This week on Save Outside the Box it is Cheap Week. I’ll have a couple of posts talking about my forays into insanely cheap realms and how that worked out for me. I look forward to hearing from all of you as well in the comments section on your super cheap purchases, both good and bad.
I have a checkered past with cheaping out. I bought some discount beer the other day. It had a beautiful red clearance sticker on it and I was smitten. It turns out that it wasn’t even worth the insanely cheap price of $5 for a twelve pack. It tasted like old shoes! Speaking of shoes, I cheaped out on some shoes for my wife recently. I bought the lowest price running shoes that Asics makes. It turns out that there’s a big difference between the $36 variety and the $110 kind. Apparently it sucks to run in shoes that feel like cardboard!
Have you ever made the “cheap out” mistake with clothes? A hideous Christmas sweater at a 70% off discount? Yes, please. But once you got that item home it turned out that the only thing you liked about it was the price. Most of us have been lured in by a bargain only to realize that it sat in the back of our closet for a lengthy period of time. Four spring cleanings later it ends up in the giveaway bag.
As you know, I’m all about generics and store brands. But there are even times where trying to save at the grocery store has ended up costing me more in the end. Buying meat that’s marked down and on its last leg. I swear I’m going to use it but I just can’t bring myself to cook something that smells like that. So I toss it out. Every version of Cheerios tastes the same so I’m obviously cool with the cheap stuff there. But don’t try to pull one over on me with soda. The cheap brand version of Coke always tastes a little bit funky to me. I just can’t bring myself to drink it.
So here’s the deal. Let’s learn from our cheapster mistakes. If you know that good running shoes are crucial to your training, then bite the bullet (after taking the proper cost saving measures of course). Just to let you know, I got the nice running shoes for my wife at a killer price. If you use your computer all the time for work and writing, don’t get one with a ten inch screen and awful reviews just because of its sub $200 price tag. It will only end up costing you more when you get fed up with tiny display and sub-par features.
I’m obviously not an advocate for spending money when it is uncalled for. I am, however, making the case that even us frugal folks need to get beyond looking at solely the cheapest option. I’ve mentioned before, I use my phone a lot. A flip phone just doesn’t meet my needs. Even though it might save me some dough in the short run it would cost me majorly in my productivity level. That’s a trade off that just wouldn’t make sense for me. I’m making it a goal to think more fully about my purchases in the future so that I don’t repeat the same cheapster mistakes of the past.
What are some cheapo purchases you’ve made that ended up costing you more in the end? What items have you found are worth the extra money in order to ensure that you actually use them and don’t waste more money in the end?
[photos courtesy of Sarah and Ramsey]
18 Comment responses
Don’t cheap out on crucial or safety related car parts. I bought some cut rate tie rod ends for an old Korean car (rhymes with kyundai) and they went bad in a year and a half. Ended up having to replace with OEM (Original Equipment from the Manufacturer). Bottom line I lost out on the expense of the cheap parts and had to pay for another alignment afterward ($25 parts + $85 alignment). Just stick to OEM when it comes to safety related parts.
Also unless you take your car to the dealer most automotive shops use non OEM parts. If you need a major component replaced take the time to purchase the OEM part and bring it to the mechanic.
Taylor from Rochester
That’s a great tip Taylor. Thanks. And I’m still trying to figure out what kind of car you are talking about…
I have bought cheap so many times and regretted it. Usually the quality does not hold up and then I end up buying the more expensive anyways!
That’s happened to me a few times Michelle. My cheapness occasionally gets the best of me!
With some purchases I use ratings and reviews from places like Consumer Reports, Cook’s Illustrated, CNET, and Amazon. Over the years, I have found that there is no correlation between price and quality like marketeers and salesmen would like for us to believe. Remember the phrase “You get what you pay for”? Yeah, simply not true. I have oftentimes seen the very cheapest product tested or reviewed at the very top of the list (like with chef’s knives), while the most expensive product tested (think organic food or expensive appliances) are at the very bottom of the list.
