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Paying for High Quality Household Items and Living Below Your Means
Old 01-16-2011, 09:27 PM   #1
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Paying for High Quality Household Items and Living Below Your Means

In an effort to live below my means, I am trying to figure out what type of high price/high quality household items (things like consumer electronics, furniture, appliances, bedding, computers, etc.) make sense for me. It seems to me like there are some household items where, since the product is so disposable, paying for "high quality" does not make financial sense. And then there seems to be some household items where paying for high quality will create a good return on your investment.

I wondered what your experience has been like in this area?
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:40 PM   #2
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After thinking, I have no high quality household items. So I am curious what others will say.

I do have a Lexus and high quality camera equipment, but those are not household items.
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:47 PM   #3
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I'm a sucker for the higher quality stuff. If I feel I can afford the better item I'll step up to the plate and get it. I don't think there's anyone in the cemetary that wishes they saved more money and did without if they could afford it. Ya can't take it with you.
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:53 PM   #4
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What's worked for me is not being an early adopter when it comes to technology. Getting in when the technology is proven and appears to be popular enough for competitive pricing but way, way ahead of obsolesence. I like buying used stuff (or scratch and dent) that can be fixed up if necessary. I'd prefer a higher quality used item over lesser quality new. Also buying a notch below "top of the line" appears to generally offer more value IMO.

I think the real key is figuring out what types of things you value highly and splurge on those. Scrimp on things you don't value so much.

Problem is the general public prefers to throw things out and buy new replacements so mfr's often can't/won't build the quality in.
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Old 01-16-2011, 09:57 PM   #5
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I'm still mentally going from room to room and thinking. We have good furniture "solid wood" and good beds, but they ain't high end. We have nice cooking pots & pans. The knives are cheap, but we've had them more than 15 years. The flatware is Oneida, about $80 for 12 place settings. The wedding china is never used. The everyday plates are Lenox dinnerware.

We have no jewelry except our wedding rings. I don't own a watch except for the one that goes with my heart rate monitor. The stereo is a good system from 1986. The DVD player is a PlayStation 3. I'm thinking if the house burned down, I would be upset most about an original painting. Everything else is easily replaceable.

I've been to the homes of relatives and friends who are much wealthier than us. I have never seen anything in them that I coveted.
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Old 01-16-2011, 10:44 PM   #6
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... paying for "high quality" does not make financial sense.
I don't think it ever does. Buy cheap --- when it breaks, throw it away, buy a new one.
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Old 01-16-2011, 10:53 PM   #7
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I agree with the OP... buying something for the long term that provides a true value is better than buying cheap and replacing over and over...

We bought high end couches... but got all of them at auctions (some are Drexel Heritage which I understand are very expensive)

We have bought furniture that is high end... again at auctions.... or the Dump.. (funny, but this is the most expensive stuff to us even though it is not as high end as some of the other stuff)...

We have some nice solid wood bookcases that I have owned for over 30 years.... my brother got them at auction...

Our dining room set is nice... bought from a sister... the hutch at auction...

For electronics... I did by my surround sound receiver new... but online at a discount... still, it was nice when I bought it... (it is about 20 or 25 YO)... the biggest expense was my speakers... very high end... cost a bundle even though I bought used... but they sound great


I do buy new cars... and drive them a long time...


SOOO, I do see value in spending more when you buy so you can keep it a lot longer than buying cheap....
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Old 01-16-2011, 10:56 PM   #8
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I wouldn't say high quality, but I can say I'm glad I paid more to get a nice "lifetime warranty" set of non stick pots and pans. Doesn't matter the brand, calphalon, emeril, circulon, scanpan, etc. So far, I lived thru 5-6 lifetimes already! Well worth the shipping cost to replace them.
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Old 01-16-2011, 11:19 PM   #9
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Looking around our house, I'd say that 70% of our furnishing was bought second hand. Solid wood, well built, but there are a few scratches here and there. No matter, I think it adds character. The rest was gifted to us or I built myself. The only piece of furniture we bought new in our whole house was our sofa. We went for a good quality frame but we chose a slipcovered model so that we could easily freshen up the look down the road without changing the whole thing. Our old sofa (32 years old) was reupholstered by yours truly and found a second -or third or fourth- life in my office. We also bought a new mattress last year. We waited for a sale and bought a slightly superior quality mattress which was a nice upgrade from our old, basic mattress. Our bedding is higher quality as well but we buy it at TJ MAxx or Macy's when they have a big sale in the fall (70% off on our top-of-the-line down comforter).

