internet subset of the online-world.

  153. Inglix_the_Mad says:


    I’ve got to disagree with that. I make sushi and I have a special knife just for that. I wouldn’t dare cut some things with it, because it must remain razor sharp.

  154. Shrink_Ray_Bandit says:

    @Shrink_Ray_Bandit: way to close your tags idiot.

  155. dragonfire1481 says:

    The answer to this is very simple: Companies make more money when you have to replace your stuff every 10 months rather than every 10 years. It’s a very deliberate tactic by businesses.

    To make products of TOO high a quality would all but eliminate the prospect of repeat customers which is what every business thrives on.

  156. tex1ntux says:

    I’d splurge on: Pots/pans, knives, messenger bag/man purse, clothing, mattress, couch, table, in home laptop repair warranty w/ accident protection, phone repair/replacement insurance, food, car/transportation, appliances

    I’d spend a moderate amount on: Home Entertainment, PC (build it myself), Laptop, cell phone / plan, gadgets

    The things I’d splurge on all make my life more comfortable/easier. I would see the benefits of these things daily, unlike a Voodoo laptop which (although nicer than my Dell) wouldn’t be exponentially better than my decently specc’d laptop. If you buy quality bags/clothes/appliances/furniture/mattresses/etc they might just last you the rest of your life. Other stuff will be outdated in a few years and there’s no point.

  157. Joey_Brill says:

    Many busy people are given choice-less options when buying. They are offered one unrealistic extreme and then two crappy affordable alternatives. They make do while yearning for the ‘good’ option. This means they buy twice because they allowed themselves to be rushed.

    I learned in the early Eighties to skimp on natural fibers. When times are tight, more people avoid dry-cleaning bills. Great pieces of clothing are donated to resale shops because people cannot iron or hand wash. This means that it’s now time to treasure hunt.

    I splurge on food because I have time to prepare it. If I worked a 60 hour week I’d go back to cheaper frozen food.

    I have three pairs of dress shoes that 1. are at least ten years old 2. have been resoled 3. are conservative (no square or pointy toes) 4. Cost more than comparables, but were not outrageous.

    I also have some Gucci, Prada and Ferragamo mistakes thrown in the back of the closet. I paid too much to throw them out, but I’ll probably never wear them again.

    I sell used furniture for a living. Shit furniture has been with us forever – I still see 1800’s versions of Ikea every once in a while. Price has very little to do with quality and more to do with manufactured trend. If you HAVE to have mid-century modern, you will pay more for high and low quality pieces than any other period. You have to look at joints and structural materials (like the person examining seams). There are wonderful bargains out there. Great pieces are still being created. It takes time, though.

  158. verdantpine says:

    @Balentius and @miramesa: and other people who are looking for a really good pair of shoes that will last a year or more. SAS Shoes are hard to beat (and no, I do not work for them!) They were recommended by my podiatrist (got a bunch of things wrong with my feet) and I’ve been a customer for about, oh, 15 years. They are like walking on air, very solidly-made, classic styles, and hand-sewn out of San Antonio, Texas. They run around $100-150 but they really will last a long time. They make very comfortable shoes, unlike a lot of cheaper women’s shoes. They also have a great reputation (think Costco) for treating their employees well and keeping them happy. The two women who helped us try on shoes were employees for 17 years and 28 years respectively, gushed about working there, and gave us a bunch of free shoelaces.

    In short, they’re as solid and time-tested as the clothes from J. Crew, Banana Republic, LL Bean, and Land’s End. My spouse did merchandise testing out of college – this was ten years ago, but soft testing felt that Land’s End and Banana Republic were two of the best brands to go with. Old Navy was pretty crummy, but Gap (which owns them) middle of the road. I have secondhand clothes I’ve bought from LL Bean and J. Crew that have lasted for years.

