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Ask DSM Readers: Is Cheaper Always Better?

by Tara Kuczykowski on October 3, 2008 · 29 comments

mom in reflection with storm clouds
photo credit: emdot

Alyssa over at Keeping the Kingdom First posed a really interesting frugal dilemma tonight. She's in the market for a new pair of sunglasses, and she's wondering when is it worth it to buy a more expensive item? I had to laugh when I read this, because I struggled with the exact same problem just last spring.

I had a pair of beloved JCrew sunglasses that I wore for, I kid you not, 9 years. That's like EONS in sunglasses life!!! Though I bought them on clearance, I would have obviously gotten my money's worth even at full price. They finally bit the dust last spring when I dropped them walking in the door from outside. They landed just the wrong way and the hinge broke off in such a way that repairing them wasn't even an option.

So my hunt began. I looked at every store we went to for a cheap pair, but well, they were also cheaply made. The plastic wasn't smooth, they felt flimsy, and they just didn't feel like they fit properly. I just wasn't happy with anything I found.

Finally after much insistence on the part of my husband, I went to a Sunglass Hut at our local outlet mall. There I found a really nice pair of Ralph Lauren glasses for about $90. Now, that's definitely not cheap, but I could have done a LOT more damage, so I was pretty satisfied with my find.

Since I wore my last pair for 9 years, I expect for this pair to last me roughly that long. I could have purchased a cheap pair for roughly $10, but I probably would have had to replace them much sooner, possibly even annually. So when you break it down, the yearly cost for wearing the quality item versus the yearly cost for wearing the cheap item is about even.

Given those figures, I'm perfectly happy with my decision to invest in a more expensive item.

What's your take on whether cheaper is always better? Even if you disagree with my decision, I'd love to hear from you. I find these kinds of discussions so interesting, and there's really no right or wrong. It's what works best for you in the long run.

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Pam C. October 3, 2008 at 11:19 am

I agree with you. We keep clips on our visors and that seems to keep us from carrying them places and losing them. Yes, sometimes we do have to be at an outside event and need them more than just in the car. But we are much happier with the lenses and the fit when we go with the more expensive ones. We also get coupons from Sunglass Hut that takes $20 off. Not that much when you are spending big bucks but every little bit helps.

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2 Pam C. October 3, 2008 at 7:19 am

I agree with you. We keep clips on our visors and that seems to keep us from carrying them places and losing them. Yes, sometimes we do have to be at an outside event and need them more than just in the car. But we are much happier with the lenses and the fit when we go with the more expensive ones. We also get coupons from Sunglass Hut that takes $20 off. Not that much when you are spending big bucks but every little bit helps.

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3 Briana @ Bargain Briana October 3, 2008 at 12:00 pm

I was thinking of blogging about something similar. (Think I still will after my first edition of my comment was 6 paragraphs long! :0)

No, cheaper is NOT always better. Sometimes a "Bargain" is finding something that is well constructed and is going to last awhile than finding the cheapest item.

I did recently pick up some white/gray/black t-shirts for .63/each. They were the cheapest quality but my plan is to have the kids use them for their art shirts at school or I'm going to use it to make a special birthday t-shirt with my iron on transfers!

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4 Briana @ Bargain Briana October 3, 2008 at 8:00 am

I was thinking of blogging about something similar. (Think I still will after my first edition of my comment was 6 paragraphs long! :0)

No, cheaper is NOT always better. Sometimes a "Bargain" is finding something that is well constructed and is going to last awhile than finding the cheapest item.

I did recently pick up some white/gray/black t-shirts for .63/each. They were the cheapest quality but my plan is to have the kids use them for their art shirts at school or I'm going to use it to make a special birthday t-shirt with my iron on transfers!

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5 Kris October 3, 2008 at 1:39 pm

If you like the glasses at Sunglass Hut, you should make friends with a Len*Crafters employee. Every year, corporate hands out "friends and family" discount coupons good for 50% off your complete pair (I think it may just be 30% at SH though). I haven't worked for them for several years, so things may have changed; but I remember that I had more coupons than I needed.

