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A Pail, A Shoe, and a Copy Machine…

April 13, 2011
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Years ago, I served a mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. At the end of my two years in Texas, I was interviewed by my mission president. Typically, as a young man or woman prepares to go home and get back into the swing of life and things, they spend about a half hour with their mission president, discussing future plans and goals, and reviewing their service as a missionary. Most missionaries don’t forget that interview. And mine was no different.

Well, one part was different. My mission president told me to buy an expensive copy machine when I returned home.

At least I thought that was what he said. Years later (this was back in 1993), I learned that he may have said something along those lines, but he meant something different. What he actually said was (paraphrased, very loosely): “If, someday, you need a copy machine at your house, don’t just buy a little cheap one. Study copy machines and then spend what you need to in order to have a copy machine that will work well and for a long time. Maybe it’ll do color copies and other things. But don’t be afraid to spend a little money to get something nice.”

What he meant was: It makes good financial sense to purchase quality items for a little more money once, than to buy cheap stuff and have to re-buy it every month because it breaks or wears out.

Why were we discussing copy machines? He was an owner of a very large and successful shipping business. I guess he thought about copy machines more than most if us.

A few months ago my father-in-law and I were planting seeds in his garden. I used his metal pail to water the new seed holes. It was an old, but solid, quality pail. I asked him when he bought it. Around 1967. So this pail is about 44 years old. He didn’t recall what he paid for it, but let’s pretend that he paid $30 for the bucket. Once. I usually pay $8 for a cheap pail every year. That would mean that I would’ve spent $352 and he would’ve spent $30. So he would have more money than me for spending on iTunes.

I used to buy a new pair of nice “Sunday” shoes each year. I’d find a cheap pair that looked pretty good and spend about $60. Then they’d crack and fade and look like a mess and I’d buy a new pair the next year. One year I decided to pay $120 for a pair of shoes (which pained me). They were Gor-tex and supple and felt great. I still have them. Five years later. I wear them almost every day. After doing the math, that purchase saved me $180 over the course of five years. That’s a lot of gum.

Now, it might not always work this way. For me, paper towels don’t matter. Either they suck up a little bit of spilled water, or they don’t. Most do. So you can spend $5 on a roll of super-awesome-golden-“Adonis D-N-A” paper towels, or $2 on normal-human paper towels. And both will run out at about the same time (regardless what the commercials say). So in this case, you probably don’t need to spend more to get just as much…you can send that $3 on baseball cards or retirement.

My point is: Sometimes it makes sense to do a little (or a lit) of research and spend a little more money to purchase a quality product that will last years, rather than buy the cheapest on-sale option that you will probably have to re-buy in months.

Comments: What do you think? What are some things you think are worth spending a little more money on?

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7 Comments leave one →
  1. Emily Shepherd permalink
    April 13, 2011 11:41 am

    I used this concept a few years ago when I was trying to convince my parents to buy me an iPod. I figured out the amount (roughly) we spent on batteries for my old mp3 player and then figured out how much money we could be saving every year if they bought me the iPod. I thought I was pretty smart for figuring out how buying me an iPod could benefit the whole family. (Unfortunately, my parents wouldn’t go for it and continued to buy me batteries for my mp3 player for another year before it was tragically crushed by the wheels of our car. Of course, then they didn’t have to buy me a replacement either because my friend just happened to have an old iPod that she so graciously gave to me…)

    • April 15, 2011 4:06 pm

      Nice try Emily! Actually, it probably wasn’t a bad idea…don’t tell me kids…

      • Emily Shepherd permalink
        April 17, 2011 9:36 pm

        I find that no matter how sound my logic is, my parents are opposed just because I’m using the power of logic and reason against them… I think parents should reward their children for being so brilliant.

  2. mom permalink
    April 14, 2011 7:23 am

    We purchased cars that we felt were safe & reliable because we were on the road so often going from place to place with our “precious cargo.” As a young mother I traveled, all too often at night, to our emergency room 30 min away. Feeling safe was importanr to us. We didn’t have the luxury of cell phones in the “olden days,” so it was imperative that we travel without incident.

  3. Tiffany permalink
    April 15, 2011 2:34 pm

    I learned this lesson from my brother, and I am firm in the belief that shoes are worth investing money into. Two pairs of good shoes will last you lots longer than 10 cheap ones. When we started our wedding video business, we purchased the top of the line equipment because we didn’t want to have problems. 9 years later, I am still typing on our computer we bought for that. We have only had to spend about 100 dollars on upkeep.

    The problem Jed and I had a while ago is actually quite comical. I started the whole Dave Ramsey thing and allotted us a certain amount for groceries each week. Jed NEVER grocery shops with me, but he did that day. I had everything we needed except grocery sacks. So we go over to get some and I have like 4.00 to spend on them. So I grabbed the smallest box. Yes I know it’s cheaper in the long run to buy more because you are getting more for your money, but I also knew I had 4.00 that week. Jed couldn’t believe I was going to buy the 4.00 box. I said “Hey dude, 4.00 is what we have. I have no more so what do you want me to do?” His suggestion: Put the carrots back and get the large box. Needless to say, he has not come shopping with me since.

    • April 15, 2011 4:05 pm

      This is why Jed will be a millionaire by the time you guys are 35. But hungry… Are you still doing the allotment per week thing?

  4. June 21, 2011 12:05 am

    My older brother, let’s call him Jared, got home from his mission in November of 2007. He came home hating Window’s Vista with a passion, swearing that he would buy a Mac. He bought a MacBook in January of 2008, for about $1000. He bought the cheapest one Apple sold. It had the smallest amount of RAM, 1 gig; the slowest processor, 2.16 GHz; a modest sized HDD, 120 gig; and the crappiest body, white plastic. He sold it to me about a year and a half ago for a steal of a price, $300 including Adobe CS4 Design Premium. Finally the time came when I realized it was really slow and I wanted to upgrade it. This version would only let me upgrade to two gigs of RAM (which i had to pay $60 for!). I felt ripped off. The processor couldn’t be upgraded because it was soldered to the motherboard. I was able to upgrade the HDD to a 500 gig for only $40, which was nice. Don’t let me start with the body, it’s falling apart, there are cracks everywhere, and it scratches like a brand new $40,000 car you had for a week that someone ran a shopping cart into at the grocery store (true story).

    Here I am, more than three years later, paying through the nose trying to keep it alive. If only he had payed a little more for the higher quality version… NEVER skimp on computers, especially notebooks. Lesson learned.

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