Do You Get What You Pay For?

by Katy on August 26, 2009 · 18 comments

Marmoleum Flooring

Marmoleum Flooring

Who among us has not made the least expensive choice and then lived to regret that decision?

The most glaring example for me was a quick and dirty bathroom remodel from when we first bought our house in 1996. At the time, everything in our fixer-upper of a house needed major attention and it was hard to focus on the details. Add to that my status as a night shift nurse caring for a one-year-old baby and it’s amazing we got anything done at all!

We picked out a cheap-o bathroom sink, console and bathtub from Home Depot and bought a cool blue swirly remnant of marmoleum.

Voilá, home improvement at its worst!

The cupboard turned out to be only partially real wood, and the side that faced the toilet proved itself to be absorbent of urine. Which was also true of the marmoleum.

You try potty training two exuberant boys in an absorbent bathroom. It wasn’t pretty.

We ended up ripping out the cupboard and floor in 2004 and installing a small hexagonal tile floor and a porcelain pedestal sink. The theme was nothing that can absorb urine.

Because we went the route of cheap materials, we ended up having to redo almost everything. And that %#$$@** Home Depot bathtub is too shallow, which means the kids are forever slopping water over the sides.

We should have paid extra to get quality bathroom components from the get-go, which would have saved us money and time in the long run.

We got what we paid for.

But often times this axiom is far from the truth.

Almost all of the rest of the home improvement tasks we’ve taken on have vastly increased the value of our home. From removing the asbestos siding to landscaping the backyard, we got what we paid for, both as cash and in sweat equity.

On the flip side, Our belongings argue against getting what you pay for, as we almost always purchase high quality used items that can later be sold for far more than we paid. If we were the type to shop at Target, Ikea and the like, our belongings would always be worth less than we paid.

So there you have it, you certainly get what you pay for when you buy low quality, but this is not necessarily tied to how much money you’re shelling out.

Have you been burned by purchasing low quality goods and then gotten what you paid for? Or do you search out those deals and pay less than things are worth? Please share your methods and thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Kristen@The Frugal Girl August 26, 2009 at 3:28 am

Generally I try to get really nice stuff for really cheap, whether it means buying used items or heavily discounted items.

I rarely, if ever, choose price over quality, at least not knowingly!


Jinger August 26, 2009 at 5:53 am

I think Target and IKEA have some long lasting and durable furnishings…at least that has been my experience.


Lisa August 26, 2009 at 7:42 am

Your bathroom theme made me spit my coffee!!

When it comes to home improvement I always try to remember the cheap-fast-good rule. You can get 2 of those at a time (cheap and fast, good and fast, good and cheap) but all 3 together are almost mythical.


Jodi August 26, 2009 at 8:48 am

Holy moley, you put Marmoleum in the cheap class?!? Have you priced it lately? No, it’s not always the best thing for bathrooms since you have to keep a finish on it to keep it from being porous.

But otherwise you’re right on. We always regret it later when we go the cheap route…or the fast and easy one and do sloppy home repairs.


hiptobeme August 26, 2009 at 9:10 am

I think this is a “live and learn” type of situation. We want to believe that we can get a good deal AND good quality, alas the big box stores often have other ideas. In the end, there are times when it doesn’t pay to be too cheap. I think if you are frugal most of the time, it makes up for the times when you need to splurge on quality items.


Donna August 26, 2009 at 9:24 am

So true for patio furniture..I will never waste money on wooden..wicker patio furniture again. I now have white vintage chaise , setee, chair and couch that will last forever.. with a bit of TLC and paint if I want to. It all matches and is very cute. I love vintage!!


Donna August 26, 2009 at 9:25 am

As in white metal..sorry..


WilliamB August 26, 2009 at 2:06 pm

I focus on value rather than dollar amount. A thing of good value is of the quality required at the best price you can find for that value.