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6 Kris October 3, 2008 at 9:39 am

If you like the glasses at Sunglass Hut, you should make friends with a Len*Crafters employee. Every year, corporate hands out "friends and family" discount coupons good for 50% off your complete pair (I think it may just be 30% at SH though). I haven't worked for them for several years, so things may have changed; but I remember that I had more coupons than I needed.

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7 Anne October 3, 2008 at 2:42 pm

There are certain things that are certainly worth paying a little extra for. I will spend a little extra on: good jeans, local produce, sneakers, a haircut, and more than all else--KITCHEN APPLIANCES, COOKWARE, AND TOOLS. I cook so much of our food from scratch that this stuff gets TONS of use and lasts much, much longer than the "bargain" stuff. I've tried it, and it almost never stands up to the extreme wear and tear I put on it. Like the sunglasses that lasted you 9 years, my kitchen/cooking stuff is eventually worth the upfront expense by not having to replace it so often. And in the meantime, it's just plain nicer. I get the best deals I can on it, but I stay away from the cheap stuff.

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8 Anne October 3, 2008 at 10:42 am

There are certain things that are certainly worth paying a little extra for. I will spend a little extra on: good jeans, local produce, sneakers, a haircut, and more than all else--KITCHEN APPLIANCES, COOKWARE, AND TOOLS. I cook so much of our food from scratch that this stuff gets TONS of use and lasts much, much longer than the "bargain" stuff. I've tried it, and it almost never stands up to the extreme wear and tear I put on it. Like the sunglasses that lasted you 9 years, my kitchen/cooking stuff is eventually worth the upfront expense by not having to replace it so often. And in the meantime, it's just plain nicer. I get the best deals I can on it, but I stay away from the cheap stuff.

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9 Meredith October 3, 2008 at 4:58 pm

It depends. I often lose my sunglasses (case in point: lost my favorite pair last Sunday, grrrr...) so I stick with cheap ones. I'd love a nicer pair but I won't allow myself to buy them because I know I'll be kicking myself when I lose them, which for me is inevitable.

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10 Meredith October 3, 2008 at 12:58 pm

It depends. I often lose my sunglasses (case in point: lost my favorite pair last Sunday, grrrr...) so I stick with cheap ones. I'd love a nicer pair but I won't allow myself to buy them because I know I'll be kicking myself when I lose them, which for me is inevitable.

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11 Summer October 3, 2008 at 9:19 pm

I was just wondering what area you are located at for all your deals that you post?
Also, do you know anyone located near Louisville, Kentucky that blogs about great grocery deals?
Thanks,
SUMMER

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12 Summer October 3, 2008 at 5:19 pm

I was just wondering what area you are located at for all your deals that you post?
Also, do you know anyone located near Louisville, Kentucky that blogs about great grocery deals?
Thanks,
SUMMER

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13 Susan October 4, 2008 at 12:08 am

I bought a pair of Ralph Lauren sunglasses at Ross about a week ago for $15. They have a model number inside so when I got home I checked on line -- they are a current style selling for $75 - $80. Thrilled with my great deal !!

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14 Susan October 3, 2008 at 8:08 pm

I bought a pair of Ralph Lauren sunglasses at Ross about a week ago for $15. They have a model number inside so when I got home I checked on line -- they are a current style selling for $75 - $80. Thrilled with my great deal !!

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15 The Bargain Shopper Lady October 4, 2008 at 1:33 am

I think it depends as well. Some things (that are most likey to get broken) cheaper is better but with most things quality is better.
Hey can you send me your email addy? I wanted to send you an email but I can't find your address on your site!
Thanks!
~Lori
The Bargain Shopper Lady

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16 The Bargain Shopper Lady October 3, 2008 at 9:33 pm

I think it depends as well. Some things (that are most likey to get broken) cheaper is better but with most things quality is better.
Hey can you send me your email addy? I wanted to send you an email but I can't find your address on your site!
Thanks!
~Lori
The Bargain Shopper Lady

Reply

17 Erin October 4, 2008 at 1:42 am

When it comes to Sunglasses I definitely go with cheaper because I will either lose them or break them and if they do survive a whole season, next year they'll be out of style anyway.

