I’m a big believer in the idea that buying a quality product (by quality, I don’t necessarily mean the most expensive – keep reading) is worth the extra money you put in versus finding the absolute cheapest deal.
A couple months ago, I discussed looking at the total cost of ownership when buying an appliance. While TCO is a great tool to use when figuring out a purchase, it is far from the only tool you should be using.
Take, for example, diapers. I’ve been criticized on here before for spending far too much on diapers because of our loyalty to Pampers Cruisers (and their infant version, Pampers Swaddlers). We often pay roughly a quarter per diaper for these, which really adds up over the two years your child is in diapers considering you can get many generic brand diapers for ten cents a pop (or occasionally less than that).
So why do we pay so much extra? The Cruisers simply do not fail, period. We’ve never had a single one break or bust open on us. With the exception of periods of heavy teeting, they have never caused our child to have any diaper rash at all. The only leakage we have ever seen was in cases of intense diarrhea when he was ill or when we were keeping him in a small size for too long and he would urinate in the night (our own fault for exceeding the weight on the box). They’re very easy to put on, the tape never fails, and the elastic works quite well for ensuring a snug fit. We tried other diapers (we actually asked for a wide variety of them as baby shower gifts) and they all had problems of various kinds except for the Swaddlers and Cruisers. Even with just that narrow price difference, it costs an extra $876 to use those diapers over a period of two years (8 diapers a day).
We pay the extra $0.15 per diaper to cover other costs. The cost of extra time invested when a diaper breaks open. The cost of frustration when these things happen just as you’re trying to get out the door to go on a trip or get to work. The cost of the occasional diaper that would be thrown away with a break on the tape. The cost of additional laundry and wipes when his diaper leaks all over the place.
These are costs, too, and to us, they’re an important part of being frugal. When you include all of the costs, buying these diapers makes our lives simpler. Diaper disasters simply do not happen, and that has saved us countless incidents of frustration and cleaning.
The same principle applies to any consumer purchase. As I mentioned in the earlier article about total cost of ownership, even though I was spending much more up front on a more expensive washing machine, over a long period, it became much cheaper. This only discusses money – by buying a known reliable washing machine, we incur many fewer incidents where the washing machine is on the fritz or it needs replacing, which means less frustration, fewer repair calls, and fewer trips to the appliance store to pick out a new one. These are real costs, too – they may be harder to quantify, but they have an effect on your life.
How do you know what to buy? I turn to a well-known consumer publication – they may not be perfect, but they are impartial and their resources for investigation far exceed mine. I trust their word for consumer goods and appliances and I fanatically use their online archives that are available to subscribers.
This doesn’t mean I don’t look for great, cheap solutions. I’m a big believer in my homemade laundry detergent, for example; I tried it side-by-side with some of the Consumer Reports choices and mine did just as well, even with highly stained clothes. For me, looking at all of the costs (and not just the money ones), making my own batch of detergent in a five gallon bucket is the best option.