Author Topic: Frugality vs Quality  (Read 6386 times)

cdan

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Frugality vs Quality
« on: July 15, 2013, 09:08:36 AM »
Hi,

A beginning mustachian from Denmark here. (I'll introduce myself formerly later :) )

My wife and I have build a bunch of quite needless debt, but we have started to work on that. In that process we are facing a number of questions. One is: How do you balance the frugality vs quality?

One example is clothes: $30 shirt would last a year. A $100 shirt would last at least five. So given that, the $100 shirt would give a better value and is also less consumption.

But what about food? We have a clear preference to locally and correctly grown food, that is balanced with nature. But that is labour intensive and labour in Denmark is quite expensive.

So our food budget is at $700 a month, but if we just kept going to the local cheap supermarket, we could probably cut it in half. While it could possible make us financially independent after nine years instead of ten, it is also against one of our core beliefs - chosing right food.

What tradeoffs do you make in quality vs frugality?

hybrid

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Re: Frugality vs Quality
« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2013, 09:15:40 AM »
Hi cdan,

    There is no magic number regarding when you should or should not retire, or how to change your lifestyle.  Everyone will do things just a little differently from one another.  If local food is a big part of your life then keep that, just as long as you are aware of the total cost with eyes wide open.  You may have many opportunities to optimize that othgers will not.

    In regards to quality vs. frugality, if quality saves you money in the long run then that is also the frugal choice.  There is a world of difference between being sensibly frugal and being needlessly cheap.  But once again, each decision needs to be looked at with eyes wide open.  In the United States one might look for that $100 shirt gently used at a thrift store or consignment shopt at a fraction of the original price.

Best of luck going forward!

brand new stash

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Re: Frugality vs Quality
« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2013, 09:28:33 AM »
I think that a lot of people overspent using the quality argument that you make.

One way to look at quality, is that if something really does last longer, there should be a used market in it.  If you think the $100 will really last 5 years, why not buy it used.  A two year old shirt probably will cost $10 or less.  So if you really think it retains its value, buy it used.  That way you spend $10 every three years for a 2-year old shirt (annual cost $3.33)  instead of the low quality shirt for $30 a year or even the brand new high quality shirt for $20 a year.

rollie

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Re: Frugality vs Quality
« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2013, 10:45:43 AM »
 Buying quality food is an important part of our life, and I can see not wanting to bend your principles on that. At the same time, you could save money on your groceries by shifting to a more economical diet, one that relies less on meat and more on fruit, vegetables, and legumes like lentils. This is also healthier. For example, a nice quick dish is fried brown rice with shiitake mushrooms (organic, frozen), peas (organic, frozen), egg, soy sauce, and onion. This is cheap and healthy. You can complement this with a little meat or fish. Lentil soup, kidney beans, chick peas, etc. are economical and are protein heavy so they can replace meat.

On the issue of shirts, my husband's job requires dress shirts, and he prefers cufflinks. To prevent that we use the wasteful dry-cleaner, we buy non-iron shirts. That's a nice shirt.  It can easily cost $100. But I make sure to look for clearance sales at the top stores and online, and buy three at a time when the price comes down to $40 or so. It always does. He keeps the quality of a $100 shirt without the price. I do the same for myself and my clothes. The main point is, never buy in a rush. You will spend a lot and pay full price. Wait and buy at a good price. Anyways, you probably don't need that shirt right when it hits the store. Waiting a month or two will save you lots.

smalllife

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Re: Frugality vs Quality
« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2013, 10:54:46 AM »

FrugalZony

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Re: Frugality vs Quality
« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2013, 10:58:38 AM »
I am very frugal with expenses, but when it comes to food I make a conscious choice for quality.
I always have. When living in Europe our food budget was much higher, because of some of the choices
we made and the lack of deals compared to the US.
It's a bit easier here in the US, as I coupon, which helps a lot to find deals, even on fruits, veggies, mostly organic etc.

I realise this is harder in Denmark, where food is ridiculously expensive, but you still can manage your choices.
Buy organic, where it matters, non organic where it does matter less (google top 10 foods to eat organically),
eat less meat, buy in season, look for sales, find new recipes that work with products that are in season or that you get a deal on, buy in bulk etc.
You can probably shave off quite a bit by doing this

Eating well and healthy is a good investment in your future so it will save money in they long run
Just don't fall in the quality argument trap for anything. Justifying French champagne every day,
because it's cheaper than having it in a fancy restaurant would probably be counterproductive ;)

Then choose where you are willing to be more frugal in other areas and compensate in those
Mine are clothes, eating out, cars, cable, phones, gadgets etc.

There is no one answer, everyone has their priorities, good food is one of mine, LOL!

cdan

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Re: Frugality vs Quality
« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2013, 11:02:42 AM »
Thank you both for feedback!

I agree with the thrift shop comments, unfortunately it is quite hard to find much useful, let alone something that actually fits. For 'stuff' ... we buy used as much as we can find. The few things we do have :).

The thing about using the quality argument for overspending have been a bit my concern, and we are still working on the right balance. In the end I do believe that giving serious thought before a purchase, sleeping on it for one or thirty days and counting what is the actual cost in the long term - if you still feel it is the right purchase, it probably is.

