Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Question for the Community: When is it over-spending and when it is worth it?


Original Photographs from Archives

Reader question:
With all of the negativity of the current political situation and the ongoing crassness of so much of Instagram, I have a broad question for the readers of SWNE.  Most of us have areas where a) we enjoying being thrifty and can't understand why others aren't, and areas where b) spending a lot more money is worth it, either because the higher quality is smarter in the long wrong, or it is just a favorite thing.

As I now find myself struggling with this issue, I wondered what the thoughts of the other readers are on this topic.

49 comments:

  1. This question is not easily answered, because the answer depends on one's personal taste, priorities and needs.

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  2. Outstanding quality is always worth spending money on, as it is not only cheaper in the long run, but it will be something that you can enjoy everyday.
    They are also the things someone else can thrift in the future (or that you can thrift).

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  3. Spend money on books, travel and high quality food. Don't spend money on clothes, jewelry, electronics or cars.

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  4. I would like to add that spending upwards of $950 for a blanket is downright irresponsible.

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  5. Frankly, it hasn't been my experience that high quality necessarily translates into a longer life. Naturally there are multiple issues but one should always live within one's means and never have things just to draw attention to yourself. Beautiful things have their appeal, though.

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    1. I thought I'd add another comment or two here because I've been thinking about the other aspects of this question. If you have the money and it makes you happy, then there's no real reason not to have it. But there is the possibility you will end up with things that are "too good to use." The china and the real silverware that only comes out for Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. The good silver you should probably use more often but you know that the good china needs extra care if you want it to last. Most (but not all) nice things will outlast you in the long run and, as Filson says, "Everything eventually becomes a gift."

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    2. Only buy things you will actually use. No one needs another pair of shoes to just sit gathering dust in the closet.

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  6. High quality and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Often, individual budget drives decisions on purchases. For me, I like high quality and my experience is high quality items are expensive. That said, they are also long lasting and often do not go out of style or vogue. I appreciate your blog and recommendations on quality made products. Susan

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  7. As usual, BlueTrain says is much better than I ever could.

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    1. Compliments and pictures of Land-Rovers are always appreciated. Thank you!

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  8. The Rolex Cellini watch strap is available in black or brown alligator only. It cost $600.00 and with daily wear might last 8 months. The hirsch watch strap are embossed leather and are made in every primary colour. They cost $45.00. I doubt I'd wear shoes that were embossed to resemble alligator but a honey brown watch strap is no problem.

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  9. As I get older, I find I have too many "favorite things" and now feel like I deserve them because of being thrifty for so long! Time to go back to asking whether I really need "it". As Susan said, I also appreciate your blog and recommendations. Thank you.

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  10. Bad buys: new cars, anything you are buying to impress other people, whatever the latest fashion is, and a great many watches, fountain pens (and I love fountain pens), and purses. Any tie that costs more than your shirt. Most of the clothes advertised in fashion magazines. New airplanes.

    Good buys: well-maintained, single-owner used cars. Used airplanes. Last year's model of many items. Money spent on experiences rather than things. Used books. Acupuncture. Some but not items at Costco.

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    1. When I met the woman I married, her father had a disassembled airplane in his basement garage. It was a Culver Cadet and it was used. He later owned a Mooney, bought used, but it stayed in one piece.

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    2. Wow. You just summed up our purchase method. It took me a long time to realize a 39 year old airplane was a good idea, turned out it was. Also my 2002 Audi Allroad we've had for 19 years.

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  11. I buy the best quality ( they're not always the biggest names) , but I do attempt to get the best price on them . I won't buy cheap junk that doesn't last , but often still costs half the price .

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  12. My rule, regardless, is I have to love what I buy. If you love it, you're likely not to become sick of it. Doing so means you'll be happier with what you have, and will have it for a long time. I buy what I love so it doesn't have to be replaced.

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  13. I like to buy pretty much all material things second hand ("antique" if you like)! But if we're talking services, then I will spend more to get better quality. Health care (obvious) but also landscaping, pool maintenance, housekeeping, etc. You can thrift of "stuff" but in terms of service, you get what you pay for. And I learned that the hard way!

