Good Deals Don’t Always Pay

While I am a staunch frugalite, I am not a cheapskate! In fact, price is but one of many factors I consider when making a purchase, no matter how large or small. Like anyone else, however, I’ve made mistakes in the past that serve as continual reminders that good deals don’t always pay!

You get what you pay for…

Here are three examples that cheaper is not always better.

1. As a child growing up, my father bought ten $25 dollar lawnmowers in the span of approximately 10 years.

Problematic behavior: Although he only spent $25 each year on mowers, the trouble far out-weighed the savings. The mowers were hard to start, and rarely ran properly. We had to go purchase, pick up, and haul a “new” piece of junk home each and every spring. My father ended up spending $250 on lawnmowers and put up with a lot of headaches in search of a “good deal.” In the end, he ended up spending more than a new mower would’ve cost in the first place.

Healthy behavior: The above example doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy used. Rather, the lesson here is that you should look at more than price alone when searching for a deal. Instead of purchasing cheap mowers, my father would have been better served by buying one brand new mower for $150, maintaining it each year, and enjoying the benefits of a trouble-free machine.

2. My wife has a friend who has gotten a “good deal” at garage sales nearly every summer weekend of her life for the past 15 years.

Problematic behavior: While she’s getting a “good deal, ” she’s also accumulating a ton of crap that she doesn’t need or use. My wife and I recently spent an entire Saturday helping her move, and we couldn’t believe the enormous collection of unused goods that she has — and continues to add to. All in the name of getting a good deal!

Healthy behavior: My wife’s friend is actually wasting both money and time with her garage sale addiction. If she either used the goods, or turned around and sold them for a profit, then she’d be practicing wise behavior. Instead, she accumulates and forgets. This is a perfect illustration of how getting a “good price” doesn’t automatically translate into a good buy. A healthy change would be to de-clutter and focus on living simply. Another idea would be for her to start selling her stuff on eBay — ideally at a profit.

3. I saved some money by having a “friend of a friend” do the the body work on my Jeep Cherokee – he started in December of 2008 and, to date (July of 2009), has yet to complete the work.

Problematic behavior: You may remember the story… My wife and I are currently a one car couple. We saved money by having an friend of a friend fix our Jeep, but… Here we are, seven months later and we are still without the extra set of wheels, and are pulling our hair out dealing with this guy. Beyond the frustration of waiting, I’ve also kept the vehicle insured (I pay my insurance in 6 month intervals) because I assumed I’d have it back within a few weeks.

Healthy behavior: While I should’ve done a better job of checking out the repairman, this whole thing can be blamed on me wanting to get a “good deal.” Because I hadn’t properly budgeted for this sort of repair in the past, I made decisions I wouldn’t have normally made. Lesson learned??? Budget for the unexpected so you won’t be blindsided when the unexpected happens. Your emergency fund is your friend. Luckily, I have receipts for the money I’ve paid this guy, but the time and frustration involved have made me rethink the definition of a “good deal”!

What about you?

I’m sure we’ve all had experiences similar to those outlined above. Do you have any recent examples of “good deals” that backfired on you? What lessons did you learn?

27 Responses to “Good Deals Don’t Always Pay”

  1. Anonymous

    This resonates with me when it comes to clothing. I used to buy a lot of cheap shirts, pants, shoes, etc until my closest was all cluttered. I have a huge closet btw that i share with my wife. It’s a walk in, about 13 feet long by 6 feet wide and it is PACKED!

    Instead, now i shop for quality items that may cost 3X more, but last 4X longer and look much better. I try and build a boutique of clothing and apparel instead.

    Even my watches are somewhat egregious due to the amount ($7-20,000), but they hold their value better than some $500-$1,000 watch. I can turn around and sell them for a profit b/c they are rare, or break even if I wanted to.

    In essence don’t buy junk! Even the guy buying a rare ferrari will have all his money the very next yr!

    Have a great weekend everyone!



  2. Anonymous

    I’ve written several posts, starting with this one — — about my friend, Vanessa, and her similar behavior. I was helping her move this week, and it was a total nightmare.

    I think I get so frustrated with her because I care about her, and hate to see her hurting herself.

    I should admit, I, too, have purchased things on sale that didn’t hold their value, didn’t work, or I didn’t need. However, I immediately learned from these mistakes, and am careful to do my research, and not repeat them.

  3. Anonymous

    Blogging Banks (24)–Very true; frugality’s hidden cost is usually measured in time. It takes more of it to find bargains, fix broken things and make complicated schemes work. Rebates are a real blast when time is tight aren’t they?

  4. Anonymous

    I purchased a “paper” airline which was the cheapest option, about $20-$30 off the lowest price available. I waited for almost 2.5 months before I managed to get my ticket – 4 days prior to my flight. I was on the phone with my travel agency and later on with my airline trying to coordinate both and trying to learn when I would get my ticket!
    What I learned? Saving as much as possible sometimes costs a ton of time and effort, which is not worth it!

