Continuing the theme of choice, and gratitude, today I’m talking a bit more about choice. Only this time, more about things than people. Both in terms of price, v quality. And why it’s sometimes better to pay a bit more.

I know times are tough for some people, and it’s going to get tougher. And probably stay tough for years. It’s really hard to think much longer than a day, let alone a week, a month or a year.

But as a quick example, let’s look at toilet paper. Today, one brand’s offerings in one supermarket chain are as follows:

# Rolls Price Cost/Roll
4 $5.25 $1.31
6 $5.80 $0.97
9 $9.50 $1.06
12 $7.00 $0.58
20 $10.00 $0.50

The temptation may be to buy the cheapest pack at $5.25, but you can see it has the highest cost per roll. And if you go through a roll a day, that’s less that a week’s supply. Emergency Mode!

If you buy the largest pack at a little less than twice the price, you pay the least per roll. Or looking at it a slightly different way, just under 13 rolls free. That will get you through almost three weeks.

If you can’t quite afford twice the price, for less than half extra, the cost per roll is only $0.08 more. But still just over 12 rolls free. And almost two week’s worth.

So paying extra can provide a better overall outcome.

Products I’m glad I paid extra for

1. An Extra Thick, Wool, King Size Quilt

I know I’ve mentioned the kidney failure aneamia before, and how I’m always cold. And I know I’ve mentioned that wool is an excellent insulator and keeps you warm in winter.

So when I had to replace my bedding, I decided to buy a larger wool quilt so I could wrap myself up in it. It’s been lovely and warm in Winter, and cool enough for me to use in Summer. And when the central heating kicks in, the warm air gets trapped under the bed (chortle). Plus it fluffs up well after airing in the sun on the clothes line.

Though technically I “saved” money on it, because I bought it from the wool producer rather than a bedding or department store.

2. High Quality Knives

The first one was a gamble. I needed a knife, and at the time, didn’t have the option of shopping around. I just bought the first one I could get my hands on.

But it turned out the best knife I’d ever had. It’s well weighted, nice smooth handle, and took sharpening smoothly. I was so impressed I later bought a set. It’s been more than 25 years, and I don’t use it as often, but I still have it.

I couldn’t afford it at the time, but it was a game-changer in terms of my way of thinking about what cost efficiency meant. And it was so easy to use, that I got more interested in cooking from scratch.

3. Rechargable Vacuum

The old one had got to the point it needed some new parts and a good service, but it was cheaper to replace it than fix it. I allowed myself to be talked into one of those lightweight rechargeable stick ones.

It’s designed for someone a little taller than me, but it’s light and maneuverable, so it’s easy to push around and takes next to no time to get the job done. I even catch myself using it when it’s not vacuuming day so it’s good for saving marriages as well!

4. My Current Skincare

One of the drugs I’m taking messes with my skin – both inside and out. I had my suspicions, but they were confirmed after my recent skin cancer removal.

It’s been hard for a variety of reasons to find something that works (see below), but the products I’m using now are organic homeopathic formulations. It isn’t ideal, but it’s the best for right now. I really appreciate the number of oils and serums they offer.

5. My Coffee Maker

It might take almost 15 minutes to make a pot, but the coffee is rich and smooth. The perfect first cup of the day.

Products not worth the extra I paid

In the interests of fairness, I have to say that it’s not always worth paying extra. So here are some of my duds.

1. Memory foam mattress

It didn’t spread or disperse body heat well in Summer. In fact, it got so bad I was sleeping on the floor before I decided enough was enough and bought the futon I’m using now. (The futon should be on the worth it list – it’s made of wool and cotton, and cost less than a quarter of the memory foam mattress.

2. Custom Bookshelves

When I say custom, I mean I gave the maker the dimensions, and they built the set. Except they were more than a month late with the end product, and they didn’t meet the specifications they were given. The business went under not long after I took delivery.

3. Some Skin and Hair Care Products

Some skincare is more of a triumph of marketing than actual product, with claims you know are false within about five seconds of application. Especially when you’re trying to avoid certain chemicals. But by then it’s too late and headed for the bin. I’m especially annoyed when I’ve done some preliminary research and cross-examined the salespeople.

4. Partner’s Desk

In case you don’t know, a partners desk is a double width desk where two people can work either side of it. I did really love it, but it was too big for the room, too heavy to move, and the worst possible ergonomic situation.

5. The Food Processor

The big one I only use when I’m making sauerkraut because it’s too much effort to drag out of the cupboard, and too much effort to clean when I’m done with it.

Price v Quality

Price and quality aren’t always mutually exclusive. I use my $1 backscratcher so frequently I’ve paid for it a million times over. And I get so much pleasure from my Oriental print curtains that the cost is irrelevant.

The main question to answer is whether what you get is worth the price you paid. That might be cost per use, or an intangible return on investment (like productivity or pleasure).

Whatever it is, you can use that as part of your purchasing criteria for next time.

Photo of first island windows in Melbourne (georges Department store) c. 1908. Photo by sears Studios via State Library Victoria

Just a little reminder, you can read other relevant posts on the Holistic Personal Finance page.

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