My brain is slowly re-wiring itself now that I’m finally free of credit card debt, and I’m wondering about things that I never seriously considered before. I remember many years ago talking with a friend who tried explaining to me that it made sense to spend $600 on a pair of shoes, if they were high-quality enough to last for decades. At the time, I rejected that idea immediately and, I thought, forever. After all, they’re just shoes.
But now, I’m allowed to think about paying more for higher quality in additional areas of life, and I find that I want to think about it before spending money on just about anything. Maybe shoes can be worth $600, maybe it’s worth it to have a suit tailored exactly to my body, maybe there’s a good reason one hammer costs twice as much as the hammer hanging right next to it.
For example, last week we bought an oscillating lawn sprinkler. In the last seven years we’ve bought probably seven or eight sprinklers, some of them fancier than others, but none of them what you’d consider high end (at least not if you’ve done the research I just did). Last week’s sprinkler probably cost just over $10 after tax. We tried to set it up in the yard and we simply couldn’t figure out how to get it to spread the water out in the right pattern. It’d get stuck in one position, or only go up halfway before coming back down. The controls didn’t make any sense, and when we tried to get it to stop spraying upside-down, it broke.
After we gave up, I did some research at the Home Depot and Lowe’s websites, and cross-referenced their options with sprinkler reviews at Amazon, and I found two surprising facts: 1) neither Lowe’s nor Home Depot sell sprinklers at my local stores that are well-reviewed on Amazon, and 2) it looks like you need to spend at least $35 for any sprinkler that is well-reviewed.
Actually, I learned a third surprising thing: a person could theoretically spend almost $2,000 on a lawn sprinkler. I didn’t get that one, I got the first one I could find with more than a couple five-star reviews, which ended up being $37.80. It still seems like a lot to spend on something that should be easy to make cheap, but according to several reviewers, this is a brand that can last up to ten years. In other words, it goes against the “they don’t make ’em like they used to” concept.
I tested the new sprinkler just now, and it worked right the first time, due in large part to controls that make sense. So, I’m adding sprinklers to the list of things I’d pay more for, in addition to video and photography equipment, computer hardware and software, trash cans, wine, coffee, power tools, haircuts, mattresses and bed frames, cars, air filters, pet care, vacations, exercise equipment, and dinner ingredients, not to mention the occasional visit to a nice restaurant.
But there are still some things I will always buy the cheap version of, if only because I tend to lose them. That’s being generous; I always lose them. Sunglasses and fingernail clippers, for example.
I’m still not so sure about shoes, though. What did you used to buy the cheap version of, before you decided to spend more on quality?
Published or updated August 29, 2010.