Author Topic: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?  (Read 7467 times)

Wexler

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Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« on: August 09, 2013, 05:29:31 PM »
When I buy new things (tools/clothes/food), I always check the labels to see where things are made.  I am willing to pay a big premium for items made in the US, and I always prefer things not made in China.  But, this is an expense way to buy things, and it may not be Mustachian.  How do other people handle this?  Any tips or considerations for the most Mustachian way to consume ethically, even if it costs more?

MoneyCat

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #1 on: August 09, 2013, 06:22:19 PM »
I generally try to buy local first, because then I am guaranteed that the money gets to the right people.  Places like Farmers Markets, Craigslist, Etsy, eBay, etc. are good that way.  Then, for any big ticket item, I try to buy from an American (preferably union-made) source.  I'm particularly partial to Ford automobiles, for instance.  After that, pretty much every cheap foreign-made item is the same, so I go for whatever I can get that is the cheapest, which is usually over Amazon or at a wholesale club.

bUU

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #2 on: August 13, 2013, 06:39:31 AM »
I feel everything needs to be weighed up against everything else and consider the balance. Our being frugal, financially, has to be balanced up against how that impacts our "frugality" with regard to our time and effort, and balanced up against how it affects other people, and the future we'll leave to the next generation.

Kenoryn

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #3 on: August 13, 2013, 07:02:56 AM »
It's not really more expensive if you're buying well-made things that you know will last. If you have the buy the cheaper thing three times and the more expensive thing only once, the cheaper thing would have to be a third the cost to be worth it. Not to mention the annoyance and potential extra cost of having to replace and dispose of things, esp. large things like appliances. Of course, made in USA (or Canada) is not necessarily an assurance of quality. Find things with a good reputation that stand behind their products. Try Lee Valley. Everything they sell is tested and they really do stand behind what they sell. They have great stuff for homeowners, gardeners, woodworkers, and DIYers. Lehman's also carries a lot of made in USA stuff. I find it is ridiculously hard to find clothes made in Canada, and that's probably true of USA too, and there are still sweatshops in the U.S. so you have to be careful with that anyway, so I compromise by buying only used clothes or locally made clothes from Etsy or local stores. Also buying used anything inherently limits the damage in producing it, and as a bonus you can often get used good-quality made-in-USA stuff, since it lasts, at a reasonable price.

ncornilsen

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #4 on: August 13, 2013, 09:33:54 AM »
When I buy new things (tools/clothes/food), I always check the labels to see where things are made.  I am willing to pay a big premium for items made in the US, and I always prefer things not made in China.  But, this is an expense way to buy things, and it may not be Mustachian.  How do other people handle this?  Any tips or considerations for the most Mustachian way to consume ethically, even if it costs more?

I buy for best value.  Country of origin doesn't factor into my decisions.  Sometimes, I buy the cheapest thing I can find, since I won't use it much and I could replace it three times for the cost of the 'durable' brand. That said, I do my best to avoid union made goods, since I find the attitude bred in those manufacturing shops leads to inferior goods, and ones which lag the market in quality and features. (Chevy, Dodge - I'm looking at you.)  Having four bullets shot into the side of your house when you're 6 years old because dad didn't want to go on strike for three weeks over $.20 an hour, seeing how they destroyed your grandpa's business, and getting your tires slashed by union thugs also doesn't make me want to support those workers either...

clutchy

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #5 on: August 13, 2013, 09:40:48 AM »
I asked my dad this weekend if he had a circular saw I could borrow.  He said sure and we went and got it turns out he has a router and a decent sander as well.

They're all craftsmen tools from sears.  They're all made in the USA and they all still work.  They were purchased in 1987 for a 2000 sq. ft. addition to my folks house. 

it kinda blew my mind... 26 years old and still working flawlessly.   I'm 33 and I pretty much swelled up with pride.


It makes me sad how far we've fallen and how we've gutted the center of this country to be replaced with walmart.

swick

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #6 on: August 13, 2013, 10:04:12 AM »
This is always a tough one for us to balance. We try to shop as local as possible and used as much as possible, but I get slammed all the time for shopping online.

We have very limited options on our town, I get that they have to charge more and if it is a good store, I'm treated well and they do their best with service and products, I will promote them and shop. But I will not pay more for horrible products and be treated like crap for the sake of shopping locally. As there is no competition, standards are low.

