The Case for Paying More

I don’t think you spend enough money on your stuff.

 

There, I said it.  Go ahead, read it again.  Alright, now that you’re either confused or offended, let me explain what I mean.  Our culture of expendability has led us to expect everything we could ever want for free, or at the very least, as cheap as humanly possible.  Look at the apps on your phone, the meals at the drive-through, the super cheap but oh-so-cute section at the front of Target.  All of it crazy cheap thanks to economies of scale, and all of it forgotten by next week.  Nobody ever rushes to tell their friends about the life-changing number 6 combo they just ate, or the 43rd endless runner app they downloaded that was some high school junior’s class project.  Those products are boiled down to the most very basic ingredients, and are designed to fill a need as cheaply and efficiently as possible.  But those products also lack soul.  There’s no story behind the 30-pack of socks you bought for $10.  I’m not saying there’s no place for these kinds of things, believe me.  When you’re fighting traffic on your way home from the office after sticking over an hour to make sure a deadline is met, sometimes that number 6 combo might actually be a little life-changing.  As a culture, though, I think we would benefit from moving away from the use-it-and-toss-it mentality towards the buy-it-for-life mentality.

Even the big-ticket items suffer from this now.  Looking at you, cell phones.  If you know the retail price of your phone, I’m willing to bet you’re in the minority in America.  All anyone thinks about is the $20 a month they have to pay towards their phone, and the X number of months they have left before they can trade it in for a new one.  We’re carrying around $800 computers in our pockets, people, and most of them have shattered screens, buttons broken off, and hot sauce spilled in the earpieces!  Woof, sometimes I feel like such a cranky old man.

But let me propose something a little weird to try and combat this epidemic.  If you’re going to buy something, buy it.  Don’t make payments, don’t settle for the knockoff version (see the disclaimer below), don’t steal someone else’s.  Here’s my logic path: by nature, we’re attached to our money.  We’re not attached to our stuff.  Not that we necessarily should be attached to our stuff, but we trade money for stuff, so what happens to that attachment?  My hypothesis is that we have gotten so good at masking the ways we part with our money that we forget that we have to spend it to acquire all this stuff we have.  We use cards, not cash.  We make payments, we don’t pay in full.  We buy online, we don’t talk to a salesperson.  We have automatic deposit and payments, we don’t pay attention to our bills.

Again, I don’t want to come off like a guy who just wants to go back to the 1920s, since everyone knows that’s when life was perfect, but hear me out.

The More an Item Costs, The More We Will Consider It

If you were going to go out next month and drop $1,000 on something, wouldn’t you make sure you are buying the right thing?  Or that you even need it in the first place?  Wouldn’t you do some research, read some reviews, ask some friends what they think of the purchase?  We tend to pause before spending large amounts of money on something, and that pause can be a very good thing.  It makes us analyze what we’re doing instead of spending mindlessly because “it’s only $X.”  Maybe that pause will help you realize you don’t need that new thing at all, that your current situation is just fine.  Not spending $1,000 on something you don’t need is way better than spending $100 on something you don’t need.  And on the other hand, spending $1,000 on something that you’ve researched, thought/prayed about, and talked over with your family is way better than spending $100 on a whim that you might forget about next month.  Here’s the disclaimer from up above: off-brand and discount products sometimes require just as much research as name brands.  I’ve gone through so many pairs of cheap sunglasses that I could have bought two pairs of Oakleys by now.  Discounted products aren’t always a waste of money, but impulse buys because something is just so cheap are a bigger gamble.

The More an Item Costs, The More We Will Value It

Spending money hurts.  Like, it actually activates pain centers in our brain.  But the trick is, we have to know we’re spending the money.  If we know we’ve spent the money, we can salvage some of that attachment we had to the money and transfer it to whatever we spent it on.  Remembering that we traded $1,000 in cash for the shiny iPhone X helps keep us from dropping in the toilet, or leaving it on the roof of the car during our morning hustle.  Piggybacking off the last section, if we’ve spent a lot on an item and researched it fully before we bought it, that item is bound to be well-cared for.  Added bonus: when it does come time for whatever that item is to be replaced, the better condition it will be in and the higher resale value it will have.

One caveat to this: try not to fall for artificial markups.  A piece of clothing isn’t worth more simply because it has a name on it.  Again, going back to researching, pay attention to the quality of materials, the amount of human effort that went into designing and producing the item, that kind of thing.  Be willing to pay for craftsmanship, not for salesmanship.

The More an Item Costs, The More Time We Will Spend With It

One thing I see a lot of on the “buy it for life” subreddit is boots.  I have never had a conversation with a real live person about what kind of boots to buy, but for some reason, that’s like the only thing everyone has an opinion on there.  But when I think about it, boots truly are something you can buy once that will last you for life.  Now, those boots are going to cost quite a bit more than the Wal-Mart versions, but that’s the whole point of this post, isn’t it?  Spending more for something of higher quality leads us to research it more, care for it more, and in turn, use it for longer.  Using things for longer leads to replacing them less often and ultimately saving money in the process.

Money is a tool.  Don’t be afraid to use it, but use it carefully, and use it wisely.  Wasting it on cheap things that serve no purpose is just that: a waste.

4 thoughts on “The Case for Paying More

  1. Great case for paying more. It’s all about value and truly wanting something. If the value is there, then go ahead and buy it (using cash, not debt obviously). And if you pay more, you’re likely to have really considered whether you want it.

    1. Thanks, Kyle! Great name, by the way 🙂 And yeah, after you get past the “think about what you’re doing” part, it’s basically a balancing game. Are you willing to part with a chunk of money, giving up the opportunity to theoretically use it towards anything in the world, in order to trade for this one thing in front of you? If so, that says something about the purchase, and you should listen!

  2. Wow, this is all so well said! I feel like the personal finance world shies away from talking about spending, which is kinda ridiculous since it’s inevitable. Like you said, it’s just a tool; it doesn’t buy happiness, but it can be used to buy flexibility and choices.

    I love the part about how the more something costs, the more we’ll think about it. It’s so true! We do hours of flight research — but that makes me aware of what I’m signing up for and helps me appreciate the privilege to travel, etc.

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