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18 Erin October 3, 2008 at 9:42 pm

When it comes to Sunglasses I definitely go with cheaper because I will either lose them or break them and if they do survive a whole season, next year they'll be out of style anyway.

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19 wendy October 4, 2008 at 2:50 am

I am a cheapo! I LOVE sunglasses but often lose them so I cannot allow myself to buy the good ones. Of course I would always accept them as a gift!

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20 wendy October 3, 2008 at 10:50 pm

I am a cheapo! I LOVE sunglasses but often lose them so I cannot allow myself to buy the good ones. Of course I would always accept them as a gift!

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21 Kendra October 4, 2008 at 4:50 am

I agree that cheaper isn't always better. Some things are worth paying more for. A car seat, a stroller, a modest car, healthy food, running shoes (according to DH, anyway), a bed...

When you started talking about sunglasses, I thought the debate would be the $1-2 pairs versus the $15-20 ones. $90 [choke, choke]?!

You must take care of your sunglasses much better than I do. I'm thrilled if mine last a full year. If I haven't lost them, they will either be scratched up, sat on, ran over, etc...LOL. So you see, I gotta go with the $2 ones :-)

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22 Kendra October 4, 2008 at 12:50 am

I agree that cheaper isn't always better. Some things are worth paying more for. A car seat, a stroller, a modest car, healthy food, running shoes (according to DH, anyway), a bed...

When you started talking about sunglasses, I thought the debate would be the $1-2 pairs versus the $15-20 ones. $90 [choke, choke]?!

You must take care of your sunglasses much better than I do. I'm thrilled if mine last a full year. If I haven't lost them, they will either be scratched up, sat on, ran over, etc...LOL. So you see, I gotta go with the $2 ones :-)

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23 Emily October 4, 2008 at 1:05 pm

I got a NICE pair of prescription sunglasses the week my first child was born. We were moving overseas to a place where I would be outside a lot, so I choked and paid. I wore those things all the time...up until August. I lost them at an amazing used books sale. I was SICK...but at the same time, 5 1/2 years with one pair is pretty amazing.

Now, when this new baby is born, I have got to decide what to do.

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24 Emily October 4, 2008 at 9:05 am

I got a NICE pair of prescription sunglasses the week my first child was born. We were moving overseas to a place where I would be outside a lot, so I choked and paid. I wore those things all the time...up until August. I lost them at an amazing used books sale. I was SICK...but at the same time, 5 1/2 years with one pair is pretty amazing.

Now, when this new baby is born, I have got to decide what to do.

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25 Melissa October 4, 2008 at 5:52 pm

I have to agree that a good pair of sunglasses is worth the money. I know I'm more careful with them when I've paid for a good pair of polarized lenses! Infinitely more chic and better for my eyes ;o) Definitely something to splurge on with all the money saved on grocery bargain hunting.

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26 Melissa October 4, 2008 at 1:52 pm

I have to agree that a good pair of sunglasses is worth the money. I know I'm more careful with them when I've paid for a good pair of polarized lenses! Infinitely more chic and better for my eyes ;o) Definitely something to splurge on with all the money saved on grocery bargain hunting.

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27 Deal Seeking Mom October 5, 2008 at 2:57 am

Lovin' all the comments, everyone!

Summer, I'm in the Central Ohio area, but the majority of my deals should be good anywhere. I can't think of anyone offhand that's in the Louisville area, but maybe someone will see this that does.

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28 Deal Seeking Mom October 4, 2008 at 10:57 pm

Lovin' all the comments, everyone!

Summer, I'm in the Central Ohio area, but the majority of my deals should be good anywhere. I can't think of anyone offhand that's in the Louisville area, but maybe someone will see this that does.

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29 Hope July 13, 2012 at 12:18 pm

I agree! I have tried not to totally break the bank with purchases, but at the same time, it's better to go for the slightly pricier. Since the more it costs, the better the quality....Better to pay more once than have to still pay a sum multiple times.

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