With that said, if it’s something where quality is very important to me, I’ll research the ratings and reviews of that product and weigh them with the cost. If I find there are no credible ratings or reviews of a particular product and no demonstrable proof that spending more will yield higher quality (like in the case of tires), then I’ll simply buy the very cheapest I can find.
I agree with you to a certain extent Brian. Sometimes the cheapest shoe model isn’t built as well. Usually cheap beer doesn’t taste as good as expensive beer. I’m willing to make the sacrifice on a lot of things. I don’t need the latest and greatest in many areas of my life. I definitely agree with you that review sites, especially Consumer Reports, help out. I bought their #2 recommended vacuum recently. It is awesome and it cost me $80. But there are times that us cheap folks need to look before we leap and avoid letting our frugality get the best of us in purchasing something that is ultra cheap and of crappy quality.
As you mentioned, good running shoes are a must. As a runner – or perhaps more accurately, an individual that runs – it has been my experience that generally the “you get what you pay for” rule applies to running shoes. You are not going to get a good pair of running shoes for $30. While you can find running shoes for that amount, I don’t recommend training for, and running, a 1/2 or full marathon in $30 shoes. The key is to try and find the good shoes at $65- $75 vice $90 – $100.
I agree James. I ended up pulling the savvy move of buying last season’s awesome version of the really nice Asics shoe. So we got that $140 shoe for $70 after doing some digging. That ain’t bad if I do say so myself.
this one time my buddy bought a discount bike pump from aldi- though they have great prices and solid quality goods (for the most part), that bike pump ended up being a pos. there’s always next time!
Do you think he lost all credibility for that stupid decision? Probably. 😉
Re: markdown meat. Most stores still guarantee it (otherwise how can they sell it?) If it stinks throw it in a grocery bag and freeze it. Next time you go to that store return it. No one has ever refused to tale it back from me, even if I’ve passed the date on the package by the time i get back there.
Thanks for the tip Shannon. I’ll definitely remember that for future meat purchases.
I buy clothing that’s of good quality. it can be ‘no name’ or a better known brand. I don’t jump at Prada or Gucci, but there’s a lot of good stuff in between. I do not buy cheap shoes, they need to be of good quality. I do buy store brand food sometimes, but only if it’s good. Otherwise I pay the extra for a more known variety. I NEVER purchase anything that’s almost expiring, even if it comes for free. Getting sick is surely not a smart move and it will cost me more on the long run.
When it comes to the car, the electronic equipment etc, I never purchase based on price. I get the brands I trust more and am willing to pay the extra.
We do save money monthly, but buying crap won’t help us with it, since we’d end up throwing it all away and buying the ‘right’ stuff afterwards 😀
Exactly. I have to continually reinforce this with myself though. I almost bought a decently cool pair of boots recently but I decided to wait until the pair I really wanted went on sale. I’m so glad I did. I love the ones I have and will seriously wear them for the next 10 years. The ones I almost bought I would have grown tired of much more quickly. And because I waited for a killer sale, I didn’t spend too much money.
Clothing-wise, I mix up the quality in my closet, buy good quality basic pieces that you use a lot (like a jacket or sweater, think of cost per wear), and shop the clearance racks for items that you’d might end up wearing once (like a dress for a wedding).
I’ve had colleagues that have everything be only four colors that they like and complement, so everything went okay together. It limited possibilities for shopping and laundry easier too.
Also I make a pile of “worn out” clothes that I replace with new, better quality items. I try to only buy replacements and recycle the worn out clothing. Re-use the worm out clothing for cleaning or cut out parts or pockets to frame for sentimental pieces/generic art for open houses/wall organizers.
Or like chuck taylors. I wear those with everything! Good tips Sara.
Despite the high prices, I’m a lulu lemon convert. I’m over buying $20 yoga pants that get holes and split in the seams. I wear workout clothes every day, I need something that can rise to the challenge of my physical life and I’m willing to pay for it And agreed on the shoes, $110 is worth preventing a hip or knee injury.
If you use it every day Stefanie it makes sense! I like nice jeans. You won’t catch me in the Kirkland signature variety. I wait for sales (and use cardpool.com) and then snag a pair when I need it. I never pay full price. But that doesn’t mean I go bargain basement either.