The Value-Oriented Shopper: Be Frugal, Don’t Be Cheap

Have you ever looked at your full closet and thought, there’s nothing in here I want to wear? Have you bought dozens of bargain-bin items only to never, ever use them? Then it might be time to think critically about how you shop and the kinds of items you’re looking for.

There’s this misconception that frugality and cheapness are effectively the same. The idea that chasing the lowest possible cost is the way to save money in the long run is one that we believe is incorrect. The concept of frugality is one of maximizing the value you get for the money you spend, instead of simply looking at the price of an item as the end-all-be-all of whether or not you should buy it. This is great because it can actually save us money in the long run.

For a more succinct illustration of the idea, we’ll turn to Terry Pratchett, in a quote from his fantasy novel Men At Arms:

“The reason that the rich were so rich, Vimes reasoned, was because they managed to spend less money. 

Take boots, for example. He earned thirty-eight dollars a month plus allowances. A really good pair of leather boots cost fifty dollars. But an affordable pair of boots, which were sort of OK for a season or two and then leaked like hell when the cardboard gave out, cost about ten dollars. Those were the kind of boots Vimes always bought, and wore until the soles were so thin that he could tell where he was in Ankh-Morpork on a foggy night by the feel of the cobbles.

But the thing was that good boots lasted for years and years. A man who could afford fifty dollars had a pair of boots that’d still be keeping his feet dry in ten years’ time, while the poor man who could only afford cheap boots would have spent a hundred dollars on boots in the same time and would still have wet feet.”

We’ll leave discussion of Vimes’ ideas about socioeconomic unfairness up to someone else, but the core idea is sound: you spend less by buying a good, more expensive item that will last for a long time as opposed to buying the cheapest item over and over again.

Not only do you get better features, materials, and whatnot with the better item, when we choose each item we buy with care, we tend to appreciate them more. Looking through your closet or your makeup kit and being able to say, “I like everything here” is something that’s really priceless. Let’s spend less time regretting the things we’ve bought and more time enjoying them.

To kickstart your own frugal journey, here are some of our picks for great-value items:

  • Watch: Timex Weekender — A simple, reliable timepiece on a simple, reliable NATO strap. Tons of options for both face and strap color combinations. At only $30 this is the best you can get for this price.

  • Foundation: L’Oréal True Match — the quintessential drugstore foundation. It’s lightweight, non-caking, and comes in tons of shades. It’s very affordable for the amount and quality of foundation you get.

  • Basic Minimal Sneakers: Clae Bradley — they’re the Adidas Stan Smiths, but upgraded. Slimmer silhouette, better leather (the Stans have notoriously crinkly/brittle leather), and more colorways.

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