Buy cheap, buy twice: how to save money by buying for life
Everyone wants more bang for their buck from the things that they buy.
Most people are familiar with the idea of ‘buy cheap, buy twice’ - in other words, cheap things break, and you get what you pay for. But when it comes to actually coughing up the money for better stuff, it can feel hard to justify - especially with the cost of living on the rise.
It’s easy to buy cheap. Not only is it less painful on the wallet, but going for the cheapest option saves us from spending any time on researching better products. If it breaks, no big deal. But whilst buying cheap products can feel like you’re being frugal, it usually doesn’t work out that way. Over the years, the cost of replacing these goods adds up.
Whilst cheap things need to be bought over and over (piling up in landfill in the meantime), you only need to pay for quality once. Buy-for-life products - ones that last forever - provide outstanding value over years of use, even if they represent a much higher upfront cost.
We’re going to discuss how and why to break away from buying cheap, and how to save money by buying more mindfully. If you’re interested in making shopping choices that provide long-term value, read on.
Cheap goods: a false economy
Everyone has had a run-in with a cheap purchase that let them down after a short time. Whether it’s a botched-together pair of shoes or a one-use umbrella, buying things that break quickly is frustrating and wasteful. Despite the low prices, it feels like a waste of money - and it is.
The cheaper a product is, the more corners are being cut to make it. That means low-quality materials, slapdash production and cheap labour. Companies know that having the absolute lowest price tag means more sales, so they’re constantly pushing the bottom line. These goods are a criminal waste of our natural resources, which are used up for the sake of a throwaway experience.
Whilst buying products like this is cheaper in the short term, the cost of replacements and repairs creeps up over the years. A good pair of boots, for instance, may cost three times as much as some cheap ones. But during the time that you have to pay to resole and replace your cheap boots over and over, the better pair will just keep enduring.
What’s more, choosing cheap goods encourages us to buy more and more. Think of those cheap boots - why not buy three pairs for the price of one good pair? Suddenly, you feel as if you need three pairs to choose from at once. Then, you’re not just repairing or replacing one pair, but three - and the expense (and the waste) has snowballed.
This doesn’t just apply to things that break after a few weeks or months, where it might be easy to see why you shouldn’t buy them again. With products like shoddy furniture or cheap appliances, the repeated expense can go unnoticed over the course of many years.
Changing our notions of ‘value’
Buying cheap by default can be hard to let go of, especially if you’re naturally thrifty. But if we want our hard-earned money to go as far as possible, we need to detach cheapness from the way we think of good value.
Let us be clear - looking for a bargain is no bad thing. A higher price is certainly no guarantee of quality either. But when we’re weighing up the value of an item, we should consider a) how well it will do its job, and b) how long it will do that job for, and compare that with the price. If you’re not living hand to mouth, it makes financial sense to change your shopping perspective from one of ‘save some money now’ to ‘save more money in the long run and also own better things’.
Well-crafted products will always provide a better service, and for a longer time. They offer great value, because your investment is spread out over years of use. Once you really start thinking this way, you also put more thought into your purchases - so you simply start to buy less, because you’re not seduced into impulse buys. All this shrinks your carbon footprint, saving on the emissions of manufacture, delivery, upkeep and disposal of your purchases.
As well as money, buy-for-life goods save our most valuable asset: time. When you have a product that you can rely on year in, year out, you can spend less time shopping. And when you buy a cheap product instead, you’re signing up your future self to the pain of breaking, repairing and replacing it.
Sometimes you simply may not be able to afford something that costs more. But if the product you want isn’t an immediate necessity, don’t buy a disappointing stopgap - consider saving up for the better product instead. Buying ‘that’ll do for now’ purchases can keep you in a cycle of repeatedly buying cheap things you can afford in the moment. The delayed gratification of saving also ensures you’re buying something you really want.
Some buy-once inspiration, costed
If you aren’t convinced that choosing buy-for-life stuff isn’t just an excuse to splurge on luxury items, let us show you some figures. We costed up a few of our long-lasting favourites versus their throwaway counterparts.
