Monday, December 17, 2007

Frugal vs Cheap

I know, I know. This topic has been written about to death. Though, I think that it doesn't have to be a long discussion.

For me, frugality is searching out true bargains, and true quality. Cheapness is simply spending the least amount of money possible, regardless of quality. Period.

In an earlier post, I talked about this topic in regards to clothing. (I can't help it, I'm a woman and I shop...) If you shop anywhere, odds are high that the cheapest pieces are cheap materials -- I've only found this not to be true very, very rarely. If you buy shoes in a cut-rate store (e.g. Payless), you're going to be buying shoes much more often. Without exception, every time I've spent money to buy good quality shoes (e.g. leather, non-plastic soles, good fit), they invariably last longer than bargain shoes I've found.

While I often like the clothing selection at Target, the fabrics for most of their sweaters suck. Nearly every single time, there is acrylic in the sweater, or a blend of non-natural fabrics. Nearly every single time, the sweater starts to pill within 2-3 wearings. So yes, maybe that sweater was $18, but if you can only wear it three times, the cost is $6 per wearing.

On the other hand, spending $60 on a fine-gauge wool sweater that you can wear 50 times...this is obviously a far smarter buy. However, many people (including me, sometimes), think "well, I only have $30 to spend today, so I can't afford the $60 sweater." The problem is obvious -- you budget too low for something you want/need, and then you buy the cheaper item, which then doesn't last long and needs to be replaced sooner.

One very important thing to remember, though, is that price does not equal quality. My presumption is that readers have at least a general knowledge of what is quality and what is cheap fabrics. If you're not savvy on fabrics, for example, know that natural fibers are generally much better quality than blends (they are definitely better than acrylic or polyester). If you're shopping for furniture, find out the track record of the store and the products. Ikea has some great deals, but some of their lower-end furniture isn't terribly durable.

While the examples I used centered on clothing, the principle applies to most anything. With anything, it pays to know the product and the quality of the materials.

Finally, the last thing to remember is it behooves you to know what needs to be bought as quality, and what is ok to be a little "cheap" on. Do you need workout clothes? Those t-shirts probably aren't going to last terribly long before they get stretched or sweat-stained, so buying expensive or trendy t-shirts isn't the best idea. It's generally always a good idea to buy quality shoes, and this is one thing I try not to scrimp on. Cheap shoes often have a terrible fit and terrible materials. I went shoe shopping a couple weeks ago (out of necessity), and while I couldn't find anything in the couple mid-high end department stores I started at, I did find a fairly nice pair of shoes for $11 in a discount department store, and they'll last me for at least several months.

The deal is not in the price, but in the quality and the price. Know how to shop and what good quality products are, and you'll save yourself money in the long-run.


Tasha Gets Money Smart said...

yes, i totally agree about buying quality goods! most of my shoes are pricey but they last me for years. i don't sacrifice quality of the food that we eat either. guess i'm more frugal than cheap :)

Anonymous said...

People have to remember that the higher prices is a result of not just higher quality. Higher prices for designer goods is also due to higher marketing and advertising costs and high mark-ups (i.e. department stores). I like to buy high-quality clothing in natural materials like cotton, wool, cashmere, but usually try to find it on sale.