Coupon Queen: Are money-savers cheapskates who sacrifice quality?

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Dear Jill, people like you frustrate me. You only seem concerned with the bottom line of how cheap something is. Paying the lowest price should not be your only goal. Do you not realize some things are worth investing in for longevity’s sake? Your generation treats many things as disposable. It is always better to buy something of excellent quality that will last instead of something bargain priced and shoddy.

I am curious to hear your reply and if you ever feel quality is worth putting your dollars forward for. — Eugenie O.

While it’s true that I try to stretch my dollars as far as possible, I disagree that I am sacrificing quality to do so. If we’re talking about groceries, it’s true that I do want to pay the lowest price possible for the items I buy. If one store is selling toilet paper for $3.99, and another store is selling the same brand and size for $2.49, it’s highly likely that I will take my business to the store with the lowest prices. When everything else about an item is equal – brand, size, and quality – then price is an important deciding factor in my purchase.

That said, I think it is somewhat presumptuous to assume that everyone interested in saving money is also a tightwad who purchase low-quality items because they are also low-priced.

Price is not the sole deciding factor in all of my purchases. I do value quality, and there are certain categories of items that I just won’t skimp on. After my sister gifted me a set of luxurious high-thread count cotton bed sheets more than two decades ago, I vowed I wouldn’t purchase lower-quality sheets again – and I haven’t! We humans do spend about a third of our lives in bed, and comfort is important to me.

However, I don’t believe that price necessarily dictates quality. While we’re on the topic of bedding, I was recently looking for a duvet cover to replace our well-worn one that lasted more than 20 years. I was disappointed to find that many of the king-size duvets currently on the market were priced at more than $100, yet were made with lower-quality, synthetic fabrics. After not finding anything close to what I was looking for, I ended up purchasing two luxury-brand flat sheets on clearance for $11 each, and then sewed a new duvet cover from the sheets. I was thrilled that I was able to make a new duvet for about a fifth of the price that lower-quality ones were selling for. Does that make me a cheapskate? I don’t think so.

Clothing is another area where I believe that quality matters – in some circumstances. My sons will wear out their blue jeans, whether they are a pricey designer brand or an affordable department store brand. I don’t believe in buying expensive clothing for children, especially in their early years when they will grow out of things quickly. As an adult though, if I’m purchasing a dress or other professional outfit, I try to balance buying timeless styles with quality and price. A lot of clothing in stores also falls into the “fast fashion” category, which is certainly low-priced – but the clothes may not last through many washings before the fabric shows wear.

Furniture is another area where I believe that quality matters. After a storm came through our area, shattering our glass-topped patio table, my husband and I headed to multiple stores searching for a more durable replacement. We saw many glass-topped tables, all of which were affordable, and all of which we immediately eliminated as possibilities. Ultimately, we chose a cultured stone-topped table. It cost twice as much, but we hope that it will last many more years than its predecessor.

I know from experience that saving money in one area – for me, it’s primarily groceries — frees up more money in our budget to purchase items of quality that will be in our lives for a long time. That’s not “being cheap” – it’s simply smart shopping.