  159. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    years ago my mother got me an inexpensive ‘tomato knife’ for $2 at a discount store. i wish it had a brand name on it so i could track them down. once i was using it to slice ham and accidentally cut through the bone with it.
    insanely good knife, never seen another one like it anywhere. would love to buy them for everyone i know.
    but i got lucky. usually a $2 knife isn’t worth using more than a few times

    i used to skimp on shoes but after thinking about a pair of hiking boots [timberland] i have owned since 1992, the last time i had to buy shoes i skipped payless [$5 shoes, lasted 8 months] and instead i went for a pair of clarks. at $100 it seems expensive up front [expensive to me anyway] but according to the company’s history, i can reasonably expect them to last ten years. plus, they feel wonderful

    good pots and pans are a dream to own. i inherited my grandmother’s ‘revereware’ and aside from the copper being a little worn off the bottom, they have been around since the 40’s and look [and function] better than the saucepan i bought a couple of years ago

    most of the clothes i buy at goodwill/salvation army/cause for paws thrift stores ARE brand name. some with the tags still on. the good quality stuff actually lasts long enough to be donated instead of getting thrown away.

    the things i never ever skimp on:
    toilet paper
    the stuff that keeps my hair from being a frizzy nightmare

  160. RvLeshrac says:

    I hope this has been covered… but I can’t read all of the fluff.

    I covered it in the comments about REI.

    I have yet to buy an expensive pair of boots that outlasted, on a price-performance scale, a cheap pair of boots ($50 random sears boots: more than 4 years. $150 Timberlands: 1-1.5 years). The same goes for a lot of other items, as well. I have pairs of generic khakis that have outlasted dockers (gifts) by many years, and cost less than half as much. I have numerous shirts that have outlasted various “name brand” (again, gifts) shirts by the same margins – hell, I have polo shirts from ten years ago that look and feel far better than any of the $30-$40 shirts I’ve been given, and they only cost $10-$15.

    And that’s not the least of it. I pay $50 for heavily-used CRTs and get 2-3 years out of them, while I see people buying new LCDs all the time because their $200+ LCD has broken and they can’t wait 2 weeks to a month for warranty service, or the LCD has just gone out of the warranty period.

    The problem is that price is not tied to “quality,” price is more often tied to “whatever we think you’ll pay for it.”

  161. @RabbitDinner:

    A good suit goes a long way. I have a Brioni that I bought at a thrift store for $12.

    Most I ever spent on clothes is $25 for a lined Burberry trench.

    Shoes I buy new.

  162. The most glaring example of Americans buying crap is the fact that over 90 percent of computers run Windows.

  163. atrixe says:

    @Eyebrows McGee:

    Then, for the love of God, people, TAKE CARE OF YOUR LEATHER. Your purses, shoes, coats will last five times as long if you treat and protect the leather once a year. (It’s skin, it needs moisturizer.)

    You just made my day, but now the quote “it rubs the lotion on its skin” keeps running through my mind.

    And I definitely agree about the footwear. When I was 18 I bought a pair of standard eight-eye Dr. Marten’s boots for about $100, which to me was a hell of a lot of money to be spending on footwear at that age. I wore those boots practically every single day for five years before the creased leather at the base of my toes finally cracked and gave way, showing a peek of my socks. During that time I worked many retail jobs and walking was my primary mode of transportation. I was so happy with how well those boots held up that I didn’t bat an eyelash when I spent the money to replace them with an identical pair. The boots are still $100, and to me $25 a year for super-comfortable footwear is tough to beat. On top of that, all they needed was a little cleaning and shoe polish to keep them from looking scruffy.

  164. u1itn0w2day says:

    @SkokieGuy: desccribed it well-the lastest and greatest mentality.

    Everybody wants everything.Everybody wants to be hip and cool along with items they desire.

    But the statistic on sewing machines is more telling than knowing how to sew.It also shows the willingness of the average US consumer to be more self reliant and repair things and not just throw them out creating a disposable mentality.Now a days you have people hiring people to do anything from screaming at you to workout or figure out a 1040ez form.

    Self reliance=survival but since the basics of survival seem taken care of I think people still need to hunt for something-a bargain in this case.

  165. FangDoc says:

    @atrixe: You have heard the song by the Greenskeepers based on that scene, I hope? If not, here’s the video:

    And yes, that’s Ted Levine, the lieutenant from Monk, as Buffalo Bill. Awesomeness abounds.

  166. Channing says:

    asymitric information.
    Do I buy x for 10 dollars or y for 100 dollars? For all I know they might both last just as long. Why don’t I got with x?

  167. u1itn0w2day says:

    @Powerlurker: I agree to a point on tvs,the problems with tv service was I think things like length of down time combined with price help reduce the amount of service wanted.It all goes back to instant gratification.