Our china, silverware, glassware, table linens and kitchenware were either inherited, bought in second hand shops, or gifted to us 10 years ago for our wedding. Nice, but not the fancy stuff you find at department stores. We have bought a few pots and pans since then, and I went with a brand I trust (not cheap, but not the most expensive either). For small kitchen appliances, I usually get cheap brands and replace when it breaks. I am more careful when choosing large appliances. But even for those, value is more important than quality alone.

We do splurge on electronics. We own a fair number of Apple products, nice TVs and surround sound systems. Our computers are fairly basic though. My wife has some good quality jewelry but she received it as gift from my family. I doubt we would buy quality jewelry ourselves. I enjoy wearing good quality but affordable clothes (Banana Republic is my favorite brand) and my wife likes her Ralph Lauren polos though she only buys hers at TJ MAxx.

Overall, I don't think we are attracted to "the best of the best" when it comes to household items. IMO, "the best of the best" is often overrated and overhyped. We prefer to go for items that offer decent quality and good value.
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Old 01-16-2011, 11:46 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by midnighter777 View Post
In an effort to live below my means, I am trying to figure out what type of high price/high quality household items (things like consumer electronics, furniture, appliances, bedding, computers, etc.) make sense for me. It seems to me like there are some household items where, since the product is so disposable, paying for "high quality" does not make financial sense. And then there seems to be some household items where paying for high quality will create a good return on your investment.
I wondered what your experience has been like in this area?
"High quality" makes a lot of sense, but "high prices" does not.

We buy great quality from Craigslist. It's usually been in production for a few years so the bugs have been worked out, or after doing our research we decide to avoid it. The sellers are usually motivated differently than we would be ("We redecorated and this doesn't match the new paint color"...) or financially desperate.

We've replaced just about every single stick of furniture in the house, some more than once. We've upgraded computer desks at least twice. We've found plenty of kitchen appliances & washer/dryer combos. We've even found brand-name mattresses/box springs still sealed in their plastic from went-out-of-business sales.

The nice thing about ER is being able to read the RSS feed of the new postings for things we never knew we needed, or being able to stalk Craigslist for certain keywords for months.
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Old 01-17-2011, 12:01 AM   #11
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I have found the difference between poor and good quality can be a matter of a few (plus or minus) dollars most of the time. Just have to research customer reviews before buying. Paying a huge amount more for a "premium" brand usually is not necessary for anything more than aesthetic purposes.

The one thing I found that there was a significant difference in quality were between the lower priced headhphones ($20-$50 range), and the medium priced headphones ($100-$150 range). I spend several hours a day wearing headphones. I tried a lot of lower priced headhpones, but they all had problems of one sort or another, but there were a number of good medium priced ones.
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Old 01-17-2011, 12:33 AM   #12
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Most of my things are not expensive, I guess. Hadn't thought of it that way because I like what I have.