Lifelong things give you long-term satisfaction
We’ve talked a lot about saving money. But it has to be said - high quality products are about so much more than that. They don’t just bring the value of lasting a long time - they offer a better experience. Think about cooking on a quality pan instead of a thin, warped non-stick. Or holding a strong, secure umbrella in a storm, instead of a flimsy half-broken one.
When you surround yourself with solid, reliable things that work well, feel good and reflect your taste, it brings a quiet happiness. It’s not the quick-fix high of grabbing an impulse buy, but the long-term satisfaction of knowing you put your money towards a better product. Whilst you’re likely to get buyer’s remorse from low-quality goods, you develop a greater appreciation for buy-for-life things the longer you use them.
We admit - products can be made so staggeringly cheaply these days, that it’s sometimes the case that the buy-for-life option isn’t cost effective. You’d have to break sixteen £8.99 Currys kettles before you’d matched the price of our Dualit model. But you use that kettle every day, and the Dualit is faster, quieter, drip-free, and repairable to boot. Don’t discount the value of the experience - or the lower environmental impact.
Look for: timeless quality
So - it’s all well and good deciding you want to invest in long-lived products, but how can you be sure you’re buying the right stuff? Before you commit to having something forever, you’re going to want to do your research.
One of the first places to start when identifying longer-lasting things is the materials. Take a belt, for instance. After a quick bit of research, you'll realise that you shouldn’t just look for genuine leather, or decent quality leather. If you can afford it, full-grain vegetable-tanned hide will really last forever.
You should also ask yourself whether you’ll still love this item in ten, twenty years plus. Ignore fleeting trends and instead opt for classic, timeless designs that won’t look dated quickly.
A great way to identify buy-for-life products is a good guarantee. A long guarantee ensures that the manufacturer will stand by their product years into the future. And if it’s a lifetime guarantee, then that promise is forever.
But as well as the duration of the guarantee, make sure you dig down into the details. If it’s a lifetime guarantee, is that the lifetime of the buyer, or the expected lifetime of the product? What does the guarantee cover? Do you need to register the product? Generous guarantees add huge value to a product, so keep an eye out for them when you’re shopping.
Look for: repairability
If you want to own your stuff forever, make sure you know if it can be repaired - and how. When it comes to complex products like electronics and appliances, there are more hidden parts that can go wrong. A lot of modern electronics aren’t built for repair, and instead have all their parts glued together. Look for companies that design their products for disassembly, provide their own repair services and offer affordable spare parts. It’s a great reassurance, and means they’re committed to long-term ownership.
Buy Me Once makes this easy
All this research can be intimidating, and that’s what often makes people pick the cheapest product - so they don’t have to think beyond finding the lowest price. That’s where we come in. Our team of researchers are experts on all sorts of products, from clothing to cookware to electronics. We put the hours in to find high-quality products with great guarantees, so you can save time and money.
We understand that not everyone can afford to make the buy-for-life choice every time. And it has to be said, super-cheap goods mean that what were once considered luxuries are now affordable to more people than ever. People’s quality of life has improved because of it.
However, these rock-bottom prices mean that we feel comfortable with buying more stuff than ever before - and it adds up. Whether it’s from replacing our low-quality goods, or acquiring stuff we don’t need, buying cheap means we lose out financially in the long run. And if our rate of consumption continues increasing unchecked, future generations will pay the consequences.
Buy Me Once is on a mission to help people make more mindful shopping choices with the future in mind. Our financial futures - but also our collective future on this planet. Buying for life curbs your spending, shrinks your carbon footprint and makes you more satisfied with the things you own too. Make the switch to more considered shopping decisions and choose quality over price, and you’ll never look back.
Interested in how we choose our products? Take a look at our research process.
We test our products over the course of years. Read our five-year Solidteknics review here.How much do our bestsellers cost per use? Read our breakdown.