When using smart shopping strategies, sometimes the low-cost alternative isn't the best.

When Cheap is Expensive

by Rich Finzer


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Yeah, I know that this is a magazine that features tips and advice on how to save money, shop wisely, and practice prudent frugality, but sometimes buying the low-cost alternative isn't the best way to s-t-r-e-t-c-h your dollars. Sometimes the tiebreaker comes down to quality and durability. Here are a few examples.

Porch paint/deck stains: I recently purchased three gallons of stain to use on my porches and wooden walkway. The cost was $108. "Rich, are you nuts? I can buy abba zabba stain at the big blue home improvement store for about half that price!" And my answer to that entreaty would be this. The stain I use was specifically formulated to stand up to the brutal marine environment in Nova Scotia. So despite my frigid Yankee winter where 200" of snow sometimes falls, my stain lasts three years. And as it takes as much time to apply expensive stain as it does the cheap stuff, I'd rather skip two years of pushing a paintbrush instead of applying an annual coat of cheap stain. Ben Franklin said, "Time is money." In this case, I'd rather spend the money and save the time.

Car/boat wax: The wax I use on my boat costs $16 for a 24-ounce bottle. Expensive? You betcha, but we're taking about my boat here. It's my pride and joy. Besides, I only need to wax the hull once every two years because the finish this wax lays down is incredibly durable and long lasting. The "blue lagoon" wax I use on my vehicles is much the same. I wouldn't skimp on these items any more than I'd buy my girlfriend cheap lingerie. The risks are too great and the results are definitely worth the price.

Tools: I own two types or grades of tools. I have the relatively inexpensive ones that I bought at the big yellow discount tool store (you know the one) and the tools I never loan out. The cheap tools are manufactured in the Orient and look it. And you can borrow them any time you like. But my USA made SK wrenches, Channellock® pliers, and Estwing hammers are mine. When I'm too old to use them anymore, I intend to give them to my nephews. They'll only be about 60 years old (the tools that is) by then, which means they'll have completed their break-in period. Think about it this way. Cheap tools and expensive tools cost exactly the same amount, because you end up replacing the junky ones when they inevitably fail. And to my mind, tools shouldn't break just because you use them.

Are there other examples where buying the low-cost alternative isn't wise? Absolutely! However, I can only think of one other, and that's a parachute! Jumping out of a perfectly good airplane is scary enough in its own right, but skydiving while wearing a parachute manufactured in Beijing is a truly terrifying thought.

For more information on the subject, check out "When Cheap Costs More" in The Dollar Stretcher Community

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