Investing in quality will save you money – there is no doubt about it. There is a a huge difference between ‘Price’ and ‘Cost’, namely because price is what you pay now, and cost is what you pay over the long term. When making a purchase, it is important to look at the quality of the product you are getting, because this will be an indicator of the longevity, life-cycle and long term cost of the product. Essentially, this all boils down to having a long time frame or long term outlook on your life and priorities – A cheap person is concerned with price, whilst a frugal person is concerned with cost.
“The quality is remembered long after the price is forgotten”Aldo Gucci, 1938.
So why do quality products matter? And how do we find out whether a product is worth checking out or not? Lets explore it
What do you mean Quality of products
The quality of a product is not really related to the price, it is much more related to the cost. Most people think these are the same thing but I can assure you they are not. Price reflects what you pay now, whereas cost refers to what you will pay over the long term. We can all think of times when we probably wished we had invested a little more in quality – and this is usually when things break or need to be repaired.
How quality products save you money
Let me give you an example; the boots I have pictured above are handmade, high quality Australian leather boots. They are tough as old nails, and I have had two pairs of mine for over a decade – Brown ones for casual, Black ones for flying.
Now the original price for these boots was something like $500 a pair. I was very fortunate in that I picked mine up as factory seconds – there was literally nothing wrong with them except they had punched a very very small hole in the leather by the top of the heel of boot near the tag. This meant I got two pairs for $500, a saving of 50% straight up.
These boots have lasted me a decade. I am not joking. Once a month or so, I give them a wash with warm soapy water to clear off any muck or grime, wash any soap off and pat them down, and let them dry a bit. Then I give them a rough polish and drench them in leather conditioning balm and leave them in the sun for an hour or so. Whether this is an appropriate care technique for boots I do not know, but perhaps in spite of this they have still lasted me 10 years. They are soft to wear, look great and do the job. Best yet, this boot polish and leather conditioner was thrown in for free when I bought the damn shoes.
After ten years I did need to replace the heel because I had literally worn it down to the point where it was going to start wearing the leather on the heel. Now that’s a lot of walking! At a cobbler this cost me $300 for BOTH pairs, including re-soling my black ones to a ‘grippier’ compound.
So, breaking it down the total price was $800 over 10 years, for two pairs of shoes. $40 per year, per pair of shoes. Not bad right?
When I compare this to other footwear, formal and casual, there is NO WAY my shoes last this long. I previously had converse and DC skate shoes (Teenage Sk8r boi) which would cost $100 a pair minimum and last me 6 months at best (possibly mostly due to the material not being leather, and my poor treatment of the shoes by the way). A shoe that looks similar to my RMs could be had for $100 but might need to be replaced every year or so because they just fall apart or aren’t as hard wearing.
Furthermore, I could shave every day with a disposable razor, but I knew if I invested in a high quality electric shaver that I could literally shave thousands off my grooming bill. For example, in the 13 years I have needed to shave, investing the $90 into my Panasonic ES8101 Electric Razor rather than the $6 multi blade safety razors has saved me over $8000!
This is how quality products save you money, but is also one of the cruel realities of poverty; often people might not be able to make an investment in quality, and unfortunately this costs them so much more over the long term. The wealthy know the difference between price and cost, understand why it is important to invest in quality (to lower your costs), and have the capability to actually do so – and this keeps them ahead of the game.
It is not just shoes or shavers though, another great example is saving money on cars – if you buy one of these cheap Chinese or Indian brand import models, odds are its going to fall apart after it gets rained on the first few times. These cars might look attractive with a price tag under $20,000 – but what this price doesn’t tell you is the vehicles true cost. Cheap brittle plastic that breaks, crap paint jobs, components that fail and stodgily designed engines and drive trains all cause them to require more expensive maintenance and have a shorter life cycle – in short, it will cost you more to run and you’ll need to replace it sooner.
This was why I was happy to pay more for my Japanese built vehicle from a premium factory – because the quality is much, much higher. And do you know what – after spending $20,000 on a second hand vehicle, I haven’t really had anything go wrong. A couple of wheel bearings was the worst of it, and that is pretty normal with the amount of driving and loads I am carrying. Of course, I also do most of my own maintenance and keep a close eye on things, as well as treat the vehicle properly, only driving it when necessary by knowing the true cost of driving and garage it indoors which helps it last longer.
If you can’t afford the quality product brand new, do what I did and buy a quality product second hand, or even a ‘factory seconds’ variety. It will most likely always be much better to – it turns out cheap people are almost always obsessed with cost, whereas a frugal person is concerned with quality.
Assessing the quality of products
So of course this begs the question, how exactly do I assess the quality of the products? Typically, the cheapest stuff you can find will be of a lower quality. There is a saying “You get what you pay for”. However, this isn’t necessarily always the case – especially when we are talking about the upper end of the price spectrum. Sometimes plain and simple, you are just paying for the brand name, or maybe a unique product patent. For example, when it comes to my mobile phone contract, I am paying literally a tenth of what I used to with Australias leading Telco, and I actually get exactly the same service! The same thing goes for my Automotive Insurance, where I actually get only a slightly reduced level of cover for drastically less price.
Ultimately, assessing the quality of the products actually comes down to the specific product you are looking at. Really, this means using your common sense and doing some research.
For example, most brands or products will pride themselves on quality. My kitchen knives at home sold themselves to me with a claim of being ‘the only knife I will ever need to buy, and one that will be handed down to my children’. So straight up, that kind of long lifespan, high quality product is very appealing to me. Remember though, these slick marketers will generally say whatever they can to get you to buy a product, so you don’t want to take their word for it.
