Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Frugal = Cheap or Expensive?

image from here
Some frugal people think buying cheap clothing on sale during tax-free weekends is the best way to go, even if the clothing is cheaply made. Other frugal people think that buying well-made clothing, even if it is expensive, is best.

I think a mix of both is a good use of resources.

I see the lure of buying cheap clothing. One can find something trendy quite easily, she can afford it, and it's not too terrible if that item falls apart because the style will be out of favor quickly anyway.

I also see the advantage of buying expensive, well-made clothing. One can feel assured the item will look nice and last for a long time, as well as be appropriate in many more situations than a cheap and trendy item. Looking at the long term cost of an expensive, well-made item that is timeless (and therefore appropriate for any woman's age), it is a better use of money than buying multiple cheap versions which need to be replaced over and over. So, it seems to me that the well-made clothing is the best use of money.

But if that's true, then why would it ever be a good idea to go for something inexpensive over something that is well-made?

Both of these frugal approaches require a certain expectation of style: If one wants her clothing to last a nice long time, she will naturally gravitate towards classic styles so that they do not go out of style quickly. In that case, focusing on well-made clothing is best. But if one's priority is to keep up with trends, then cheap clothing stores offer options which copy the stylish versions available at high-end stores. In either of these cases, it seems easy to know what type of frugal approach one should take. But most people do not fall into these categories so easily -- most people fall into a category somewhere in between very traditional and very trendy when it comes to their style. They want to look up to date, but not too trendy or too "young." For this middle ground of extremes, it makes sense to mix high-end, well-made items with low-end, passing trends.

And, realistically, not everyone can afford to only buy expensive clothing. Sometimes someone needs a new coat, and getting a well-made, expensive one isn't an option. If one is smart, she'll upgrade her items as she can, one-by-one, until all of her basics are of quality, but until then, one may need to buy some inexpensive items along the way.

There are also some items that will not last no matter how well they're made -- for instance, a white tee is likely to become dingy or stained and need to be replaced before it falls apart. Athletic wear is another example of something that probably needs replacing after not too long, due to how much wear and tear it goes through.

So, for these reasons, I think it is best to mix high-end, well-made clothing with low-end clothing. For me, the goal is to spend a small amount of money on the items I know I'll want to, or need to, replace soon, and spend more on other items that I want to last a nice long time.

 And luckily, a benefit of mixing is that cheap clothing looks better when paired with expensive clothing. So if one puts a little thought into everything she buys, she gets the best of both worlds.

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