This past week I was reminded on two different occasions that the cheapest option is not necessarily the most frugal option. As a reminder, here are the dictionary definitions of the terms frugal vs. cheap:
1. economical in use or expenditure; prudently saving or sparing; not wasteful.
2. entailing little expense; requiring few resources; meager; scanty.
1. costing very little; relatively low in price; inexpensive.
2. stingy; miserly.
Now, back to the story at hand…
Scenario 1: The Watch
While on vacation, our son’s watch strap broke. He’s ten years old, and he loves having a watch. The trouble is, we’ve been buying him cheap ($10-$12) “kid” watches. After all, he’s just ten — he doesn’t need a good watch, right? Wrong.
In the time since he’s started wearing a watch, he’s worn out at least three or four of these kid watches, at a total cost of $30-$40 (possibly more). Unfortunately, replacement parts for these cheapo plastic watches aren’t easy to come by, and even if we could find them we’d be looking at nearly the cost of a new watch just to replace the strap.
This time around, we wised up. Instead of spending $10-$12 on what is effectively a disposable watch, we picked up a nice little Timex Indiglo Expedition watch with a durable nylon strap that should last forever. This is much smarter decision in the long run. Too bad it took us three or four tries to get it right.
Scenario 2: The Sandals
While strolling along the beach on vacation last week, I was struck by that fact I bought my Teva sandals the week before my wife and I got married, and yet they’re still in great shape — nearly 12 years later! At the time, we weren;t making much money, so dropping $40-$50 (in mid-1990s money) for a pair of sandals seemed pretty outlandish. But we were about to go on our honeymoon, and I didn’t want a pair of crappy, uncomfortable sandals so I decided to pull the trigger. In retrospect, this was a great decision. I’ve gotten tons of wear out of these things, and they still have a lot left in them. On top of that, I’m not filling up the landfill with one pair of crappy sandals after another.
What about you? Have you made any cheap buying decisions that you regret? Or any frugal buying decisions that you’re particularly proud of?