A great place to start then is jumping online to start comparing products, reading reviews and assessing quality. Remember though, people wont usually go out of their way to leave a good review, but they most certainly will go out of their way to leave a bad review. Furthermore, many of the reviews you see online are actually fake. Yep, that is right. They are fake. Especially on social media.
Copywriters are hired by marketing firms to go ahead and spam out reviews, which can sometimes number in the thousands. This is actually illegal as it contravenes the Competition and Consumer Act 2010. Sometimes it is easy to spot a fake review, but not always – that’s why it is such an issue. If you get a gut feeling its fake or something doesn’t add up, odds are it is fake and you should probably call them out on the fake review and give the product a wide berth. You might also consider reporting this by making an online consumer complaint with the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission.
Believe it or not, some companies will even go out of their way to write fake reviews on other companies – in a form of corporate espionage. Yes, this is also illegal, and if proven they can face hefty legal consequences. Managing online reviews can be a serious pain in the arse for companies, hence the growing need for marketing and information operations departments.
So how do I get around this? With a meta analysis of reviews. It is a fancy word for saying ‘open lots and lots of browser tabs and read everything I can about the product’. I take any positive reviews with a grain of salt (since most are fake) and I analyse the product based on the negative reviews.
Remember you can’t really trust any one individual review or review site for that matter – especially commercial affiliate marketing review sites like Canstar Blue or Finder – These can be great sources of information but remember these sites are affiliate marketing businesses that typically just want you to buy a product so they can make a commission, and they are not really regulated by anyone (except loosely by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission). They also want to build trust in their brand so that they can sell their various ratings and any ‘market research’ they have done to advertisers.
“Canstar Blue awards products with a “most satisfied customers” score, and sells the “five-star” rating to winners, such as vitamin giant Centrum, for use in advertising.”The Daily Telegraph “Therapeutic Goods Administration Watchdog eyes Canstar Blue claim“
Take anything you read on the following sites with a grain of salt (because they are commercial entities). Having said that, I also make a small amount of money advertising on this blog – so it would be very hypocritical of me to tell you to boycott them entirely. Just take what you see with a grain of salt and compare it to other sources – I still use these sites when assessing quality of products I am looking to buy.
If the general consensus is the same on these sites as it is on the online forums, you generally might be fine to take your research to the next level – engaging with the company on their site, ringing them or physically checking out the product. If you click an affiliate link through this site, that is generally how they will make their profit.
I have personally found the best, independent reviews to be on sites like;
- The Australian Consumer and Competition Commission has some great articles and guides on literally everything to do with buying, including on groceries, phone services, cars, fuel, internet packages, online sales, health, home and travel: https://www.accc.gov.au/consumers
- The Australian Securities and Investment Commission has awesome information on anything to do with financial products including finding a financial advisor, guides on types of investments, property, the share market, managed funds, superannuation, budgeting, loans and credit and common scams: https://asic.gov.au/for-consumers/moneysmart/
- The Whirlpool forums. Whirlpool started in 1998 as a parody of Telstras ‘BigPond’ and it was mainly used as a non-official channel for internet service providers to provide assistance to customers having issues with their internet. Over time it has grown and morphed to become a bit of an underground source of no bull information via a large forum. There are a million registered users who discuss everything from technology providers (internet, phones etc) right through to Jobs, Automotive stuff and even real estate. The site makes money from Google Adsense and is independent in that it doesn’t make any money from affiliate reviews. I have used this forum from everything to analysing telcos through to troubleshooting a malfunctioning dishwasher!
- Choice. Choice is a not for profit community advocacy organisation, which was actually started way back in 1959! They had a pretty pumping magazine back in the day, but we all know everyone has gone digital so really most people access this on their website. They are a commercial entity, and they do make money from subscriptions (according to Wikipedia they have over 200,000 subscriptions) and revenue exceeds (AUD) $20 Million, but they do not accept advertising and it is a not-for-profit so supposedly this money goes back into paying for product testers, journalists, and consumer advocacy lobbying to the government. Seems legit.
Questions to ask to assess quality of products
- What is the intended lifespan of the product? Both in time and in number of uses
- Does the product come with a warranty?
- When will I need to replace the product?
- What is the cost of maintenance / repairing the product?
- What do comparable products cost, and where does this sit in the pricing spectrum?
- Is the item or service it provides fit for purpose? How will I actually use it
- How can I store the item or care for it to maximise its life span?
- What do other people who have used the products say? Check out both online reviews, social media and asking anyone who you know has the product or a similar product
Investing in quality will usually always save you money in the long term – as there is a a huge difference between ‘Price’ and ‘Cost’. Remember, price is what you pay now, and cost is what you pay later. When making a purchase, it is important to look at the quality of the product you are getting, because this will be an indicator of the longevity, life-cycle and long term cost of the product. Essentially, this all boils down to having a long time frame or long term outlook on your life and priorities.
There are a number of ways to assess the quality, and jumping online to an independent or .gov (government) site is usually the best way to go. There are thousands of illegal fake reviews out there, and remember people are less inclined to leave positive reviews than they are to leave a negative review – so don’t let it spook you too much. Finally, a number of product comparison websites actually make money from affiliate marketing and commissions, so its important to take whatever they say with a grain of salt too (but they can still be really useful to get an idea of whats out there).
Remember though, you can go overboard with these reviews and with the internet at our fingertips more than ever we experience the paradox of choice, so just take a leaf out of Parettos book and use the 80/20 principle to find a ‘good enough’ solution!