This is a guest article by Stella Louise, editor of Blog & Save from Savings.com.
I was my neighborhood T.J. Maxx recently debating between two pairs of boots: Both were low heel, knee-high black boots, but one was a more trendy version with black stretch panel inserts by a reputable brand name, while the other pair were basic, classic and unadorned and by a more premium shoe maker. The second pair was also twice the price of the more trendy boots.
I bought the more expensive pair.
I would have saved $50 if I had based my decision solely on price, but I decided to “think outside the shoebox” as it were and factor something else into my decision. It wasn’t the fact that the more expensive boots were manufactured by a more prestigious designer and that they were actually worth 2-3 times the T.J. Maxx price, it was the fact that I’d most likely get more use out of the basic, classic style vs. the trendier pair of boots.
Here’s the thing: I already own three pairs of black boots. The first pair is a short style to be worn under pants. After purchasing them, I knew I still “needed” a pair of knee high boots to wear with dresses and skirts, so when I found a pair of faux suede boots with a pointy toe and killer stiletto heels for only $18, I thought I had it made. Unfortunately, “killer” doesn’t only apply to the look of the boots, but what they do to my feet as well.
The third pair of black boots I bought are knee high with a more moderate heel, as well as being cuffed at the top and having strap-detailing across the front of the ankle. They are easier to wear than the stiletto boots, but are not exactly wearable. They don’t zip up, which means if I want wear them over jeans I have the impossible task of trying to shove pant legs inside the boot without them getting all bunched up. And the detailing which makes them unique and stylish, also limits what they can be worn with.
The reasons I bought them: they were black, they were knee-high, they were more comfortable than the stiletto boots and, most importantly, they were cheap.
Except, when all is said and done, they weren’t because I haven’t gotten much use out of them at all. Since I had already sunk a bit of money into several pairs of boots to begin with, I let cost, rather than functionality, be the deciding factor in my decision. So I settled for a pair that weren’t very versatile because at the time they seemed to be a good buy.
“Penny-wise and pound foolish,” as my Dad might say–for when you base a purchasing decision solely on price, you can end up paying much more in the long run.
Whether it’s the winter coat that falls apart after only one season, or the iPhone knock-off that doesn’t have the essential features you actually need or the gym with the lower membership fee that doesn’t have the equipment or classes that make it worth actually getting yourself to go there to work out, settling for “close enough” can have some serious financial ramifications. In the case of the cheap coat, you’d end up shelling out for a new one next season when it would have been more cost effective to spend the extra cash up front for a better-made version that would last several years. The cheap gym could cause you to eat a hefty initiation fee when you finally move to one that’s more suitable–not to mention the months of paying dues and never using the facilities. And if you’re really jonesing for an iPhone, chances are that the knock-off you settled for will end up gathering dust in favor of you splurging to get the coveted gadget.
In fact more often than not, “settling” only leads to costing you extra money in the long run. Everything being equal, it makes sense to choose the lower price–but, as I’ve written before, there are a number of situations where cheaper isn’t better. So before making a purchasing decision, make sure you take into account factors other than just price–including quality, value, functionality, usefulness, longevity, etc. Because whether it’s a lifemate or a laptop, settling can have costly consequences.
Updated June 23, 2016 and originally published October 29, 2010.