Tuesday, October 18, 2011
"Poor people cannot afford cheap things." – Finnish saying (via)
This is our old warhorse of a toaster.
The kind of regret that I have revisited time and again is buyer's remorse. I buy something cheap — usually because it's conveniently located or it'll do for the time-being — and then I am unhappy later when it doesn't work very well or it breaks down quickly. When I've bought things on the cheap, my irritation and disappointment with my purchase usually outweigh the perceived convenience or limited use with which I chose to justify bringing them home.
My parents made a big deal about this when I was a kid. We didn't have a lot of money for a number of years, but when they bought something, they always bought the best that they could possibly afford. I remember my father explaining to me that going with the more cheaply made product might save you a little money in the short run, but replacing a cheaper product ends up being more expensive and stressful in the long run. It's better to have something that successfully satisfies your needs for ten years than something that doesn't work very well and needs repeated fixing for two.
I didn't follow his advice in my early twenties when I bought a really cheap futon and frame set at a large grocery store. I spent three uncomfortable years tossing and turning and counting the cracks in my ceiling paint. If I had waited a few months, I could have saved enough for a better bed and slept well, but, as it was, I couldn't afford to replace it with anything better after I spent the money. Those were hard years, and part of that is because I slept horribly and lay in that bed counting my regrets.
I'm still not rich, and I have the elderly sofa to prove it, but what I do have these days satisfies me over the long term rather than irritates and fails me, in turn acting as a constant reminder of my own fiscal defeat.
"Poor people cannot afford cheap things" is a saying that has come to extend beyond the need for good design, though, at least for me. It speaks to so many areas of life where we might cut corners to get to a goal faster or accept lesser treatment to avoid conflict in the present or create a lesser product ourselves to meet a deadline we've falsely prioritized above a reach for quality.
When I look ahead to forecast my long-term happiness and satisfaction, I realize that it does not make sense to buy cheap, sacrifice the quality of my own work, or accept poor treatment. When I do that, I end up feeling not only dissatisfied and less wealthy later but also less worthy. Making lesser decisions now makes me feel like a lesser person later.
The things that we do run deeper than the surface, even if they are as simple as buying a waffle iron. Trial and error has taught me that it is better to spend extra money on the good waffle iron now and enjoy my breakfasts for years than spend less on the bargain version and end up not only struggling with the waffle iron but also hating my waffles, going through the headache of returning it or sitting on hold with the manufacturer, and chastising myself for making poor decisions and essentially throwing my money away. When I realize that the choice is not just about a better versus a lesser waffle iron but about years of good breakfasts versus the sense of having a lesser life, it is much easier to spend the extra cash.
Poor people cannot afford cheap things, and no one can afford the hit they take when they accept lesser quality for short term gain, whether it be through our consumption, the quality of our work, or how we allow ourselves to be treated.
Do better, even when doing less might seem more feasible. You're worth it, both now and in the future.