But it is a slippery slope, and especially new-comers who do not have it in their blood might benefit from having certain steps to go through when considering the purchase.

Like for example Joshua Spodek: A model to help stop acquiring stuff

@rollie:
Thank you for comment. We agree totally with that diet. As we would only buy meat from animals that have a good life, we basically don't :). Once a month we buy wild-caught fish, which sets us back $100, other than that it is veggies and dairy. Unfortunately Denmark is one of the most expensive food wise (43% above EU average) - silly country to live in and love quality food, I know :).

And also good point with the clearance sale.

rollie

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Re: Frugality vs Quality
« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2013, 11:25:45 AM »
Thank you and good luck!

Freeyourchains2

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Re: Frugality vs Quality
« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2013, 01:49:09 PM »
Research the quality, then bargain it for less, to maximize your profits!

chucklesmcgee

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Re: Frugality vs Quality
« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2013, 03:39:28 PM »
In terms of sheer savings by buying a longer lasting product, say an incredible toilet plunger ($100) over a cheap one ($9) I'd basically consider:
  • the amount I'd need to spend buying and replacing cheap plungers in the time one good plunger would last
  • the amount of interest I could earn by investing $91 and buying a cheap plunger instead of a good one
  • the hassle of buying new plungers
  • the chances the "better" one would still break prematurely or might be lost, stolen, damaged by something, etc. and end up requiring a replacement anyways
[li] any additional benefits of the better plunger (easier to hold, better clog removal, comes with special attachment for making wine)
[/li][/list]

In a lot of these situations I end up deciding the medium-cheap or dirt-cheap item is usually best. I have far too often had really good items be lost, clothing hit by unfortunate stains or a stray thornbush, expensive sunglasses sat on that the "well it'll last 5 more years" reasoning goes to pieces.

Often when there are actual functional benefits besides longevity I'll go with more expensive options. For instance I've recently had a number of custom dress shirts made for me. Even though they are $120+ a pop, they fit absolutely perfectly and mean I'll never need to try on another dress shirt again. If I ever want another, I can just select another fabric on the site and use my saved measurements.

smalllife

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Re: Frugality vs Quality
« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2013, 03:40:48 PM »
The other thing I think about is the environmental impact - quality also tends to coincide with less harmful composition and byproducts, so that is something else I take into consideration.

TrulyStashin

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Re: Frugality vs Quality
« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2013, 11:34:50 AM »
On Saturday, I bought a beautiful pair of hardly worn leather shoes (with leather soles) for $3 at a local thrift shop.  I checked online and found the exact shoe selling for $80.

You can find that $100 shirt for less than $10.  You just have to get savvy and look.  And realize that you likely have enough clothing/ shoes anyway.

onehappypanda

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Re: Frugality vs Quality
« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2013, 03:54:47 PM »
The way I see it: I have a limited amount of money to spend while still hitting my savings and debt-repayment goals. How I divvy up that money is a matter of prioritization.

Say I really want new dress shoes but once I've payed off debt and savings (which go first), I don't have enough money for $100 AND fancy groceries. Then it's up to me to choose between them- would I rather have the shoes, OR the nice groceries? Would I rather buy cheaper shoes that month, or go to the regular store for the rest of my groceries? Which is more important. There isn't a right answer, it's all about your priorities.

Or you can get creative like the others mention and look for ways to maximize your quality within that existing budget so you can have both.
To cut back on food: Only buy organic food if it's one of the dirty dozen, or whatever. Only buy local for animal products but be more flexible with plant products. Buy directly from a farmer, in bulk if possible, and store what you don't eat right away to cut costs. Don't buy food unless you know you can finish it all (obviously). Buy cheaper in-season fruits and veggies vs. more exotic ones.

OR to cut back on clothes: Only buy clothing you really need (you don't need new shirts every year). Or look for used clothes that are still high-quality: remember that a used item can often be altered or repaired for less than the cost of a new item. I can buy used boots and take them to a cobbler for new soles for less than the cost of comparable-quality new shoes, you can take a shirt or pants in, or you can even learn to alter clothes yourself.

I've used any and all of the above methods to make my quality preferences fit within my budget needs, so like I said I don't think there's an answer. Cutting back on price while maintaining quality often takes some level of compromise, less convenience, more time and effort on your part- it's up to you to decide if that's worth it of course.

Katnina

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Re: Frugality vs Quality
« Reply #13 on: July 18, 2013, 12:31:21 AM »
One way to cut back on your food budget would be to grow some of your own food.  If you don't have outdoor space (we don't), you can still grow quite a lot indoors.  Start with a few herb plants, and you can expand to lettuces, peppers, cherry tomatoes, strawberries, etc, etc.  if you do have outdoor space, even if it's a tiny balcony,  use it!  I don't know if they do this in Denmark, but in the us more and more family farms are starting CSA (community supported agriculture) programs.  Basically, consumers pay the farmer directly for a share of the season's production.  Perhaps there is a farm near you that has one?  For us in NYC, 23 weeks of produce = $612 for the season.  We pick up our produce once a week and its usually between 8-15 pounds/week.  We freeze or can a little every week and that helps keep our food costs down in winter.
High quality food is a great investment in your health & the health of the planet-it's worth it to buy organic & locally grown when you can!