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  14. There's an old saying that you should spend heavily on your mattress and your shoes, because if you're not in one you're in the other.

    My Dad gave me some good advice when I was young about not wanting more than I needed or could use - "you can only sleep in one bed and piss in one pot".

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  15. I was raised to buy good quality items so they won't have to be replaced, but unfortunately, quality has changed over the years. That being said, our older appliances are still servicing us after 25 years! While my sensibilities won't allow me to waste resources on bi-weekly manicures, I will invest in quality made garments and shoes. Considering again, that quality is often lacking, I seek out classic styles from vintage and second hand stores including eBay. As for home décor, vintage and antique shops are perfect for adding one-of-a-kind unique artifacts and books.

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  16. All are very good comments here. I believe in buying good quality but not ridiculous, over-the-top items, i.e. several thousand dollars for a purse when a good hand-made leather one can be bought for far less and still be good quality. I think it's best to spend where your needs are going to best met, higher taxes for better schools if you have kids, good quality food, experiences, healthcare, etc. It all depends on your individual budget and using good common sense. Love your blog, by the way.

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  17. In so far as possessions go, I have to frame this in terms of the things I wouldn't part with: My mattress, my memories, my rugs because they have stories. The view I'm seeing outside my window right now was worth every penny and so was my antique furniture; which I never paid much for anyway. Hands down though, the best money I ever spent was on a good plastic surgeon.

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  18. I believe it is increasing desirable to buy within your means--especially when potentially excessive consumption is fueled by artificially low interest rates to build/stimulate the "economy."

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  19. I can echo Etiquette Lady. I buy quality classic clothing and shoes. I have sweaters that are thirty years old and still going strong! I don't follow fashion at all, just stick to classics. I do buy antiques but always at the best deal I can get and quite often will walk away if the seller will not deal. My passion is for books! I collect and restore modern volumes, most from second hand shops. We were taught to "pinch a penny until it screamed" and it has worked well for us. Jane Keller

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  20. To save money on oxford shirts, my schoolmate's collars were turned when they became frayed, giving them new life. The family spared no expense maintaining their Concordia Yawl, however. Every decision is a matter of priority. MGC

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  21. I use things until they die so I don't believe in spending money on the latest and greatest to replace something that still works for me. My mother always told me to by high quality clothing because it will last. This does NOT always mean the most expensive because many times you pay top dollar just for the brand. Alas, this is good advice only for people whose weight doesn't fluctuate. Sadly for me, I would never pay upwards of $100 for a blouse because I know I wouldn't be able to wear it for much more than a season because my weight goes up and down. I splurge on TRAVEL! I prefer to pay for an experience than a material item.

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  22. I sit here beside my two new Andersen windows that were just installed about a month ago. The highest quality glass, the only Energy Star rated thing in this 1929 house and sun blocking film...a new feature. A bit of wood added between them to make up for the sizing difference after removing the old 1981 windows (here when we bought) that were discarded. New wood trim inside to match the 1929 trim in the rest of the house. We had to paint it ourselves. Price? $3000.00. On the other hand I have never had a manicure in my 67 years and we only eat out on the weekends. I never buy books (feel guilty as the bookstores are slowly going out of business) but suggest them for purchase at the library and read a book one time and never go back for a second look. No children, no pets.
    We all have our little economies! And luxuries (new windows...a couple at a time)

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  23. Dining out! I would eat out every meal, if I could. I hate, hate, hate grocery shopping and meal prep. My husband would never go out, however, he would buy a Concordia Yawl....actually, I take that back, he would *maintain* a Concordia, since sailboats are a notoriously bad buy.

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    1. Oh yeah, hate grocery shopping, meal prep, washup, repeat, repeat. And we are not alone according to a piece in a regional business journal saying takeout options are now impacting restaurant and grocery revenue, with no end in sight. And this is my thing: I LOVE to pick something up ready made, and bring it back to the comforts of our house.

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  24. This is a very good question, but one that is also tough to answer.

