Friday, November 11, 2011

Being too frugal

I found this interesting post from another blogger today (via the blog "The Simple Dollar"--I love that site) about being too frugal, and when frugality is a bad thing. I have to admit, I totally agree with the author. Though I try to save money in nearly every way, I do think it's worth it to buy new, quality things in some cases. Like winter staples. I don't mean hats and scarves, I mean coats and boots. Gloves. These are the things that will do the most to keep you warm in harsh conditions and for that reason, they need to be quality. My winter coat was expensive, but thankfully it was a Christmas gift from my parents. And even though I've had it for three years now, it will be the only winter coat I need for quite a few years to come. Because I know just how expensive it was (I picked it out) it gives me the impetus to keep it nice. I've kept my old (crappy) winter coat partly as a backup, and partly to wear when I'm doing something that might mess up my nice coat, like sledding.
One of the ideas I really like, rather than simply looking at the dollar amount is to think about the cost-per-use estimate. When I'm contemplating buying something new, or replacing something, I think about this. For instance, my Dansko shoes were over $100, but I've worn them nearly every day for three years now. That brings the cost per wear down to pennies, and they're still going strong. Not only are they wearing well, they're still super comfortable. Spencer (who's majoring in economics, btw) was talking about this the other day with his own shoes. He loves his Ecco brand shoes because they last a long time and the company has some sort of rebate policy if the shoes wear out. He estimated that Shane has spent nearly twice as much on cheaper shoes over the past five years compared to his one-time cost for shoes that last. He finally had to replace his old ones last year, but with the rebate (or coupon?) for sending them back in the new ones didn't cost him anything.
Beyond just the cost-per-wear idea, there's also the fact that these are investments in health. Your shoes can give you a number of health problems if they don't suit you, and if they don't have enough or the right kinds of support. Not only can they have immediate effects, too, but usually long-term consequences like back problems. With my coat, I'm not doing myself any favors if I get even mild hypothermia or frostbite. And since I spend so much time outdoors, even in winter, it's an investment in keeping myself healthy and warm.
The point of this is, being frugal on some items might seem ok in the short term, but is really bad in the long-term. This is when frugality becomes simply someone being cheap. There are items which are a good bargain, and then there are items which become an investment. The trick is finding out which is which, and what matters to you in the long run. If you're not going to use/wear something much, go for the cheap option. But if it's something you know you'll use over and over again? Saving up a decent amount of money and investing in something that will last is hands down your best option. Then do your best to keep it nice.

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