  5. Anonymous

    The one thing our family got caught up in as shopping at Thrift Stores. We have three little kids so the clothes aspect for the older boy and the 1 girl worked really well…next years clothes for really, really cheap and double the capacity. Here was the problem…when we went to the Thrift…My husband would find stuff, our kids would find toys (junk in my opinion) and we would end up taking home stuff we did not need…Believe me, we have plenty.

    One other thing I did start to do but am now scaling back on is excess food deals. There are so many coupons out there you can really get great stuff for really, really cheap. We now have chips, salsa, mac & cheese and other items stock piled. I shop in the ‘basement’ first, then go make the grocery list. When I used to buy stuff and put in in the cupboard, we would just go through stuff faster.

    You do get what you pay for. My work clothes I do shop for next season at the end of this season and buy at a higher end store…shoes too (I agree Leigh).

  6. Anonymous

    Michael (21)–Good point on dollar sotres. It’s true that you can get a lot for a little, but a lot of what you get is seriously poor quality.

    We’ve purchased spray bottles that leaked after a week, dish detergeant that leaves a slimy film, and other merchandise not worth buying at any price. The only thing they seem to be good for is buying novelties, and maybe that’s because you don’t actually use them so functionality isn’t an issue.

  7. Anonymous

    So so true.

    I’m trying to convince my family of #1. Yes, the store brand is cheaper but it’ll be good for a year tops!

    I think dollar stores are to blame for this mentality partially…

  8. Anonymous

    I’ve been penny wise and pound foolish several times. I think it happens because while the difference in quality is sometimes subtle; the difference in price is quite glaring and it prevents us from the recognizing the headaches in store for us.

  9. Anonymous

    @ #16 MGB: Doesn’t it feel good to share your feelings with the group? 😉

    That is a GREAT story & an even better example that sometimes it just pays to pay!

  10. Anonymous

    I sometimes dither over ridiculous things. I needed to give my son a rose for “bring the teacher a rose” day and the local grocery store had it for $2.25. Instead of just buying it I went to the Walmart instead hoping for a better deal. However it was to be had for the same price here too and I ended up spending $1 in gas.

    Penny wise, pound foolish is a saying that comes to mind.

  11. Anonymous

    I’m embarassed to write this but… one of the silicone nose pieces broke and fell off my glasses. Last time this happened, my wife was getting new glasses and I asked the store she was dealing with to throw a new one on for me, which they did for free. This time, I went to my usual glasses store thinking they would do it for free since I had spent a decent amount of money in there in the past (but not on these glasses). They told me it would be $10 and I declined on principle. Instead, I began a quest to find a replacement nose piece at a drug store (I went 0 for 5 stores). I then turned to eBay and found a lot of 30 silicone nose pieces for $5 including shipping from China. Thinking this would last me for years, I paypal-ed and I waitied 20 days for the nose pieces to arrive. As you can guess, they didn’t fit. So here I am, about 3 months after the initial problem and I’m still walking around with glasses that are missing one nose piece and slipping down my nose. I couldn’t feel more stupid or cheap.

  12. Anonymous

    Matt–My father must have bought his lawnmowers from the same place yours did, because that was my experience as well. I’d have paid myself for a unit that actually worked if I had a job at the time.

    There was a commedian some years back who made a joke about how Wal Mart gets people to buy more than they would ordinarily by running sales. He said, “you know, WalMart, that store that you go in to buy a pack of batteries, but come out an hour later with $187 worth of stuff.”

    That one liner taught me to be wary of sales. Only in America can you “save money” by spending it.

  13. Anonymous

    I know someone who got a great deal buying expensive speakers out of some dude’s trunk in a parking lot…turns out they were stolen. Good deal? Maybe. Lack of common sense? Definitely!

  14. Anonymous

    @ #2 Dylan: Ha ha… thanks for the laugh and GOOD point!

    @ #8 Almost There: That sounds cheap to me. My dad used to drive all over to save .01/gallon on gas and would only put $5 at a time in. I tried to explain to him that all his time & running around were costing him more in the long run… he didn’t listen – he still does the same stuff today! 🙂 Oh well.

    @ #11 Zyzzyx: GREAT advice. I am going to check on that today. Thank you.

    @ #12 Paul: “Every time I go out to try and start that ATV I end up cursing the entire nation of China for producing such a big pile of garbage.” Thanks Paul… I needed that laugh today!

  15. Anonymous

    A year or so back I splurged for my son and bought him a little 50cc Chinese ATV off of ebay. Right around the same time I bought my older son a 1997 Suzuki 50cc dirt bike for roughly the same price. Every time I go out to try and start that ATV I end up cursing the entire nation of China for producing such a big pile of garbage. It takes 15 minutes to warm up in 100 degree weather whereas the little Suzuki fired up on the first kick after sitting all winter long. When it comes to motorsports and powered equipment I’ve given up on buying the cheapest item. It’s failed me time and time again. Now I know that dirt bikes and ATV’s are definitely on the want vs. need side of the equation but nonetheless prove out that good deals don’t always pay out.