    Aside from organic food (my single biggest weekly expense), I enjoy spending on quality items that I use every day. I became frustrated with re-buying brooms, kitchen knives, glassware etc. I'll spend more if there is a heritage to the brand I am buying from as it gives me reassurance that my money is going to a sensible company with integrity (and I always do my research - heavily).

    We've recently replaced our drinking glasses with Duralex Picardie from France - hardly "expensive" but definitely a different level of investment than say ikea glassware, or fly-by-night trendy glassware from a boutique that you could never replace. Our new kitchen knives too, from Robert Welch come with a 25 year guarantee and are made locally.

    With regards to clothes and personal items I buy things to last now - a move greatly inspired by Muffy! It's wonderful to curate a wardrobe that you know will serve you for years to come.

    Aside to this, frugality rules as we are saving to complete renovations property in the South of France.

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  25. My husband and I have always justified spending money on good books, superior education, anything that enables us to grow our own natural food, and hand crafted sturdy furniture. I always feel a bit guilty spending it on anything else.

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  26. One question; do you want it or need it?
    Then you know the answer.

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  27. I am a firm believer in you get what you pay for. Our society has become obsessed with owning more and more of (fill in the blank) with wholesale acceptance of cheapening quality. Just consider the coat closet in your house when you were a child with the one you have today. I guarantee it will have a lot more coats in it. The reasons I didn't have a lot of clothes when I was a little kid, even though I grew up in an affluent household, are that (a) clothes were expensive in real terms, b) they lasted, (c) fashion wasn't so fickle, and (c) it was normal to wear hand-me-downs. Now everything is imported from countries at absurdly uneconomic value, we've all become consumerists, and anything that lasts is derided as "so five minutes ago." I better shut up now as I'm ranting...

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  28. In contemplating this question, I realized that practicing thrift is not really about saving me money but is about my philosophy of only purchasing items that we use of the quality that suits that particular situation regardless of the political or social environment. It just happens to save money outright and help to keep our investments intact. Is not that the purpose of Yankee ingenuity and thrift afterall?

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  29. I never buy anything because of current style or trend. I shop for a good deal. But in the end I buy what I can really use and enjoy. I don't have a TV or cable. I do have good books and reliable Internet. I use my Wedgewood and silver service. I mow my own lawn and cook my own food (mostly, ha!). Being practical and living well are not mutually exclusive.

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  30. This question can be answered in so many ways, and I agree with so much that has been written here. Education, qood people, and unique experiences are worth every dime. The photo makes me think of the costs associated with riding and horses in general. When it was cheap to ride at university I was on a horse five to six days a week. When it cost an arm and a leg at Ox Ridge there was a point of diminishing returns... especially when I was dragged after falling and could not remove my foot from the stirrup. All of a sudden it was over spending. The New Canaan thrift store has amazing deals and I have got some very fine suits there for $35.00.... only catch is the voice over in my head when I wear them. Because we donated all my grandfather's suits and clothing there after he died, I wonder "Why didn't they pick this one to bury the poor old former Metro North commuter." Last point: I don't have control over other people's crassness and negativity, but I do have control over what enters my sphere so to speak. No TV, no iPhone cuts out a huge amount. I'm back to newsprint that I can pick up when I wish. Also, a well placed positive comment in a deteriorating, negative or crass conversation can nip things right in the bud.

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    1. Amen to this! Well said, especially your last point.

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  31. Needs versus wants. As a close friend has said, "my dear, we have all greatly exceeded our needs. One exception-anything for my boat

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  32. Whenever I buy an article of clothing, I seek the highest quality, natural fabric I can afford. Then, I ask myself, "Would Carolyn Bessett Kennedy have worn this?" If the answer is "Yes", I buy it and wear it for years!

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  33. I try to pick classic clothing that lasts and where the style does not change _that_ much. For example, when I started working outside of the home I needed to buy some more clothing as I needed professional clothing.. but a basic white shirt, for example, always looks good and does not go out of style. Also I try to stick to my same basic color and style palette so many things mix. I 'splurged' on a Longchamp handbag... one.. in a neutral color that works with almost everything. For other things when I am buying something I look if I can find a coupon code/promo code (for example, I recently replaced some silk longies that have worn out... I Googled the name of the retailer and the word promo code and as able to get 30% off of the price-- in addition to the sale price.) I was going to buy them anyway but was at least able to pay less for them. (Also my wearing of longies means less need for heating.. I would rather pay for a sweater or blanket or longies than keep the heat turned up to high!)