    What scares me is that I’ve read a lot of things where people are having trouble getting 2-3 year old tv’s fixed because of lack of parts or expensive parts-usually a board not manufactured anymore.That’s a load of crap,to me the manufacturer should have to make critical parts for more than a year or two.Sell the patent for it if you don’t want to manufacture it anymore.

    But then you have planned obsolesence which is 3-5 years which by coincidence is the average payment schedule for many items.As soon as your ‘old’ is bought and paid for it’s ‘time’ for a new one.Take cars for example,I don’t think you can even get anything longer than 5 years of financing and by the 5th year is when things start wearing out because of age and not miles.

    Planned obsolesence makes it tougher for service people to keep up as well which slows them down or takes them out of an entire sector of the business.

  168. mdovell says:

    Well having worked in retail for a bit here’s why

    1) they don’t see things as a cost per use. Why pay $1-1.25 for a 12oz can of soda when you can get a 2 liter for the same price? Price is what you pay…cost is what you pay per use or per time.

    2) they don’t know where to find good things. I still know people that hardly use the internet.

    3) Most good quality products are NOT sold in major retailers and definatly aren’t at “the mall”

    Here’s some things I do and don’t.

    1) don’t have an expensive hobby. Golf and skiing come to mind immediatly. It’s ok as a hobby but for God sake look how involved half this stuff is!

    2) DO find out how to get things free. Libraries have passes to museums and you can access free dvd’s and cd’s etc

    3) don’t get tied up in contracts if you don’t use things that much. I have a prepaid crap cell. ALL I want to do is make a call and send a text…PERIOD. There’s enough wifi in the towns around me to access the net…where I go to school is one of the largest wifi hotspots in the state anyway

    4) DO maintain things that are important. Cars obviously but even little things add up. Heck I’ve cleaned my sneakers…nearly look new. If your inside then don’t wear them…less wearing means they’ll stay new longer. Take care of anything that costs money to run

    5) Learn to cook more…it’s cheaper than eating at places. Even fast food can add up…$5/day is $25 a week is $100 a month is $1,200 a year! If you do eat try to avoid the liquids as they simply spike up the salt to get you to drink more at more $$$

    6) Invest in yourself before anything else…education, eating right, exercise, maybe join a gym

    7) network to get more things free. I have a family member that works at a office coffee place. I won’t have to buy coffee again. Plenty of retailers have employee discounts and that can add up etc.

  169. ShariC says:

    Americans aren’t the only ones who buy cheap crap. There is a plethora of cheap stuff in every country in the world. In Japan, 99 yen shops are everywhere and stuffed with cheap Chinese goods.

    Also, I agree with encouraging people to spend more on quality items that endure the test of time. However, I disagree with the assertion that people don’t know quality and that’s why they buy crap. There is a downward spiral that comes with cheap goods and low wages. It’s all well and good to tell someone making $8 an hour to buy a good knife, but he’s got $10 in his pocket now when he needs the knife and the one you’re recommending may cost $15-$20. If you’re poor and you need a knife, knowing that you can buy a cheap one for a buck and still buy a gallon of milk and some bread and still have change in your pocket is going to push your to choose crap over better quality.

    The Consumerist featured an article just before this one about how joblessness has just increased and wages are flat. Americans are losing ground against inflation. The poor are getting poorer by the day. They’re going to buy cheap because they have to survive in the short-term and lack the economic breathing room to invest in custom-made suits and high quality kitchen knives.

    Sometimes the people who theorize about these issues are so far removed from the realities of the poor and working poor (who are the biggest consumers of low quality items) that they come off as not having a clue about how things are in the real world.

  170. chwebb1 says:

    Electronics: Splurge: If it lasts a long time, and I don’t have to rebuy items and dispose of them properly, it not only saves me money, but it also saves me time. I actually don’t really enjoy getting new computers and iPods – it’s too much of a time sink. Buy good stuff – Apple, HP, Epson, APC, Western Digital, Motorola, JVC, Sennheiser, Wacom, any Harman International products (JBL, Harman Kardon, Infinity), and Logitech are all good bets.

    Shipping: Splurge: If it doesn’t arrive in a million pieces, and the shipment isn’t delayed over and over again, it’s worth the couple of dollars. I personally use DHL or Federal Express for these reasons.

    Food: Skimp Buy what’s inexpensive or on sale, but don’t always do bargain basement, especially if it isn’t up to par.

