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Buy Cheap or Invest in Quality?

As I was packing away the winter gear yesterday, I noticed just how tattered last fall’s brand new mittens were.  In the past we always bought mittens from the dollar store, and I knew they would fall apart within a year.  Cold fingers in March are not a good idea, so I bought more expensive ones from Walmart this year.  I didn’t quite expect that, since they were six time more expensive they would last six times as long…but I was certain they would last at least a year.  They didn’t.

My own warm mittens, bought by my husband almost a quarter century ago, cost $20; that was a good investment.  My husband also bought my son high quality snowmobile gloves last year.  Mr. 15 treasures those gloves and cares for them.  They should last him many, many years.

So, will I buy my younger girls high quality mittens next year?  Absolutely not.  They would likely lose them, or let the dogs chew them, or play in icy mud with them.  Instead, I will buy several pairs of dollar store gloves for each girl.  When one pair breaks, she’ll get the next pair.  This way the girls will have toasty hands all winter long, and I’ll spend less than I did this year for the Walmart gloves.  When they are less likely to lose or abuse their mittens, and when their hands have stopped growing, we’ll invest in top quality for them as well.

My husband and Mr. 15 apply the same policy to sandals.  My husband has tricky feet and takes good care of his footwear.  He buys very expensive, top quality sandals.  My son wants to be able to wear his sandals anywhere, from the garden to the street to the chicken coop to the creek.  When I suggested he get a moderately priced pair from Walmart, he pointed out that the cheapest pair would work as well.  Knowing that either pair would not last the six month sandal season (teen boys have warm feet!), I agreed and bought two of the cheapest pairs for less than the cost of one pair of the next level of quality.

So this is what we do:

If a clothing purchase is disposable, whether because of size, carelessness, immaturity, or fashion, we buy the cheapest possible.  If necessary, we’ll buy several of them. 

On the other hand, if we expect an article of clothing to be used for a long time, it’s worth paying for very high quality; in the long run that is more economical.

And this brings me to another reason to shop at thrift shops.  You can get good quality apparel for a song and you know that nothing of abysmal quality would have lasted long enough to be donated.

For more great tips, see Works for Me Wednesday, Thrifty Thursday, and Frugal Friday.


  1. Carmen Harke says:

    I’ve debated the mitten thing, too. I use a pair of Gerald’s ski mitts that he bought before he even knew me, and they’re still in great shape and are warmer than what I buy for the kids. I buy Hotpaws for the kids – they aren’t particularly cheap and they never last one season, unless for the older girls who aren’t nearly as hard on them as the younger boys. But I’m wondering how warm the dollar store ones are. Some of our kids have inherited Gerald’s cold hand and feet problems and they need warmer things than the average person. That’s why I buy good quality boots (Sorels or similar) for them, too, as other boots just aren’t warm enough. Are dollar store mittens as warm as Hotpaws and the like?

    1. Annie Kate says:

      The dollar store mittens are great for moderately cool weather; for very cold weather, the kids wear those tiny stretchy dollar store mittens inside the the other ones. The stretchy ones will last at least a season, and they’re classy enough for church as well.

      I never heard the kids comment on any difference in warmth between the hotpaws and the dollar store mittens. We have noticed, though, that gloves fall apart more quickly than mittens, probably because there are more seams that can break.

      Annie Kate

  2. IllinoisLori says:

    Really good points here…very wise! With an 18 y.o. and a 19 y.o., we don’t buy much cheap stuff from ***-Mart! I kind of miss those days of inexpensive kids’ clothes from Sears (that was our “go to” store).

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  3. SAHMmy Says says:

    Good advice on determining which items to buy better quality; thanks! I buy sturdy/expensive brands on ebay. Ex: I would never ever pay $80 for kids’ shoes, but someone did, and I can get them for $10 on ebay, then resell for at least that much when my kids outgrow them. When I spend the same $10 on Walmart/Target shoes, the best I can do is donate them.

  4. Shelly says:

    We tend to try to buy quality, but at as good of a price as possible. But then again, we don’t have children yet!

  5. Laraba says:


    I am so miscellaneous about mittens. Some are cheap, some are better. My mother in law buys some for us. Mittens are a headache, to be honest.

    Question for you…do you know why the homeschool blogger blog is now showing google ads?
    I really do not like that! I’m wondering if I need to start a new blog elsewhere like you did. Was it hard to set up this blog?

    Thanks, Laraba

    1. Annie Kate says:

      I asked Kristen, and she said HSB is increasing the profitability of the site.

      It wasn’t difficult for me to switch. I did what Blogging with Amy said to do, ( http://anniekateshomeschoolreviews.com/2011/03/welcome-to-my-new-home/) except we got a different host, and Mr 15 took care of that. I swtiched to WordPress, and the backup/export function from HSB worked beautifully. All I lost were my sidebars. Even the pictures transferred. Even though Amy’s tutorials are for money-making blogs, they were wonderful for an ordinary blog too.

      If you want to switch to Blogger, you’ll have to contact someone like Jenn at http://jenn4him.blogspot.com/ She’s a wonderful lady and will tell you how the switch went, I’m sure.

      Just don’t erase your old blog, whatever you do, until/unless you really no longer need it. I’m keeping mine for now; there are so many links to it out in the blogosphere!

      Annie Kate

  6. […] sales, and what makes you succumb to impulse buys.  Know when to buy in bulk.  Understand when you should invest in quality and when you should just go for the cheapest […]

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