Cheap vs. Frugal

Pruning Clippers

Buy it once and make it last.

I like to save money. That's not unusual, but my desire to be frugal can lead to being cheap. Unfortunately, being cheap leads to spending more money, because cheap items often don't work well or last long. I seem to have this cheap/frugal problem any time I have to choose between two or more widgets in a store. When I look at a range of items, I tend towards the lowest price. I should know by now that the cheapest item can become the most expensive item in the long run.

The question of cheap vs. frugal boils down to a question of quality. Picking quality is usually the best way to save money as it equates to ease of use and longevity. Chosing goods that work well and last is a great way to reduce your consumption and headaches in the long run. That is also the first component of "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle".

Being continually pulled between cheap and frugal I've certainly made mistakes. One example is my last purchase of pruning clippers. I have a set of poorly made and in-effective hand clippers (blue handle to the left). The blade is slightly askew so it doesn't cleanly strike the "anvil", it will only cut through very small branches and weeds, and the handle isn't very comfortable. After years of fighting with these clippers I finally bought a better pair. My new pruning clippers are forged steel, with bypass cutting blades and a well designed handle (green handle to the right). The first time I used them I sighed with relief as they cleanly trimmed branches from a sapling tree. I've kept the old pruning clippers as a reminder to choose quality before price.

Of course, being human, I still make mistakes. The lawn sprinkler I have is a prime example. I made an impulse buy of a cheap, plastic, oscillating lawn sprinkler. After one season of use the knob to adjust the range of the sprinkler slips, leading to a semi-random watering range. I am now on the hunt for a properly designed and built, adjustable lawn sprinkler. Any suggestions would be welcome!

Being able to discern quality takes time, experience and education. Unfortunately, we often gain that experience by choosing the wrong thing. Consumer magazines and ratings websites can be helpful in educating yourself about every sort of consumer good. Please post your own experiences with being frugal vs. cheap.