    Gasoline: Skimp: Get it where it’s cheap. It’s all the same stuff no matter where it’s purchased.

    Furniture: Get name brand stuff, but don’t spend too much on it.

    Clothing: Whatever is on sale as long as it looks nice. I’m cheap.

  171. lihtox says:

    Spending a lot of money for quality requires you to trust the company providing the high-quality good, unless you can really tell the difference on your own (i.e. inspect the stitching on that shirt, look at the construction of that table, etc). Since more of the things we buy have hidden microchips and whatnot, making the device more complicated, it’s harder than ever to inspect an item and determine if it’s of good quality. That puts one in the position of trusting the company…but those big corporations have made a bad name for themselves, creating an air of suspicion that they’re all out to screw us whenever possible. If you can get a kitchen knife for $5, therefore, a $100 knife is going to immediately set off alarm bells: possible scam. Throw in the fact that it’s hard to quantify quality: is the $100 knife really 20x better than the $5 knife?

  172. geckospots says:

    @satoru: heh. Wedding flowers.

    When a close friend of mine got married, we bought 4doz long-stem roses in red and white for about a hundred bucks. Then we made the bouquets and corsages ourselves. The process could have been a little more organized ;) but it saved the bride buckets of money.

    /planning to elope one of these days

  173. OrtensiaNepos says:

    Also on computers in this new age:

    Learn to put one together yourself or have someone knowledgeable that you
    trust put one together for you. If you buy component based and just upgrade
    the parts that need as you go you end up spending ~50% for ~200% of the
    performance vs. retail, with generally higher quality components if you
    research what to look for. And although they are a bit daunting at first,
    computers are basically like really expensive LEGO sets where the only real
    worry is not delivering a static charge to any of the components while
    working on it.

    Another thing to chew on, if you’re running a computer that’s a couple years
    old and it’s starting to feel a little sluggish, have someone experienced
    (preferably someone who’s not out completely for your money like a lot of
    these big chain computer shops, pc techs are a lot like car mechanics in
    their variability) look at it before just tossing it out and getting a new
    one. They’ll be able to identify if the computer’s just ‘sick’ and needs a
    software ‘doctor’ session or if it could improve dramatically in its
    performance by just putting $100-$200 into a chokepoint in your hardware.
    (Often times it’s RAM (memory), that’s not always someone just trying to
    sell you junk.) One of my pet peeves on the geek side of things is seeing
    otherwise great computers hobble along on one leg.

  174. Hodo says:

    Personally, I have a “buy it once” rule for all of the ‘durables’ around the house (furniture-like items). Meaning: save until you have enough money to buy something that is built well enough that you will not need to buy it again. For example, a solid wood desk and bookshelves (no laminates under ANY conditions, no matter how much we like the piece) and a couch we paid $4k for 8 years ago — seems like a lot, but the couch has a solid oak frame with furniture quality joinery, etc. Eight years later, still solid. Of course, if you’re going to follow this philosophy, you need to keep two things in mind: 1) don’t purchase trendy looking items (they may be functionally sound after 8 years, but you’ll be wondering “What the hell was a I thinking?”), and 2) you still need to take care of them (i.e., clean them regularly and try not to spill your Cap’n Crunch all over them. Generally, I follow the same philosophy with shoes: don’t buy trendy, buy classic (or at worse non-descript) high cost, high quality shoes that have sewn on soles and con be re-soles repeated (I have one pair of Allen Edmonds that has been re-soled 3 or 4 times and the uppers look great). Those re-soles cost me $40 or so each, so not a huge savings but . . . very nice looking pair of shoes. Same with luggage. We buy Briggs & Reilly which is pretty darn expensive, but they have a “repair/replace it for any reason for life” warranty that has paid for several of these bags multiple times over (I travel a LOT). To me (YMMV) the time required to find a high-quality good that I like is well worth the extra cost of knowing I likely won’t need to buy it again for quite some time.

  175. BadBoyNDSU says:

    floraposte – Cook’s Illustrated’s top scorer was a $30.00 Swiss job

    @floraposte: What’s the name of it?

  176. cerbie says:

    @ICherub: …but that’s not really apples to apples. I use a 5+ year old DVD player that was $50 brand new. The extra money meant a better remote and display than the $30 ones. They don’t just break (usually).