  16. Anonymous

    Regarding keeping insurance paid up on the Jeep while its in repairs:

    Check with your insurance company. With State Farm I call them up and let them know when I’m going to have a car off the road for awhile. They’ll turn off the coverage but its still on my account. We use this especially on our collector car that gets garaged for 7 months of the year, but I’ve also used it when I had my daily driver on jackstands for a month doing suspension work.

    On the other side, my mom is back in town for two weeks (I’m housesitting for my parents), so I had the insurance ‘turned on’ for her car just for the two weeks she’ll be here. Once she leaves, it’ll be sitting back in the garage with just comprehensive, no liability (so still covered in case the house falls down or such).

  17. Anonymous

    I have a friend who is just like #2. She thinks she is good with money because she likes to go bargain hunting. But she can’t pay her bills and her apt is always a mess. She is really a shopaholic but has found a way to justify her behavior.

  18. Anonymous

    I have a list of things I want that’s on my fridge. It’s used for when my birthday or Christmas is coming up, but also as my own personal stop sign. If I see a good deal on something but it’s not on my list I don’t buy it.

    You also need to compare good deals on an item vs. good deals on a name brand item. Before Christmas I got a great deal on some SanDisk memory cards. They were 3 for $10 after rebate and I gave two of them as a gift and kept the third. I would never buy some off brand memory cards for that price, but they were brand name cards from a reputable dealer and I jumped at the deal.

    I love They show some great deals but it’s dangerous if you’re the type of person that will buy things just because it’s a good deal because they have an RSS feed that has 8-10 great deals a day. It would be easy to get caught up in buying just because it’s a deal.

  19. Anonymous

    Sometimes it is a matter of when you were raised. My father grew up during the depression and is frugal to the point of a sickness. He used to go to Wyoming to save 10 cents per gallon on gas, loading up the sta. wgn. with 4 5 gal jerry cans to make the 85 mile round trip. Stinking up the car for days. I also remember him bringing home 4-5 # of ripe bananas because they were on sale, more than we could eat fast enough. And his house if packed to ceiling in all rooms of stuff he refuses to get rid of. He lambasted me 40 years ago for paying 22 cents for a loaf of bread because he used to buy day old bread for a penny a loaf. I think when his generation dies off it will stop.

  20. Anonymous

    #6 – I’m not so sure you have a point with that. Most car dealers make very little money off of sales transactions, but huge margins in the service and parts department. A dealer that refuses to do service (warranty OR paid) because of where you purchased from is one that should be avoided entirely. If they mention this during the sales process, it’s a scare tactic, plain and simple.

    When it comes to a purchase program such as you mentioned, the price is typically considered to be fair to both parties – sometimes you can do better with tough negotiating, but for ease of purchase, a warehouse club’s program (or an employer’s discount) can save you time and frustration, at a slightly higher cost. Also, dealers are voluntarily involved in those warehouse club programs! Not taking advantage of a program such as that and thinking you’re going to get better service is, in all likelihood, a farce.

  21. Anonymous

    We just purchased a new car from a local dealer.

    Could we have gotten a better price if we had gone with Sam’s Club or Costco’s preferred dealers? Most likely.

    Would our local dealer honor any new car warranty issues on a vehicle purchased elsewhere? Probably, but not without raising a big stink.

    The convenience of having a dealer we can WALK to (if need be), or one that is actually on the way to (or nearby) where we work, for warranty service work far outweighs the “benefit” of a good purchase price from a distant dealer.

  22. Anonymous

    I can be quite frugal when it’s called for, but there are things I just won’t skimp on. For me – that’s high quality clothing and shoes for my “real world” job.

    Back when I was just getting started, I bought countless suits from discount stores. They would last maybe two or three months before seams started unraveling. buttons popped off, or the fabric got shiny. Now I only buy suits from a high end store – much bigger investment up front but these clothes last. Some of the suits I bought there are still wearable a decade later.

    Same thing with shoes.

  23. Anonymous

    When I was shopping for a digital camera a few years ago I came across a “good deal” at and bought a 6MP camera for $60.

    Well, turns out the the thing eats up battery life and I’ve had to send it for repairs 4 or 5 times because it would randomly shut off on its own and other times it wouldn’t recognize that it had a SD card in its slot.

    Like you said, you get what you pay for.

  24. Anonymous

    Tires are another example where most people just get it wrong. Why pay $100 per tire for a 30,000 mile warrantied tire, when you could pay $130 for a tire with a 90,000 mile warranty.

    Sure it costs a little more up front, but the savings over time more than makeup for it.

  25. Anonymous

    Your second example reminds me of two friends who go to estate auctions every other week and spend an average of $500 a time on “good deals.” They can’t move in their house because every room is filled with boxes of “good deals” and the attic and garage are full of furniture. Yet at the same time, they complain that they can’t afford a new computer which one of them needs for their job.

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