Cheaper Isn’t Always Better

Cornhole Board

Buying the cheapest thing you can find certainly isn’t always a great idea. It is good to be frugal but quality is equally as important as price. I fell game to the cheaper is better trap the other day when I was in the market for a cornhole set. You know the bean bag game where you toss bags at a wooden board trying to get them in hole. I used to own a set I built myself but they were to big and bulky so I ditched them.

I went out to buy a set and was presented with two choices, one at $79.99 and one at $99.99. The $79 one was built out of wood and the more expensive one was molded plastic. The frugalite in me decided the cheaper one was going to be the better deal so I bought it. This was actually very out of character for me. I typically research everything to death before I make a purchase. This was a spur of the moment deal and I went with the cheaper option on gut.

Turns out there is a reason I over research everything before i make a purchase.  When I make a spur of the moment decision to buy something it is a bad deal. I picked up the cheaper version and was sorry the first time I went to use it. The bags were like paper, too light, and the boards were cheaply made. If I wasn’t sorry the first time, I was crazy sorry the second time when the board actually fell apart. I tried to fix it but  it was the cheapest, most worthless, piece of crap I have ever purchased. I don’t know what I was thinking. I returned it the next day and I plan to build one from scratch.

The point I am trying to make with this lengthy diatribe is that just because it is cheaper doesn’t mean it is better. Especially if you are making a purchase of something you really will use regularly. I didn’t do what I knew I should have done and I bought a lemon. The more expensive option was better but even it wasn’t the best way to go. Looking back at it the best way to do it was to make my own. That way I know it is done right and better. Cheaper isn’t better, but sometimes more expensive isn’t so much better either. Weigh your options accordingly and then make your decision. Not much comes from split second decision making.

Photo: (GoMattOlson)


1 Lulu April 29, 2010 at 11:41 am

I think that a lot of people confuse being frugal with always buying the cheapest thing. Being frugal means making the best use of your dollar and if that means buying an expensive item that will last years then that is more frugal than buying multiples of the cheap item.
.-= Lulu´s last blog ..My Biggest Budget Buster =-.

2 Guy G. April 30, 2010 at 12:09 am

You’re absolutely right, and ‘Better isn’t always cheaper’ is another way I’ve heard it put.

I deal with this a lot in my consulting and people always want the cheapest. I always ask them to justify those thoughts with questions about their home or car. “Is this the cheapest car or home available?”
They always say no and when we dig further, we come to the conclusion that cost was one of many factors, but just as important was value, reliability and quality. Price is only an issue in the absence of value.

I also heard Tom Hopkins suggest that when buying a suit, you should pay twice as much, but buy half as many. His logic was that a well built suit would last twice as long or longer and stay in style longer.

Anyway, thanks for the post.
Talk to you soon,
.-= Guy G.´s last blog ..How To Manage Money Tips has joined the Yakezie Challenge! =-.

3 Kevin@OutOfYourRut April 30, 2010 at 2:09 pm

A wise friend from long ago told me “don’t buy cheap or expensive–buy QUALITY”. I’ve tried to keep that in mind when shopping, but sometimes the cheap devil on my left shoulder still wins out.

There’s a middle ground on this, but I’m not sure it’s always easy to balance perfectly.

There are some things that probably are better off being bought on the cheap, like anything disposable. I’m not interested in buying top of the line sandwich bags for example. But if I’m buying a TV, I certainly want the best quality for the money.
.-= Kevin@OutOfYourRut´s last blog ..Save Money Buying Musical Instruments =-.

4 Lorne M. May 12, 2010 at 7:59 pm

I agree! Since I am bit DIY fan (not as i used to be, but still) I use a lot of electric tools. One of the first ones I ever bought for myself was a Japanese Makita drill, pretty expensive, but I have it for almost two decades now, it worked for hundreds of hours. Meanwhile, I threw away maybe 8 smaller hobby drills, which hardly last for several work hours. But I guess everybody has an example, that cheap now often means expensive in the future…
.-= Lorne M.´s last blog ..Disability Insurance Sales Down 6% in Canada =-.

5 Cheryl July 23, 2010 at 3:16 pm

I definitely agree with you especially if you are purchasing an item you will own for a long period of time. In the case you discuss it is difficult to know which one is better since it wasn’t an item you “research”. Were you able to return the product? Another factor to consider when shopping is the store’s return policy so that if you do purchase an item that doesn’t work you can return it and purchase one that does work.

6 Adam October 19, 2010 at 6:57 pm

I know exactly what you mean. I recently bought a couch that was on sale and spent close to $1200 instead of buying the couch I wanted for $1400. The difference was one of them had a new material that doesn’t get stained.

After 2 weeks of having the couch my dog ruined the couch and now I have a big piece of junk sitting in my garage.

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