I usually weigh durability and price when I shop. I sure look at labels, especially with food. I do like how the Super Store puts country of origin on their produce. 

Usually I shy away from things made in China, but I had an interesting discussion with a sporting goods company who is family owned here in Canada and does have their products made in China, but in their own factory that is rigorously monitored.  Still has the "Made in China" tag but I'm happy to support them and mentioned they should be promoting their manufacturing process because many people do shy away from products made over there.

At the end of the day, you have to do your homework. If having clothing that isn't made with GM cotton or produced in sweatshops is important to you (like it is to me) you really have to do your homework. It'll probably depress you though.

Forcus

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #7 on: August 13, 2013, 10:15:10 AM »
Perhaps this is a counterpoint but in the same way consistent with what others have said. In my personal economy, cheap (but usable) Chinese tools actually have helped me to be more self reliant. That is, for metal fabrication, I have shrinker / stretchers, presses, sheet metal brakes, media blasting equipment, etc., made in China but of sufficient quality to be useful. If I had to buy solely American products, I wouldn't have any of these, because they would be much more expensive and I simply couldn't afford it. A US-made Snap-on / Matco hand tool is generally about 10x what a foreign product is and to be sure there are differences but not justifiable for me as a part-time user. For sure, I'd LOVE to have all US-made stuff, but I cannot / will not pay 5-10x for items that provide no additional value to me.

swick

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #8 on: August 13, 2013, 10:20:41 AM »
I totally see where you are coming from Forcus, sometimes price and practicality make the decision, and sometimes there are no other options. It is frustrating though when you buy an ocilliscope for 500 trying to be mustachian and it works for 2 times before you have to take it apart and re-soder the connection to the on/off button because it was done so poorly the connection falls apart.

Forcus

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #9 on: August 13, 2013, 11:35:41 AM »
I totally see where you are coming from Forcus, sometimes price and practicality make the decision, and sometimes there are no other options. It is frustrating though when you buy an ocilliscope for 500 trying to be mustachian and it works for 2 times before you have to take it apart and re-soder the connection to the on/off button because it was done so poorly the connection falls apart.

Yep, and certain tools and items I have are US-made or come from typically high quality countries, where that quality is critical. Micrometers and such come to mind. I still remember buying a China made machinists type tool with the inches divided in to 12th's... lol.

Wexler

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #10 on: August 13, 2013, 11:51:20 AM »


They're all craftsmen tools from sears.  They're all made in the USA and they all still work.  They were purchased in 1987 for a 2000 sq. ft. addition to my folks house. 

it kinda blew my mind... 26 years old and still working flawlessly.   I'm 33 and I pretty much swelled up with pride.


It makes me sad how far we've fallen and how we've gutted the center of this country to be replaced with walmart.

I have heard similar stories about the older stock of craftsmen tools.

One area where we struggle, and I think a lot of the MMM community does too, is with higher quality foods and groceries.  For example, our local grocery story usually carries Chinese garlic.  Because I try to stay away from any Chinese-origin produce, I will head over to Whole Foods for the California garlic, which is at least 3x as much.  To me, it's worth it and the $1-2 difference is no biggie, but the total cost of making a lot of those decisions is relatively high.  My grocery bill makes me feel so non-mustachian. 

Jamesqf

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #11 on: August 13, 2013, 12:21:18 PM »
In my personal economy, cheap (but usable) Chinese tools actually have helped me to be more self reliant. That is, for metal fabrication, I have shrinker / stretchers, presses, sheet metal brakes, media blasting equipment, etc., made in China but of sufficient quality to be useful. If I had to buy solely American products, I wouldn't have any of these, because they would be much more expensive and I simply couldn't afford it.

It's not just the expense, it's that before you had places like Harbor Freight selling cheap Chinese tools, the ordinary person would have had problems just finding those sorts of things.  American companies could have made such tools, and marketed them to the general public, even if they cost a bit more, but they chose to ignore the potential market.

  Because I try to stay away from any Chinese-origin produce, I will head over to Whole Foods for the California garlic, which is at least 3x as much.

While I just get the garlic from my garden :-)

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #12 on: August 13, 2013, 12:39:08 PM »
I think its frugal to pay a little more for an item that will last 3 times longer than a cheap item.

But I always try to buy local made items first and support local businesses too.