    I tend to splurge on reading. When I still lived in an English-speaking country I used the library a lot but as I live overseas I tend to buy more books (although many of them I buy used.) I have a few magazine subscriptions which aren't cheap at overseas subscription rates but are worth it for the happiness they bring me (also some other expat friends and I will swop and borrow English reading materials.)

    In general I would rather have a few nice things than a bunch of junk.

    Most days I make my own warm beverages and use a travel mug. But I do enjoy the experience of going out for coffee, often meeting friends, so I 'splurge' on those days. However I keep a loyalty card for the place I like, getting free drinks after every few purchases and when buying whole beans (for my home consumption.)

    --EM

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  34. Though I don't have much, spending money on things that make my disabled daughter happy are so worth it. That includes eating out occasionally and going places. Things that for so long she could not enjoy but now can do somewhat. Also art supplies for her since she can also do some of her art again. And I am so picky about everything that my philosophy now is if I like it I buy it (unless it is ridiculously expensive).

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  35. Spending money to show you have money is not only pretentious, but also the epitome of "new money". I follow a 80 10 10 rule. 10% to tithing, 10% savings, 80% living expenses. This is without question. However, my family lives much under the 80% living expenses, therefore, we save a lot more money monthly for investing and our futures as well as our children's futures.
    I cannot see myself ever purchasing a new vehicle of any sort to the to deteriorating value. I look at reliability, the cost-to-own ratio, as well as safety. cars are not investments. Buy a quality used car, drive it until the price to fix it costs more than the value of the car itself, and then sell.
    The technologies that we as a society are exposed to is outstanding in itself. Therefore, one would benefit to try not to keep up with the technological advances i.e.; cellular smartphones, televisions, bluetooth products, etc. There will be a new one in months, which drastically lowers the prices of good, quality items from reputable companies to be able to purchase. These are just as good.
    Things that I do spend money on over the cheaper counterpart is simply based on needs and experience. I will spend more for quality clothing, food, and schooling. I want something that won't be a fad. Something that will keep its color, durability, and is classic. Instead of owning 4 pair of Khakis, ill own two pair of quality khakis that will last much longer and stand the test of time and wear.
    Schooling and the investments for retirement for myself and my family is self explanatory. Education is the one thing that no one can ever take away from anyone, regardless of any circumstance. Investments are smart. Period. Whatever you can do, then do it. Compounded interest, dividends, etc are important words to know.
    Finally trips and/or experiences. I will make it a priority to spend money on experiences for myself and family. Make my young children world travelers not only expands their minds to the realm of what is out there, but also makes them compassionate, mindful beings that they are not the only people on this earth. I want to have a full life. I want to see the world. I would rather spend money on experiences than an expensive vehicle payment any day of the week. This also includes the occasional cuisine. A nice restaurant, or a nice date with my wonderful wife. These are the things we remember.
    These thoughts are my own. Everyone is different and thats ok. Thats what makes it beautiful. Spend money on quality whenever you can, but remember the cost to buy is different than the cost to own. Go thrifty in antique stores, book stores, even consignment shops is what I do.

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  36. I usually do this.

    Quality (timelessness, construction, personal attachment) of the item X the frequency of usage X maintenance should give you your answer.

    Focus is also important. 25 items for 4 seasons. Wear everything to death.
    Colours, blues, whites, tans, greys, greens (weekends).
    Cotton, leather, suede, nylon, down.

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  37. Further more and I think the community will agree is country of origin. Must be made in the country where the brand is from. It's outrageous that companies like Brooks charge so much for something made in China. I like how muffy is sourcing smaller, quality makers and helping them. Superb muffy and community.

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    1. If it isn't made where you live, it's imported.

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  38. This post stimulated some of the most interesting comments ever.

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  39. Tools tools tools. Buy it cheap, buy it twice.

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