When you shop for clothes, shoes, and accessories, do you always try to find the lowest price? Are you always on the lookout for a “good deal”? While bargain-hunting is common for many shoppers, I’m here to tell you that “cheap” can actually be more expensive.
A Tale of Four Purses
What do I mean by this? I’ll illustrate my point by sharing a tale of four purses. Two of the purses were “expensive” (over $200) and the other two were “cheap” (around $50). The expensive purses were made by Brighton and were purchased in August 2008 and December 2010, respectively. I have carried both bags for at least 300 days, yet they are still in excellent condition and scarcely show their wear.
I bought the “cheap” bags late last year. I carried one for approximately three months (I’m not one to change my bags all that often) and the other for only about a week. I did not stop carrying these bags because I grew tired of them. I stopped carrying them because they lost their shape, began to fray, and started looking terrible. Yes, a $50 bag only lasted for a week! I wish I could return it, but I purchased it months before I began using it and have no way of proving that it started to fall apart after such a short period of time. So I can’t get my money back, but I can learn a powerful lesson and share it with my readers.
Penny Wise and Pound Foolish
I spent $100 for two purses which lasted for a combined period of just over three months. Had I purchased two similar purses of additional price and quality, I may have gotten six to nine months of use from all four purses combined. Compare that to my two Brighton bags which have been carried for approximately two years total and will last me for at least that much longer until they will need to be replaced!
When I wanted a new purse last year, I should have saved up for another Brighton bag. Instead, I bought two cheap bags which ended up being a waste of my money. Why didn’t I wait to buy a high quality bag? I can think of a few reasons:
- I shop too much and am always living at the edge of – or beyond – my budget.
- I aim for immediate gratification and want something new NOW, so I buy what I can afford at the moment instead of holding out for something better.
- I love the thrill of a deal and get a rush from being able to buy things at low cost.
- I’m caught up in our culture of “fast fashion” and continually changing trends being touted in magazines, online, and in stores.
More Isn’t Always Better!
Like many “shopaholics” and consumers in general, I have favored quantity over quality. I thought more was better. Why buy one purse for $200 when I could get four purses for the same price? Why buy a shirt made from natural fibers and with quality workmanship when I could purchase five shirts for the same amount? Adhere to that philosophy and you end up with a closet full of low-quality, mediocre pieces that you don’t love and which won’t stand the test of time. Wash a low-quality top a few times and it starts to fall apart at the seams, while a high-quality garment can be laundered a hundred times and still look great.
I’ve learned the hard way that it’s actually more expensive to buy cheap clothing, shoes, and accessories. Cheap shoes hurt my feet, cheap clothes made from flimsy materials don’t feel good or wear well, and cheap accessories fall apart. All of these items need to be replaced regularly, so they end up costing more money in the long run. In addition, the manufacture of these items overtaxes the environment and leads to worker abuses in the Third World (I will write more about this in a future post, but if you’re curious, I highly recommend reading the book “Overdressed” by Elizabeth Cline).
Consider Cost Per Wear
While I won’t make a hard-fast pledge to never buy “cheap” items again, I’ve decided to aim for higher quality when making my clothing and accessory purchases, especially for key wardrobe pieces. I consider the cost per wear ratio for what I’m looking to buy. For example, if I carry a $300 Brighton bag for a total of three years (1095 days), my cost per wear for the bag is only 27 cents! I’ve worn a favorite Skagen watch that cost $140 at least 500 times now, so its cost per wear is just 28 cents. Contrast that to my $50 bag that lasted just one week, for a cost per wear of $7.14! It’s clear to see that it’s far better to purchase high quality items.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule. Some expensive pieces don’t stand the test of time, while other low-cost items surprisingly endure. But in general, it’s better – and actually cheaper in the long run – to splurge on quality when shopping.
Do You Go For Immediate Gratification?
I’ll close with another story. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, researchers at Stanford University conducted a series of experiments on delayed gratification with children. They put each child in a room with a marshmallow and said they’d give him two marshmallows if he could wait fifteen minutes without eating the one in front of him. In follow-up studies, the researchers found that the children who could wait longer for the reward tended to have better life outcomes.
I wasn’t one of the kids in the study (although I’m the right age since I was born in 1966), but I know for a fact the marshmallow would have been in my mouth within five minutes. I’m not sure what other positive life outcomes I’d have at this point, but I do know I’d have better clothes – and better purses!
Next Time, I’ll Hold Out for Quality!
My next handbag will be another Brighton or something of similar quality and workmanship. No more Nine West or Jessica Simpson (sorry Jess – love you on “Fashion Star,” but your purse was crap!) purses for me! I’ve learned my lesson the hard way… Next time, I’m holding out for the quality!