What holds true for buying socks and electronics? Buy quality. Never buy anything less. Ever.
Quality within reason
One of the core common principles in the varying definitions that describe minimalism is to “buy quality”. What does this mean? Well it does not mean that everything you want to buy should be expensive and you suddenly find yourself looking at BMW’s and Versace when you can’t afford it. It means that for the things you need you should pay a little extra premium to ensure that what you do buy has a certain guarantee to last and will properly perform its service. For example, if you routinely find yourself buying new socks or t-shirts because they fall apart or get ‘pilly’ quickly it would be better for you to pay a few dollars more on replacements that will last longer. Referencing cars, this means looking for vehicles that have higher reliability ratings and paying extra to get something with lower mileage for a better chance that it will last longer and not fall apart leaving you with repair bills every other month. It’s more about buying things for reliability and dependability than for brands, sale value or trendiness. However there is more to this than reliability. If there wasn’t it wouldn’t be tied to minimalism.
More than longevity
Aside from greater reliability and longevity there are other advantages that are not immediately apparent. Buying quality will do three additional things for you.
- Save money
- Save time
- Save even more time
Yes I listed time twice. Why? Because you save time in two different instances when buying quality. Also, time is one thing we can never get more of. It’s a finite resource that we all need to maximize for ourselves so we can spend more of it on what’s important to us.
So you save money by having to make purchases less often in the long run. Buying a better laptop means it should last you longer. Better socks means fewer holes and less replacements(although those lost in the dryer never return so potentially no savings with that example :P). Better cookware means fewer replacements and potentially can save you from wasting food(and it’s cost) by cooking things more evenly, and prevent burning or under cooking with proper heating ensuring more food reaches your stomach instead of the trash. Buying a better razor may reduce the number of blades you need to buy etc. The list goes on and on.
The first time savings come from dealing with product issues or flaws less often. Quality means fewer failures and even potentially more features that can save you time.
I can personally attest to how much time you can waste by not buying quality. I have spent close to 50 or more hours fighting with cheap wireless routers trying to get them to work well. The result? By spending less on routers I have sacrificed a huge number of hours in my life doing something I wasn’t exactly thrilled doing, trying to get them working reliably. After all those hours, I still haven’t gotten them working as I had hoped. So I really should have paid more and gotten something that could guarantee to meet my needs instead of trying to stretch things and get by with less.
I have also done this with cell phones, home theater electronics, PC parts you name it. All sorts of things. So the total number of hours spent is surely into the solid months count(meaning all the hours in a month). It’s staggering to think about all the time I have wasted buy buying poor quality items while I continue to lament the fact I don’t have enough time to work on my hobbies. Somehow I have let these things take higher priority in my life which has led to some very unhappy times between the frustration of things not working being compounded by fewer hours spent on what I really want to do. It’s a recipe for misery or at the very least discontent. Neither are desirable.
So where does the second time saving come from? All the time that is spent on shopping for replacements and working on switching them out(recycling/donating etc). Do you keep track of how long you look for a replacement? Shopping can become a habit(at least in western/consumer culture) and one may find it fun to find the best deal and memorize all the features and wait for the chosen bargain to go on sale. However each time this has left me with the same situation. Not a 100% solution and yet another item that needs replaced because something else about it doesn’t work as it should.
What’s worse is that I think I have spent more time looking for potential replacements to all my troublesome products than fighting to get them to work once I have them. It means I have spent even more months of my life looking and searching for the best price vs performance watching sales and trying to figure out the best way to game the system to get a “deal”.
Well the only deal this has gotten me is a deal where I spend hours on shopping when I could work on things that matter, and then even more time trying to get the new product to work once I finally buy it and replace what wasn’t working. It’s a terrible spiral and I bet if you look closely you may find that you may have some similarities and waste time fighting with things and looking for replacements than working on and doing the things you love.
But quality is expensive
If you can’t afford quality you can’t. I understand that not everyone can afford to spend that extra every time(or even 99.9% of the time). However I would encourage everyone to buy quality if you can. Why? Well for example if you routinely replace worn out clothes and start to buy better clothes you should find it lasts longer and saves you money and some time buying replacements. Which means you can now spend a little more on something else, and then that saves you more time and money so you can spend more on something else. The process can repeat until you no longer find yourself replacing everything so often and thus you should now also have a lot more time to do what you want. So it is something to strive for. Perhaps a better way to look at it is can you afford to not pay the extra price to free up resources so you can focus on what matters? The monetary cost vs hours of your life is something to be weighed seriously.
Until recently I thought I could make out better without spending extra upfront. Now I have come to realize how much time and effort and money I waste replacing and researching the replacements that I would much rather pay more and be done with it. Less hassle, less stress and more time to focus on what I love in life. Again, time is finite in our lives, and the premium to have that time back to do what truly matters is well worth it and life changing.
This belief hits at the core of minimalism. Remove the excess to focus on what matters most. Buy quality so the things in your life can serve you well without detracting from it or burdening you. I’m sure we can all agree, minimalist or not, that this idea is worth at least something.