My go-to bag is a $2 cloth tote from Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne. Every now and then, someone will ask me why I don’t “invest” in a better bag that will last longer and not get stretched out of shape, just like their $3,000 Prada handbag that will endure for a lifetime. The problem isn’t that the Prada bag won’t last long enough, but rather that I won’t live long enough to get my money’s worth.
On the other hand, there are some cheap-ass things I’ve regretted buying, like virtually any clothing items on Taobao. So how do you decide whether you should pay a bit more for quality? Ask yourself these questions before you take out your wallet.
1. How much are you really going to use it?
You can buy the world’s best wok, the kind only hawkers who drive Mercedes cars use, but if your idea of great cooking skills is removing the Maggi mee from the pot at exactly the right time, you’re better off saving the money to buy more crates of tom yam flavoured noodles.
Before you splash out on something, ask yourself honestly how often you’re going to use it. Try not to trick yourself into believing you’ll be using it on a darily basis just because it’s so pretty and shiny.
This is particularly important in the case of clothing items, handbags and wallets, because let’s be honest, it’s pretty much impossible to predict what will look embarrassing in three years’ time.
2. Do you really need such super quality?
When people tell you you should pay more for better quality, often they don’t really give a crap about you per se. They’re just trying to tell you that their taste is so refined their skin would shrivel up and come off in flakes if they used facial products sold at Watsons.
If money were no issue, you could buy the very best of every single product imaginable. But in reality, we don’t need that sort of quality.
Would you pay $20,000 for an iPhone with hardware that would last forever when you know it would be obsolete in less than five years? And what about those Louis Vuitton monogram bags with the little anime flowers that cost thousands of dollars but are now considered “so 90s”?
Ask yourself how much quality you need and then buy accordingly. If you’re buying a witch hat or a pair of devil horns for a Halloween party, there’s no need to buy the deluxe edition unless you’re planning to be a witch or devil every year for the rest of your life.
On the other hand, if you’re buying something like tyres for your car or motorbike, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that buying the cheapest, crappiest ones might not be the smartest or safest thing to do.
3. Is there a cheaper way to get the same quality?
Not buying the cheapest, lousiest product available doesn’t always mean you should immediately run to Orchard Road to gleefully buy the luxury version at retail prices.
Most of the time, if a product is of great quality, it doesn’t get destroyed after a few uses, meaning it can survive to the point where people are selling it second hand. And that’s where you, the bargain hunter, can benefit.
We’re huge proponents of never paying retail prices for anything unless you can help it. Other than buying second hand, look online for better deals, search for coupons on Groupon and anticipate seasonal sales.
Also remember to do research on similar products that can offer the same value at lower prices.
4. Does it really offer better quality?
So you’ve done your research and you know what you’re going to buy. In a perfect world, your new digital camera or Japanese bread maker are just what you dreamt they would be, and you go riding off into the sunset on a white horse, shopping bags in hand.
Unfortunately, in reality there are a lot of awful products out there. And I’m not just talking about the “iPods” on Taobao. So do a bit of research even if it means delaying your purchase by a couple of days.
What are the factors you consider before buying something expensive? Let us know in the comments!