Friday, January 24, 2014

Frugality isn't Cheap

Well everyone, I've been thinking again.

A dangerous pastime. (yes, we know)

Over the last few months I've heard some of the following comments and I've worked hard not to respond directly to them.  If you wonder why I stay silent, you have to remember that sometimes common courtesy dictates that the time is not right.  But, I still feel that it might be a reasonable topic to explore on our blog.

So, the comments follow along these lines:

"I don't know why I would buy X product from Y business.  Their prices are ridiculous and I can get it for so much less from ..."

"I shouldn't have to pay that much for Z, I can't believe they think I should pay that much."

"I know the product from A is inferior, but it was so cheap!  I had to buy several of them."

We all know people who say things that might fit this mold.  In fact, each of us may utter similar words and phrases ourselves.  And, perhaps it is warranted in some situations.  But, usually, people make such comments for some or all of the following reasons:

1. We like to portray ourselves as being persons who are too smart to be 'victimized' by those who will take away our money by overpricing things AND we like to portray ourselves as being targeted by unscrupulous sellers.  We're hoping that the response will be something like: "How dare they!  It's good that you are far too clever to be taken in by their sham!"  What a wonderful opportunity to collect both sympathy and praise.  It's hard to resist.

2. Most of us have been raised in a culture that praises those who can get more for less.  I clearly remember the lessens in product comparison.  Divide the total cost by the units to determine cost per unit to determine which product is a 'better' price.  This holds true UNLESS we pay alot more, then, it must be because we got the very best quality of that product.

3. If the item isn't a product we have a direct association with producing, we fail to see where the added value might be.  Therefore, we make the assumption that it should not be as expensive as it is.  On the other hand, we seem to feel like it is ok to complain about other people NOT understanding why products we are involved in creating need to be the price they are.

But perhaps, the most common theme of all is this.

We use the one dimensional measure that is monetary cost in order to assess value.  We devalue quality and we simply ignore the value of work.  We forget that when we buy a cheap product that we end up paying in so many other ways.

Frugality is not buying cheap, it is foregoing a purchase when it isn't really needed and saving your purchasing power for when it is needed.

Smart shoppers should be pleased when they receive value for what they pay, just as they should be happy to be paying a fair price.  That fair price helps to insure the continued quality of the product, support for the product and even continued existence of that product.

Products with low monetary cost make us buy them again and again as they break.  We throw more of them into the landfill and go buy another.  What's better, buying a quality item that lasts 10 years and costs $110 or a cheap one that costs $10 and lasts one year?   Trick question.  If you do the math, you will argue effectively that the actual monetary cost is better with the cheap product.  But, consider other costs to you that you are ignoring.  Dealing with a broken product at a potentially difficult time.  Making extra trips and and taking extra time to purchase that product over and over again.  Dealing with the broken remnants.  Then, think about costs that may not be seen by you directly.  How many people were paid inadequate wages to make the inferior item?  Or worse, yet, what sort of shortcuts were used in order to keep the price down so you could get a 'bargain?'

And then, finally, I submit my last exhibit.
I was recipient of a 'cold call' from a company that was targeting farmers.  Apparently "company X" is moving from one warehouse to another.  They have lots of stock they want to sell rather than move.  They suggested that I could get a great deal on "tool Y."  I told them I had what I needed.  The salesperson's response was.  "What if I told you that you could STEAL it?"

Please explain to me how this is a good thing?  Should I feel good if I pay so little for something that I could equate it with stealing?  And, even if it was a situation where I was more familiar with the situation.  How does paying $x for something I don't need save me money when I don't need it? 

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