high quantity versus high quality

I suddenly realized a few days ago what, for me, is the simplest way to define frugality and the various spend-less-than-you-earn philosophies. It is: live in a high-quality way rather than a high-quantity way. Here are just a few examples:

High Quality: You spend a month looking for the best deal on a suit. You read Consumer Reports, you consider what would be a durable suit with timeless fashion, and you go and try on several before deciding which one to purchase.
High Quantity: You buy a super-fashionable, brand name suit because you saw a really, really cool picture of Brad Pitt wearing one.

High Quality: You buy somewhat expensive organic fruits and vegetables and enjoy flavorful salads.
High Quantity: You buy cheap iceberg lettuce and round red objects referred to as ‘imported tomatoes’. You throw it all when it goes bad and you haven’t eaten half of it.

High Quality: You go out to the best restaurant in town for a special occasion with your spouse/significant other/etc. and order a nice wine, good seafood, a pleasant dessert. The evening is worth talking about for weeks, and you don’t feel any more desire to go out for a while.
High Quantity: You eat at a chain restaurant. You skimp on drinks and entrees, decide dessert is too expensive. Then you decide you didn’t like it too much so you and your date eat out again the next weekend, trying to have a good time.

High Quality: You buy a new car, carefully maintain it and drive it for 10 years.
High Quantity: You buy a used car to save money, but don’t bother with maintenance and replace it four years later.

High Quality: You get unlimited videos from a rental service like Netflix or Blockbuster for a month. You watch any movie you want from the peace and quiet of your own home.
High Quantity: You go to one movie at the theater, and spend the whole movie wondering why a parent would bring their 2-year-old to see Alien Vs. Predator (I am not joking).

High Quality: You go on vacation and get an inexpensive hotel, then spend your money on going out and enjoying yourselves.
High Quantity: You go on vacation and get an expensive hotel, then have to watch your purchases while you are gone from the hotel 13 hours per day.

High Quality: You buy an ergonomic, solid wood desk for your computer and use it for the rest of your life.
High Quantity: You buy the cheapest desk you can from Wal-Mart, then replace it once every two years when the pressed sawdust construction finally unpresses itself.

Simply put, make sure that you get your money’s worth. I have always had the bad habit of buying something cheap instead of spending money to buy something that will last. I’m trying to think more like a high quality person and less like a high quantity person every day, though. It’s not easy, but that’s a good first test to apply to any purchase.

16 comments

  • Well said!

    This is something I’ve looked at a lot lately as I am planning the purchase of a new MacBook. I’ve looked at cheaper options- $500 laptops, used laptops for both Apple and Windows, yet I always come back to the new MacBook as being much higher in quality than any of those alternatives and it will last me a good number of years so the higher price now is actually the best deal.

  • In the past I have been guilty of buying the cheapest item. Now, I’m investing in more quality items. I think the shift is happening because I’m saving up to purchase the item. It’s easier to spend $2,000 on a bike when you have $2,000 in a savings account marked for the bike. My recent forever purchase (or at least 10 years which seems like forever to me). I purchased a really nice bike last spring…I could have bought a road bike for about 1/3 of the price. However, I would have wanted to replace it in a few seasons once I became a better biker. However, I saved up and shopped around. Now, I have the BEST bike I could ever want! (It’s not something Lance Armstrong would ride, but it’s still pretty great).

  • Except sunglasses. You buy cheap sunglasses and replace them every two years or so because you always end up sitting on them.

    You then stop buying sunglasses after about 10 years of this sick cycle because it’s just not worth it. You begin taking sunglasses that have been in your company’s lost and found for 2 weeks or more. And you go without if you have to.

    Oh wait, that’s me. I’d invest in a good pair that’d last me for years, but to my butt they all look the same. I’m too clumsy for them.

  • Brip Blap, I agree 100%. I have tried to live this way since I moved out on my own. Quality is so much more important in the long run, and usually costs less. If it costs more, it is certainly more enjoyable. And that is what is most importnat! 🙂

  • I’ve recently come to the same conclusion. It just doesn’t make sense to buy garbage, even if you can buy more of it. Buying fewer high quality items is at the core of frugality I believe.

  • I also learned that if you buy classics that are always in fashion like a nice cashmere sweater it will last longer even though it cost more. In the long run it saves money not to replace items every year or two.

    I used to have a boss who was a millionnaire, he lived in an expensive neighborhood and wore quality clothes. He was really taking care of his clothes, especially shoes. If the soles on the shoes wore out he would replace the soles. He wore galoshes over his shoes in rainy weather to protect them. I assume they were expensive shoes then ;o)

    I would not spend much money on the “quality” electronics though. B/c technology changes almost every week, you won’t keep up, the electronics will become obsolete and you are forced to buy updated versions, etc.

  • Pingback: Weekend Roundup - New Look Edition | beingfrugal.net

  • Pingback: Saturday Morning Web Favorites » Finance and Fat

  • Hi new here,
    I agree that sometimes it saves money to spend money. (And I’ve also gone to PG-13 or R rated movies and seen jokers who bring their kids along who either spend the movie talking or crying at the violence. Awful!)

  • I was raised with the quality over quantity philosophy so it’s second nature to me. I always buy for quality, take care of my possessions, and keep them until they die — and sometimes long after that 😉

    Bubelah wrote: “I would not spend much money on the “quality” electronics though. B/c technology changes almost every week, you won’t keep up, the electronics will become obsolete and you are forced to buy updated versions, etc.”

    I disagree. I’ve owned the same stereo equipment since the mid ’80’s (Onkyo with baby Advent speakers), our 2 TV’s (Zenith) are at least 18 years old, our computers (HP, Compaq, and Mac mini) are various ages but we always expect at least 5-7 active, high-use years out of them, my daughter has a 2nd generation iPod mini that’s still going strong and with the help of an iHome wakes her up every morning, and I have a 1st generation iPod nano that keeps me company while I exercise and keeps my drive time commercial-free. My Motorola cell phone has to be 5+ years old — what a work-horse it is.

    If you do your research, wait until you can afford the best quality you can find, maintain and not mis-treat your equipment, and then keep it until it absolutely must be replaced, you can expect to receive the same value for your electronics money as any other product.

    Half the battle with electronics is being satisfied with a product that meets your needs and not wanting the latest and greatest just because it’s available.

  • When I mentioned this to Mr. Micah he pointed out that I sit on his sunglasses too……..it never ends!!! :-p

  • Pingback: The Roundup - Sea of Boxes Edition : A Penny Closer

  • Pingback: Carnival of Personal Finance #127 - Wonders of the World | Moolanomy

  • I find that I go with the high quantity in some cases. For instance, my taste buds aren’t highly refined, so the two salads taste similar to me. I use a Foodsaver and end up rarely anything out.

    I’ve been on some pretty fantastic dinners, but no matter how great they were, in hindsight, I’ve said, that I’d rather have 5-7 chain restaurant meals, going home for some simple ice cream and an after dinner drink.

  • Oakley Goggles

    its not bad buying cheap products if they has good quality, and buying high quantity with high quality was not good, its a waste of money.

  • I would just say one thing to you and that is, “FANTASTIC”!! Keep it up and wish to get more details from your blog.
    regards
    charcoal grill