Forcus

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #13 on: August 13, 2013, 12:43:56 PM »
It's not just the expense, it's that before you had places like Harbor Freight selling cheap Chinese tools, the ordinary person would have had problems just finding those sorts of things.  American companies could have made such tools, and marketed them to the general public, even if they cost a bit more, but they chose to ignore the potential market.

I think part of that is true and part of it is a larger systemic issue. For example, I buy engine hoists, engine stands, and gantries at HF as they are cheap and reasonably sturdy. The majority of the cost is in the steel and welding since the pieces themselves are not really of an intricate design. If I wanted to start a business here in the states I could not even buy the steel for the cost of the ENTIRE TOOL SHIPPED FROM CHINA (I checked on this with steel vendors at the time is why I feel confident in my statement) - let alone the equipment, the infrastructure, the building, the employees, marketing, business costs, liability etc. So did I ignore a potential market? No, I found the business case unsustainable due to a myriad of reasons. China's cheap labor, cheap steel (both of which may be technically inferior but adequate for the intended use), cheap shipping, trade agreements, etc. etc. etc. The problem is I don't think for the low technology items the difference would be a bit more. I think it would be orders of magnitude based on my experience.

On the other hand, the inverse appears to be true, at this and earlier points of time, in technically detailed product. I work for a company that actually has a engineering / fabrication / production facility in the U.S. We could move production to China, but looking at the total cost - the cost to train / certify the population for the quality we require, the costs of learning to do business in China, let alone the standard business costs - wouldn't make sense. It may never make sense as the people of China crave Western style trappings and go through some of the same issues as the U.S. did in the 20th century. In fact, I think we've passed the point where "move everything to China" is the default choice, based on the narrowing lifestyle disparity which naturally results in higher labor costs. So in that way I don't fear that we will ever lose all of our manufacturing base.

But I still wish that we could figure out a way to bring some of our manufacturing back home, at all levels of complexity, without inciting a trade war.

MoneyCat

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #14 on: August 14, 2013, 05:56:09 AM »
Watch out for food produced in China.  They have serious issues.  For instance, Chinese-sourced tilapia is often fed with manure instead of actual feed, so they frequently have issues with salmonella.  Also, watch out for Chinese toys which sometimes have problems with toxic paint.

Forcus

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #15 on: August 14, 2013, 09:29:14 AM »
Watch out for food produced in China.  They have serious issues.  For instance, Chinese-sourced tilapia is often fed with manure instead of actual feed, so they frequently have issues with salmonella.  Also, watch out for Chinese toys which sometimes have problems with toxic paint.

I agree. In our case it is actually very difficult to find non-China dog bones, rawhides, treats, etc. any more. I would say less than 5% of what is available in my area is from an acceptable source (U.S., Canada, Brazil, etc.) Sometimes thats even tricky, some products don't say "made" but "assembled in the U.S.". That can mean that all the components are in kits from foreign places and are just thrown together here, to be able to put that label on it.

swick

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #16 on: August 14, 2013, 09:37:54 AM »
I hear ya on the dog treats,really it is logical when you think about it...like the dehydrated duck breast treats from costco - nothing in them but duck, that's good. Then you look at the pieces and there is probably the equivalent to 5-10 breasts in there, for 10 bucks. Makes me suspicious of the quality.

An awesome resource is: http://www.dogfoodadvisor.com/ They have an email list you can get on that notifies you of pet food/treat recalls, there is at least one every week or two, often multiple recalls.

I make my own treats and dehydrated sweet potato (after finding one of the few treats made in Canada was basically just dehydrated sweet potato with a little bit of liver dust, about 1.5 potatoes worth for 9.00) My pup loves em!

Matte

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #17 on: August 14, 2013, 10:03:38 AM »
I think buying products made on the same continent aligns with the values on this site.  If I buy something I want the person making it to have similar working and living conditions to myself.  I have bought a few one time use harbor freight tools and have had lots go right back.  To be honest I am lucky to be alive to return the spring compressor that failed on me. I usually buy us made craftsman used from garage sales.  The old stuff is far better.  Clothes I just don't like buying period, I prefer Mexico over China (at least they have a min wage such is decent compared to their cost of living). 

Grocery stores I chose stores that are union (Fred Meyer, save on foods ect) or treat people better then union to keep unions out (Costco, winco foods).  I completely avoid Walmart.

