mad anthony

Rants, politics, and thoughts on politics, technology, life,
and stuff from a generally politically conservative Baltimoron.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Why I buy cheap stuff instead of good stuff....

Consumerist has a lengthy thread debating why people would rather buy cheap crap than quality items. It was inspired by this MSN article on what you should spend or splurge on.

Most of the time, I buy cheap stuff. Why? Because for what I use most of the stuff I buy, cheap is good enough.

Things I go cheap on:

Furniture - most of my furniture is from Ikea or Target, along with a couple of bookshelves from Staples and a few family cast offs. Yes, good quality hardwood furniture would be nicer. But I seldom have guests over, I have a cat who loves to claw furniture, and as a straight, single male, I don't really care all that much what my house looks like. Buying cheap furniture let me furnish a 1200 square foot townhouse, when my previous residence was a single rented room, without breaking the bank.

Electronics - Some of my stuff is more midrange than cheap, but some of it is bottom of the barrel. I have a Cisnet PC, a Trutech TV, a Zune as my MP3 player. I have a decent stereo system. Once again, I'm not an audiophile, I don't watch a lot of movies, and my cheap 32" no-name LCD TV is fine for watching Burn Notice and half-watching the news while typing on my laptop.

Clothes - most of my clothing comes from the clearance rack of Target and Old Navy. I work in IT for a college, so I can get away with dressing like a ragamuffin. Actually, it doesn't make sense for me to get too dressed up, since I'm sometimes crawling under desks or moving equiptment. My weight also tends to fluctuate - I've dropped ~90 pounds, although I've gained about 15 of that back, and plan to make a concerted effort to lose it and some more once my schedule slows down. It doesn't make sense for me to dump money into clothes that might not fit me in the near future. Plus, I have a bad habit of spilling stuff on myself while eating, and I'd hate to have a $50 shirt taken out by ketchup or a cup of coffee. Also, the more clothes I own, the longer I can go without doing laundry - so I'd rather have 10 $5 shirts than one $50 shirt.

Kitchenware - this is one that got a lot of mention in the consumerist comments as something worth spending money on. Maybe for pro cooks, but not for me. Most of the time, the only thing I need a knife for is opening the sauce packet from my Trader Joe's Orange Chicken. When I do cook, it's basic stuff like sauerkraut or pasta fagioli. I don't need copper-bottomed pots or $100 knives - my $10 tin knives will do fine. I own a couple decent Calaphon pans, but only because I got them on clearance for 75% off at Target a few years ago.

There are only two things I can think of that I usually spend a lot of money on. The first is my house. Buying it stretched my budget, and it was at the top of what I could afford. But while I wouldn't have bought a house when I did if I could go back in time, buying a cheap house isn't always a great move - houses tend to be cheap for a reason, and that means more expenses later on. It also means there may be some feature that makes it hard to sell when you it comes time to sell. Also, buying a house has significant transaction costs - the stress of moving, closing costs, realtor fees - so it makes more sense to buy the house you'll need in a few years rather than have to sell and rebuy soon after you bought.

The other area I tend to splurge on is cars. I don't buy fancy cars, and I don't buy a new car every year, but I consider myself a bit of a car enthusiast, and don't think I'll ever be one of those people who buys a vehicle and keeps it for 10 or 15 years. My thought of late has been to buy somewhat flashy but practical vehicles - my current ride is a bright-yellow Ford Ranger - and keep them for a few years. I've had the Ranger for 2 years, and I'm already thinking of what I will buy when it comes time to replace it, although that probably won't be for a couple more years.


At 11:37 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I have to ask - WHY bright yellow? Fav. color? Want to really get noticed? What's up? (are you single and looking? Have you thought about what a lady might think of riding in that vehicle - esp. one of the type that doesn't like to stand out from the crowd?)

At 12:09 AM, Blogger mad anthony said...

Actually, when I was looking for a truck, I plugged what I wanted equipment-wise into Ford's website and the yellow one came up as a near-perfect match. Before that, I was thinking black, but the idea of having a unique color like yellow seemed cool.

At 8:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also hope that the yellow color won't mean a hard sell when you buy another. Good luck on that. I guess it won't matter as much for a trade-in, though.

As far as splurge or skimp, I agree with the furniture - esp. if you have a house - how much do you really move furniture around anyway? That, to me, is the real difference between the cheap and better made stuff - the cheap stuff that you assemble yourself doesn't last much when moved around a lot. But once in place, it looks as good or better than any "solid wood" piece. Clothes - why do they say splurge on some items like a coat? I buy my coats and all other wardrobe items cheap, too - I never spend more than $100 on a coat and I have to really love it to spend that much - and they last for me YEARS if not decades - sure, it and my shirts, jeans, etc, may be "cheap" but they sure don't look it or feel it or wear like it. Not often that I lose a button or jam a zipper on my "cheap" clothes. And to buy more clothes means more variety in my wardrobe, too, as well as less frequent laundry.

Speaking of cheap clothes- I mentioned before about the $4 socks at Big Lots- I went there yesterday and the regular price for their lower-quality/non-name brand stuff is $3.33 for 6 pairs. Quality enough for me (I kinda like my socks thin and by the time they get holey they are usually dingy and I'm tired of them anyway), but my husband likes the Hanes or Fruit of the Loom (even if they're "irregulars"), so I'm going back today to exchange the socks I bought for him yesterday but keeping the ones I bought myself. Anyway, just wanted to point it out - $3.33 for 6 pr is a good deal.


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