As my idea of conscious spending evolves, what it looks like in my family’s life also changes. I’ve realized I don’t want to invest a ton of time searching online for the cheapest deal, nor do I want to go in and out of thrift stores every day looking for novelty items.
Recently, I went on a quick search for a used booster seat. I ended up buying the wrong size in a hurry and wasted $15. Womp. Womp.
The slow-dawning reality is - sometimes spending more makes more sense.
- Are you spending on staycation activities in order to enjoy your area? This may save you from a long and exhausting poorly planned trip.
- Are you doing quick fix-up tasks on your old house to save you from the temptation of buying a new house? Probably a wise investment.
- Are you doing some extra self-care to help you hang in there with a job you enjoy 90% of the time? Money well spent.
At other times, it makes sense to spend more because of the opportunity cost of time. Trying to be a maximizer in every situation can be a real drain on happiness and scheduling. This being said, I want to be thrifty overall (and I definitely still believe in recycling), so what’s a busy person to do?
When it comes to simplifying life by going with the cheapest item in any situation, there are major red flags to consider. The obvious downside to a cheap item is it may break sooner and you will be out more money in the long run because you will have to replace it multiple times.
Using this new logic, we went with a roof that should last at least fifty years. As a bonus, it also costs less to insure. Investing in fancy shingles (especially when you don't have anything else fancy) doesn’t make sense for everyone. It certainly wasn’t fun money to spend. But we shelled out more to simplify our lives in the long run (hopefully).
We also recently spent more on a water heater because it should pay for itself in the first three years. I don’t like spending more upfront, but sometimes there are very valid reasons to do so. I guess you could say paying more for long-lasting boring house items has become part of our value-system.
Saving More Than Time Or Money
Saving resources matters too.
An overlooked problem I have with ultra-cheap items is where they are sourced from. If you are on a mission to gain control of your finances and you have a sustainability mindset, it is important to realize cheaper isn’t always better for the environment.
There are other ways to go about getting what you need. Sometimes this is convenient. Oftentimes it is not. Most of the time, it takes some creativity and time-management.
The below logic fuels a sustainability mindset.
- Step 1: Do we really need it?
- Step 2: Can we build it, make it, or assemble it ourselves using recycled materials?
- Step 3: Can we make it in a way that involves buying materials (yet uses fewer materials overall than when the item is newly built in a factory)?
- Step 4: If steps 1 - 3 can’t be done, can we buy it used?
- Step 5: If we can’t buy it used, can we work with friends in order to borrow or barter?
- Step 6: We buy new. Suddenly we find ourselves in a jungle of choices. We limit our choices by going with the item that will last the longest but not break the bank. Or we go with the item that is the cheapest yet does the least harm to the planet.
We try to use the above thought process as much as possible. Of course - life can get in the way - and thinking methodically often flies out the window during stressful weeks. We certainly aren’t perfect with it, but these six steps are a breakdown in our head becoming quite automatic with most purchases.
The Big Picture
Overall, I want my dollars to go towards businesses and practices I believe in. Some people call this voting with your dollar. It can be a powerful practice while buying new or used.
Overall, trying to buy used stems from my belief in recycling (and the thrill of finding a good deal). In addition, I like the mission statements behind many of the small businesses in my town that sell used goods. These places often provide job training and assistance to individuals who need skill-building practice in an organized environment.
For those times it makes more sense buy new, it is worth spending more to buy something that will last, something sourced in an ethical way, and something from a company treating its employees well. All of these approaches have their place, depending on your individual financial situation, the item in question, and the energy worth putting into the act of purchasing it.
I used to think about the opportunity cost of not investing money or paying down debt. Now I think about the opportunity cost of my husband not being able to spend time with my child because he is replacing some ultra-cheap item for the third time.
We want to have time for friends and family instead of running around looking for the best deal on everything. I've learned this new approach takes flexible thinking and tackling a scarcity mindset.