I go by the belief that capitalism is a way of voting.  Every dollar is a vote.  If I don't agree with companies and their agenda they don't get my money period! (besides insurance)

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #18 on: August 14, 2013, 11:22:27 AM »
Watch out for food produced in China. They have serious issues.  For instance, Chinese-sourced tilapia is often fed with manure instead of actual feed, so they frequently have issues with salmonella.  Also, watch out for Chinese toys which sometimes have problems with toxic paint.

Yes. It's a shame our Fed govt will conduct raids on organic food co-opts, but importing food from China is OK! Check your apple juice. Many times it will say 'Concentrate from China' on the bottle. Does that sound safe to you? We cant make apple juice concentrate in this country?

Jamesqf

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #19 on: August 14, 2013, 11:42:24 AM »
I think part of that is true and part of it is a larger systemic issue. For example, I buy engine hoists, engine stands, and gantries at HF as they are cheap and reasonably sturdy. The majority of the cost is in the steel and welding since the pieces themselves are not really of an intricate design. If I wanted to start a business here in the states I could not even buy the steel for the cost of the ENTIRE TOOL SHIPPED FROM CHINA...

Sure, but that's a different issue.  Back when China was still Communist (and not exporting much of anything but copies of the little red book) I, as a typical DIY American, just couldn't buy many of those tools easily, if at all.  So when I wanted to pull an engine, say (which was by no means a rare thing), I used a less-convenient rope/chain over a rafter or tree limb.

For instance, Chinese-sourced tilapia is often fed with manure instead of actual feed...

Now isn't it strange that American-produced organic produce grows on land that is (or should be) fertilized with manure?

PantsOnFire

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #20 on: August 14, 2013, 11:46:37 AM »
I buy a hog from a farm once a year and butcher it myself.  It feeds the family for a year and is cheaper than the factory farmed garbage that pervades most grocery stores. 

MoneyCat

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #21 on: August 14, 2013, 08:59:54 PM »
I think part of that is true and part of it is a larger systemic issue. For example, I buy engine hoists, engine stands, and gantries at HF as they are cheap and reasonably sturdy. The majority of the cost is in the steel and welding since the pieces themselves are not really of an intricate design. If I wanted to start a business here in the states I could not even buy the steel for the cost of the ENTIRE TOOL SHIPPED FROM CHINA...

Sure, but that's a different issue.  Back when China was still Communist (and not exporting much of anything but copies of the little red book) I, as a typical DIY American, just couldn't buy many of those tools easily, if at all.  So when I wanted to pull an engine, say (which was by no means a rare thing), I used a less-convenient rope/chain over a rafter or tree limb.

For instance, Chinese-sourced tilapia is often fed with manure instead of actual feed...

Now isn't it strange that American-produced organic produce grows on land that is (or should be) fertilized with manure?

There is a massive difference between crops being fertilized with manure and animals being fed manure.  Also, the Chinese have a tendency to add human manure to animal manure.

Kenoryn

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #22 on: August 20, 2013, 11:42:17 AM »
Re: food, grow it yourself or cultivate a relationship with a local farmer through a CSA or similar. Preserve/store local foods for the winter. Food is a huge part of our lives - it's worth investing the time in.

Garlic in particular is SUPER easy to grow. :)

Kenoryn

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #23 on: August 20, 2013, 12:31:52 PM »
Also, as Matte said, being Mustachian is not just about spending less money. It's about consuming less and consuming more wisely. Buying 3 cheap versions of something and sending them to the landfill instead of buying one good one is not Mustachian even if it costs less.

Frugalady10

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #24 on: August 20, 2013, 01:46:48 PM »
I will buy things made in other countries but I think it is good like others said to do research first. I care very much that things I buy are made by people treated fairly, paid a fair wage etc., and I think even if you have to spend a little more money that that is still indeed the spirit of mustachianism. I always try to buy things local/second hand first! I think buying mass made low quality products made by people being treating like crap is supporting something wrong, even if you do get those things for the cheapest price.

Mr.Macinstache

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Re: Mustachian to buy things made ethically/in the US?
« Reply #25 on: August 20, 2013, 03:02:17 PM »
Also, as Matte said, being Mustachian is not just about spending less money. It's about consuming less and consuming more wisely. Buying 3 cheap versions of something and sending them to the landfill instead of buying one good one is not Mustachian even if it costs less.

This might be lost on a lot of MMM'ers. I will pay a little more for something that's going to outlast a cheap item every time. The joy of a cheap price quickly goes away once that item is useless.