The Great Financial Debate: Quality vs Frugality

Photo by pjinomaha

Photo by pjinomaha

A Simple Coffee Maker Reminds Me Of The Debate

Over the holidays, I received a Keurig coffee maker for a Christmas present. I’ve secretly wanted one of these bad boys for quite a while, but I also didn’t want to spend $150 to be able to brew just one cup of coffee at a time, either.

Within a few short days of using my new coffee maker, I started thinking “where have you been all my life?” This machine brews an amazing cup of coffee! For 20+ years, I’ve made the traditional 10-12 cup pot in a drip coffee maker. I just never realized how bitter and nasty this coffee is when compared to a freshly brewed cup from a Keurig.

For those of you who are serious coffee drinkers and have done all the different types of coffee makers, then you are very much aware that the daily cost of using a Keurig is possibly twice as expensive as a traditional drip coffee maker. You can make them a bit less expensive by using the refillable plastic mesh K-cups. This is what I’ve done with great results.

As I’ve enjoyed my new coffee maker the last several weeks, I have been reminded of the continual financial debate of quality versus frugality.

Is Frugality Always The Best Option, Really?

There are so many Christian financial, frugality-mindset, well-meaning blogs out there. They teach you how to re-use plastic sandwich baggies, how to recycle old clothes, and how to clip coupons. That’s fine. I understand this line of thinking. I believe there is a place for frugality. We should live with an attitude of contentment and thanksgiving. We shouldn’t be wasteful with what God has blessed us. I’d like to think I live frugally in most areas of my life.

Here, though, is the overarching question to the entire debate: “Is being super frugal in every area of your life always the best way to go?”

For me, the simple answer is “No.” There are some instances where we probably should abandon the frugality bandwagon and step over into a quality mindset.

Several years ago, I had the same epiphany moment with Mac versus PC. Yes, the Mac is more expensive on the front end. But on the back-end, several years after purchasing my MacBook, iMac, and iPad, these computers are still running almost as well as the day I purchased them. I don’t need to constantly update virus protection software. I don’t struggle with my operating system slowing down. I no longer have computer crashes. I’ve experienced the quality but expensive better overall experience over the cheaper PC products. I’m not going back, either. Yes, I drank the Kool-Aid. Thank you, Steve Jobs.

On other items less important to me, I’m the dollar store guy. Take, for instance, clothes hangers. I have no problem picking up a ten-pack of cheap, plastic clothes hangers for a buck. No biggie for me. Here’s an instance where I will embrace frugality. Other people who are clothes hounds might scoff at dollar store, plastic clothes hangers. Because they have embraced a quality clothes mindset, they may value a better quality hanger to hang their higher quality clothing.

The Answer Isn’t Always Simple

The answer to this financial debate isn’t always as simple as you might think. It really boils down to our values and interests. If you’re a coffee fanatic, then you’re willinging to pay more for your cup of java. If you do a lot of work via technology, then you will value a higher quality, higher cost product. If you need to dress for success in your career, then you need to buy higher quality clothing.

And this is really okay, assuming we are still living out wise, Biblical financial principles. If you’re going into debt to drink high-quality coffee, to buy an new iMac each year, or to purchase expensive clothing, then we have a much bigger problem to deal with.

I typically take a quality assessment on purchases to see if it’s really worth spending the money on what I need or want. If the higher-end, quality product is worth it long-term, then I’ll save my money and pay cash for the better product.

Questions: How about you? Are you locked into the frugality mindset? Are you willing to pay a higher price on a better quality product? What’s your approach to the great debate of quality vs frugality?