I suggest you spend your money on art as needed. I like cheap art but have spent as much as $140 for one sculpture that I HAD to have.. Most of it is more in the $25 range, but I search and search until I find something I love. I think art is worth spending money on, personally. I have a close affection for each piece and each has a nickname. Art enriches life and feeds the soul.
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Old 01-17-2011, 03:01 AM   #13
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Same for me.
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Originally Posted by W2R View Post
Most of my things are not expensive, I guess. Hadn't thought of it that way because I like what I have.
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Old 01-17-2011, 03:12 AM   #14
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My household items last for a very long time - normally won't bother to change them unless they break. I look for functionality, suitability and also quality. However, higher price does not always mean they are better than the usual brand products. For instance, when I bought my place, it came fully equipped with Miele stove, oven/grill/microwave, fridge, washing machine, etc. I find that I have to pay a high premium to maintain their service and each spare part is very expensive. I don't think all their items are as good as other general brands I've used before. I still have a microwave (National brand) which I have owned for more than 15 years - never broke down before. So, I look for what suits my requirements and should physically be classic so that they don't look outdated. My couch is classic and is going to last me for a very long time. Will not change my curtains. My bed has a 10 year warranty and I've been using it for more than that. I own only 2 sets of bedsheets - they still look great.
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Old 01-17-2011, 05:00 AM   #15
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One place I spent more to get quality was for a desk for my home office. I have a hobby that requires a lot of desktop space and storage. I went to a used office furniture store and bought a 6'x9' L-shaped Steelcase desk. Later on, I purchased two lateral files and had them painted by the store to match. This furniture will easily outlive me. It's indestructible.
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Old 01-17-2011, 06:37 AM   #16
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It's been my experience that quality is worth a small cost increase in most "durable" goods (eg furniture, kitchen pots & pans, etc.). However, this doesn't necessarily mean buying the most expensive brand. Its also been my experience that there is a point (usually in the middle of the price range) where more money buys features that are not important to me. Many times the feature is bragging rights.

We bought Ethan Allen, Pennsylvania House and I think Drexel furniture new when we could afford it. Thirty years later, we're ready to replace it but are having trouble finding anything at any price that is equivalent quality. Might just have to have it re-upholstered. My in-laws bought new much less expensive furniture 4 times in that period and ended up spending twice as much as us. They didn't replace their furniture because it went out of style, it broke down.
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Old 01-17-2011, 07:16 AM   #17
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I think a lot depends on the OP's lifestyle. I spent a lot of my younger adult life moving, with stuff in storage occasionally. We had mostly hand-me-downs from my father then. With the wisdom that comes with age, I would say that good quality can be worth it for some things if you are settled in your life. I have not found that high end appliances are worth the price as they don't seem to function any better or last longer or require fewer service calls than middle of the road or used models I have had in the past.
I bought All-Clad pots and pans at a local store's semi-annual scratch and dent sales over the years and to me they have been worth the money (esp. when I used to cook more). My mattress and sofas are high quality (purchased in my settled old age), and I think they are worth it (to me at least). If you own your home, I think good quality wall paint lasts longer and looks better. I bought my present home almost 7 years ago from a builder and the only thing I upgraded was the carpeting (to a wool blend name brand) and let me tell you, it wears very well and I have a dog and am not fussy about the taking off of shoes. People ask me constantly "did you just get it cleaned" or "is this new carpeting". It is also very comfortable under foot and low maintenance. I just spot clean as needed and run the vacuum.
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Old 01-17-2011, 07:25 AM   #18
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typical would be $20 coffee pot every 3-5 years but a expensive Dyson vacuum instead of inefective trials.
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Old 01-17-2011, 08:30 AM   #19
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Never bought 'quality' consumer electronics (except for a turntable) or computers because they were obsolete before they wore out - and I kept my stuff years longer than most people I knew.

By 'bedding' do you mean mattress and box springs? I thought they all wore out and had similar length warranties. My back was always more important than trying to squeeze some life out of a mattress

Bought an apartment full of furniture when I was 24. Still had most of it when I retired at 54. Stuff wasn't bottom of the barrel, but it wasn't much of a step above IKEA. Dressers got beat up the most and needed replacing. Ended up finding used ones with short height, and kept them in closets. That way ugly or non matching styles didn't matter.

Decided eventually to buy cheap desks because I kept changing them to fit my hobby or computer collection.

Sofas wore out the fastest. Given that I moved a lot it was easier to donate one that was still useful and buy another one then move the darn thing.

Didn't have many counter top appliances. My KitchenAid worked fine for 30 years, I expect whoever I sold it too will get another 30 out of it.

One area where I consciously bought high quality stuff was cookware (All-clad without non-stick) and knives (Henckels) when I got serious about cooking. Glad I did.

Somebody once said that the best argument against buying high quality home furnishings is that styles change unless you're buying antiques.
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Old 01-17-2011, 08:59 AM   #20
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We just replaced a clothes dryer that we bought 34 years ago. I think that qualifies as "high quality", but we didn't pay any extra for the quality. It was just an ordinary Sears dryer when we bought it.
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