    A new craptacular Aladdin Stanley still costs a great deal ($35+), and is a far inferior quality thermos to the old ones. I’ve given up on mine. My father’s surviving one is just a much better design. I’m thinking of trying a Nissan.

    Laz-e-boy recliners are not the quality they once were, either. They’ll actually wear out in 5-10 years.

    There are many things where you just can’t buy it as good as it used to be, anymore.

    I carry a $50 flashlight on my keychain (Arc). It has made up its cost many times over in saved time and stress, and it will certainly outlast my need for it. I wish I could say that about most things I have. Sometimes I make it like a bandit; yet, sometimes, it’s a turd, where I paid extra to have it polished.

    1. No doubt. I got even some toys that could have been new used, and have, so far, had two backpacks (one through 6th grade, the second all the way through college…it started coming apart during my last semester). And so on…it wasn’t until after I was out of college that I used up all my school pens and notebooks…that my parents were required to get as supplies in middle school. Most of it, though, was good stuff.

    2. I can’t agree with 3 years out of a CRT. That takes negligence, I think. No doubt on furniture (see above). Clothing is also getting worse, though. Brands that used to make good stuff have been going downhill. Levi, Eddie Bauer…I might find my next Nautica jeans not last several years.

    3. Really big issue. It seems like there’s more, because all the stuff has gotten so cheap, but relative to goods like food, it’s not so much.

    RAM – he accepted not getting a refund? I’d have sat there blocking a register and making a scene for that. If it can’t pass memtest, they need to take it back.

    Whole PCs: yes. I just had to deal with an old Celeron box (600MHz, 32MB RAM, old Intel IGP)…I had a better PC built from leftovers of PCs my dad had upgraded that was far superior when this thing was brand new. It wouldn’t have cost, even then, more than $100 more for one that would be an OK XP box, with a little RAM upgrade. It’s not as bad today as it used to be, but not getting the bottom of the line can yield great results. You just have to know where to spend. You can take an OK PC cand make a nice one, take a slow and give it a few more years, and then let a geek retire it into a neat *n*x appliance…but, a PoS stays a PoS.

    Shoes: yeah, and I should go find some, one of these days. Dockers last 1/2 to 1 year, but they fit (I have wide flat Native American feet). It’s exactly the boots thing :).

    Chair: not to mention, the cheap ones don’t last…like most anything else. But, good ones tend to be so costly as to be prohibitive. Another very good example of why the cheap stuff sells like it does.

  177. MrEvil says:

    I think a big problem with Americans’ obsession with cheap shit is the fact that too many are brainwashed that your neighbors and friends will think less of you if you wear the same coat for more than one season. That to somehow use the same coat over and over just labels you as a pauper and your friends won’t like you anymore.

    Maybe we need to get back to more of the touchy feely crap everyone so maligned back in school. Y’know, how real friends don’t give a shit how much money you have or what clothes you wear? Then again, when I was little I watched Mr Rogers’ neighborhood rather than the patronizing drivel that’s on kid’s edutainment TV these days.

  178. Con Seannery says:

    I don’t even wear any kind of a coat more than a light fleece, which has lasted 5 years and has NO SIGNS OF WEAR! Also, my list:

    -Mattress: your back will thank you
    -Pillows: Your neck will thank you
    -Speakers/Headphones: You don’t need anything too pricey, but get a good quality set, you’ll enjoy it
    -Hard Drives: Data loss is not a joke…

    -Food: Store Brands work fine…
    -Keyboards: You gamers, I know the urge to get a kickass keyboard, but then I look at my ’97 HP keyboard and realize, it works fine
    -Guitars: Epiphone as about as good as Gibson, so if you just want a guitar that plays pretty well, save with the Epi, it’s not bad at all…

    Computers are tricky. If you just want it to check email, surf the web, and do some word processing, just get a cheap Wally World special. If you’re looking for mid-range (easier gaming, a little video editing, things like that…) it’s either a fairly decent store-bought, or a home build. If its anything higher end, build it. HTPCs you should focus on fast hard drives and reliability, heavy on the RAM, fast CPU, but you don’t need much of a GPU.I know most of us if not all know all of this, but I like to share around advice, helps people get good products or save money.

  179. battra92 says:

    @Amy Alkon: Somehow I don’t think going to Paris makes you more frugal. I save money by not going. You can smell BO infested bums anywhere.