Quality Trumps Price

This wednesday marks an important day in my life. It’s my 27th birthday… but that’s not why it’s important. Sure, I’ll be sure to celebrate and reflect on how far I’ve come in recent years, both financially and vocationally among other things. But, for most young adults 27 years old is nothing special. There’s nothing special about turning 27.

Everyone gets rights/privileges at other years:

  • Ability to see a R rated movie at age 17
  • Right to vote at age 18
  • Ability to drink at age 21
  • Ability to rent a car (without extra fees) at age 25

I’m sure I missed a few, but you get the point. There’s nothing special about 27.

Except for me, it’s a little different.

Wednesday marks the ten year anniversary of something I could not live without: my sunglasses. Ten years ago I received this pair of sunglasses on my birthday.

quality sunglasses

Not a pair of sunglasses LIKE these. This exact, same pair of sunglasses.

Most people are lucky enough to keep their sunglasses for more than one year. I’m very proud to say that this pair has lasted me a decade.

If there is anything that I have learned from keeping this pair of sunglasses for ten years, it’s that quality matters more than price.

Why Quality is More Important Than the Price

When someone looks at an item that they are going to buy, the first thing that they look at is the sticker price.

“How much will it cost me to take X home with me?” is the question that every prudent person asks. If you are one of the more sophisticated buyers, you are likely to even consider other important factors like depreciation or opportunity cost (in other words, cost is more than just the number on the price tag.) But, in my opinion, this is only half of the calculations that one should do before buying anything.

The other important consideration is quality.

My Sunglasses Weren’t Cheap

Anyone who has bought an expensive pair of sunglasses before probably recognizes my pair of sunglasses. They are Oakleys. Oakleys are not cheap. About ten years ago, this pair of sunglasses sold for about $100. Being the frugal 17-year-old that I was, there was no way that I would have paid this much for a pair of sunglasses for myself. Instead, I got them as a gift and it now gives me a new appreciation for quality.

As you can see in the picture above, these sunglasses are far from perfect condition – in fact, they are well worn. The silver color that once covered the entire frame of the sunglasses has been fading for years – luckily because of the silver color and white color underneath, it’s hard to notice until you are close up. These sunglasses have traveled with me to four countries, protected me from the sun’s harmful rays while lounging on the beaches of the Galapagos islands as well as trudging though the desert in Utah in the middle of nowhere.

These sunglasses have held up. While my pair of sunglasses holds only anecdotal evidence for the importance of quality, I couldn’t be more convinced of this importance.

You Get What You Pay For

I could have easily purchased a $10 pair of sunglasses and invested the remaining $90 elsewhere. I’ve done this in the past. In fact, when I was in middle school and went on a trip to NYC, I bought several fake oakleys from street vendors. I even negotiated a couple of guys down to $4 for a pair that looked almost identical to my current pair. When returning home, I gave a pair to each of my brothers, and kept several pairs for myself. Sadly, and perhaps not surprisingly, these sunglasses didn’t last.

There’s a saying that people use all of the time that summarizes what I am arguing: You get what you pay for.

From my 27 years of experience, I’ve come to know this as true, more often than not. Of course, there will always be exceptions, and in no way should you be tricked into buying something MORE expensive in search for a higher quality that doesn’t exist.

If I am offering any sort of advice, it is, instead, to simply include the quality of the item you are buying when shopping around. For example, if you can buy a new car for $14,000 that will last 6-7 years and have a poor resale value, it might not be as great of a deal as a used car that has a greater risk maintenance problems and sells for the same amount if it will retain its value better.

Quality Changes Your Treatment of Your Possessions

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, buying quality items changes how you treat your stuff – whether you realize it or not. I know how much my sunglasses cost, so when I put them on my face, I treat them like you would treat your grandma’s fragile china.

Owning and using higher-quality items therefore has two influences that cause them to last longer: (1) a higher quality naturally will stand up against normal wear and tear better and (2) being more careful because you are more invested (literally) in a more expensive investment.

If you want to make smart financial decisions, it all starts with understanding the importance of quality. Luckily for me, I have a great reminder of this everything I go outside in the summer.

Readers, what’s your take? Is quality more important than the sticker price?

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