For example, I spent $140 on my first two good knives. That was a lot of dollars for me at the time, I could live on $625/mo. Those two knives have lasted 20 years and have many years left in them. So that’s $7/year for tools I use daily.


Meg from FruWiki August 26, 2009 at 2:28 pm

Cheap, particle board furniture tends to show every scratch and warps. Cheap clothes literally come apart at the seams and are often so thin and poorly made fit-wise that they are NOT AT ALL flattering. Cheap shoes are usually uncomfortable and often, in my experience, pick up odors worse. In fact, I had one pair of Payless shoes that I had to toss because NOTHING got rid of the smell — and I had several friends who also had them who did the same after we all compared notes on what we had tried.

So, yes, I’ve mostly learned my lesson: quality, not quantity. That’s being frugal and not just cheap.


Meredith August 26, 2009 at 6:08 pm

We had a wooden toilet seat in our last house which had the same absorbency issue, and we, too, toilet trained our son on the wooden toilet seat. I feel your pain.

Our story: My husband bought us a BBQ this spring at Zellers (a Canadian discount department store). He paid around $90.00 for it. It’s been a nightmare. The base is too shallow, so grease collects and flames flare up. The materials are thinner than our old one, and the entire thing gets too hot to touch and we have to wear gloves to turn off the gas. And, it doesn’t cook well! We will probably sell it at our upcoming garage sale and think about our options for next summer.

The interesting thing? The BBQ we were replacing was purchased at the same store, for roughly the same amount of money, and lasted nine years. We moved it four times back and forth across the country. It worked just fine, we had no problems with it and we gave it away to a neighbour when we made a major move again last summer. So what’s changed? Why has the quality taken such a hit in the past ten years?

And, yes, I echo the quality vs. quantity statements made earlier.


Angela August 26, 2009 at 8:50 pm

Yes, frugal is not the same thing as cheap!

Meg- Your story reminds me of the Seinfeld when he couldn’t get rid of the smell in the car…

I agree in buying quality in things that are meant to last a long time, as long as you can afford it. It means you’ll use it longer, so the per use or per wear cost is less, and it won’t just be tossed to end up in a landfill. I’m thinking of furnishings, a few items of clothing like a winter coat or boots that can be worn several years.

I would definitely rather buy quality secondhand for a lower price than buy a cheap item in the first place.


Pennie August 27, 2009 at 12:09 am

I agree–to me frugal is not “cheap.” It means recognizing and taking advantage of real value, which is always timeless.

DH and I recently updated our bathroom–we live in a 1925 bungalow. After looking at several inferior (and costly!) replacements, we ultimately opted to refinish our clawfoot tub ourselves rather than pay big bucks for a new one of poor design. (I understand your frustration with a shallow tube, Katy…) A $44 kit from Home Depot and some new paint for the tub’s “feet” and exterior and viola–she’s good for another generation.

A local plumbing supplier was closing several stores; we acquired a toilet, pedestal sink and lovely vintage replica hardware for our *new* old tub for pennies on the dollar, but it took pawing through boxes of unmarked stuff on tables and and the floor and several visits to find the right fit.

It was a messy two-month learn-as-you-go sort of ordeal, but we didn’t spend alot and the results are enjoyable and have added value to our home. I’m guessing that to someone who would simply take out a line of credit and call a remodeler we would be considered “cheap,” though…


Cheryl August 27, 2009 at 8:32 pm

What’s even more painful for me is buying an expensive item and having it be cheap…

I bought a brand new 1996 Jeep Cherokee Laredo after my Honda Accord hit 11 years and needed a new engine and I was a single mom with a two year old who couldn’t afford a break down…

The second day I owned it a screw in the steering wheel came loose and I almost crashed. Then every 8 years it needed an $800 brake job. Then at 6 years it needed $3000 worth of new parts and labor because CONVENIENTLY the warranty expired at 5 years…

I should have pursued the lemon law but didn’t have the time, energy or education.

7 years later it still makes me sick to my stomach to think what I sunk into that car…


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