That’s a pretty crazy headline, right? It goes against what most of us are taught regarding smart shopping and deal hunting. Frugality means always buying the least expensive option to retain as many of those precious pennies as possible, doesn’t it? Cost over quality, because it’s all the same stuff, or doesn’t matter at all what it’s made of. Insert reasoning for selecting “sort by: low to high” as a rule, or shopping the dollar section first, and then keep reading to find out why that thinking – defaulting to finding the lowest possible price – is flawed. Spoiler alert, buying a cheap item at a low price is not being frugal at all, rather you’re paying what the item is worth, and sometimes still more than what it’s worth.
So that may have come off a little blunt, perhaps a bit forceful but when you understand what’s behind the “lowest prices” you’ll be just as passionate! As a marketing student, I studied the different types of buying personalities and what drives individuals to make purchases, where to look for items to buy, and why they do what they do, basically. It’s fascinating and the psychology behind what drives the buying process is why I went to college for marketing in the first place! I used to be that buyer that prioritized cost over all else. I would filter my online searches to see the lowest cost first to see what I thought were the “best deals” and that was the thinking that dominated my shopping and buying habits for years. I want to throw a little tiny wrench in some of that thinking though, and tell you point blank that always defaulting to shopping and buying the lowest price item, is really not what you want to be doing. Yes, sometimes there are better, less expensive alternatives to high-cost items that don’t sacrifice quality or functionality, rather merely lack a prestigious label, or attachment to any one social group or socio-economic status, and that’s not what this post is about. I recently wrote a post about how to find the best deals on quality items in this post, if you’re interested in how I shop now, and what a difference a few years and a lot of insight into the industry makes! What I’m referring to here is the crazed obsession with shopping Amazon and other bargain e-retailers for everything from books to clothes to home décor, and binge buying these things simply because they’re cheap and you can afford all of it. It’s shameful, to be honest, to remove the artisanship from these things in this way and feeds into an unhealthy habit of buying for the sake of buying. However, what so many people don’t realize is that when shopping places like Amazon, or Shein, or any of the e-retailers that have extremely low prices, is that the low low price you pay is getting you a low low quality item, and you’re not actually getting a good deal! You’re just paying what the item is worth (in my opinion, still more than it’s worth). It’s the opposite of frugal shopping.
Quality aside, my biggest driver for avoiding Amazon, Walmart, Wayfair, etc. for fashion and home décor like the plague is that there is no telling where it’s coming from, or who is making it. Ethics is the short word for this; are the workers treated like human beings (probably not as it’s coming from China where there they are countless documented cases of slave labor and child labor and their country’s low opinion of human life doesn’t encourage any change to this form of modern slavery), are there children being forced to make these items, are the people making these things paid a living wage, are they free to leave, etc. So I kind of got into this in that last sentence, but as much of what Amazon and Walmart are selling at rock bottom prices is coming from China, it’s safe to assume there are little to no ethical standards in place to protect the person laboring for your cheap shoes, or topiary that’s 1/16 of the cost of one made by an artisan in the USA. Whether you turn a blind eye to it or not, regardless if you think “that doesn’t exist now a days” or not, that is the reality of how you are able to get your items SO cheap; the overhead expenses (labor, materials, etc) are kept extremely low so that they still make a profit. On another note, Amazon and Walmart and many e-retail giants operate as a marketplace for sellers not necessarily located in China to supplement their sales, but good luck weeding them out. Even if you are able to find the legitimate sellers on these convoluted websites, you’re still supporting the multi-billion dollar company that you’re shopping from (Amazon, Walmart, Wayfair) who profit off of slave labor, and that should bug you enough to stop all together. Social justice warriors, where are you on this one?
Just because everyone is doing it and influencers are flooding your feeds with “under $30 finds” with all links going to Amazon, Walmart, and the like, doesn’t mean you need to or should be buying it! I’m guilty of this myself in the past, seeing every one else shopping away at these places for super cheap things and thinking it must be OK to do it too…so many things wrong with that thinking! I know better now, and if you’re curious as to where you can shop to support actual artisans, reputable companies, and buy products that are both of quality and reasonable price, start by browsing these posts here, and here.
Being frugal is about wisely managing your money and getting the most bang for your buck, and you just can’t do that if you’re spending it on items that are poor quality, don’t last, and come from places that have little to no ethical labor standards. The flawed thinking that cost is the most important thing in driving the buying process is both antiquated and harmful – look at how it has allowed unscrupulous companies like Amazon, Walmart, and Wayfair to become multi-billion dollar corporations that just get more wealthy by the day. Similarly, the illusion that just because something is “cheap” and you can afford it doesn’t mean you should be buying it, which leads inevitably to an unhealthy habit of excessive buying for the sake of buying. Amassing things has become such an idol in our culture, and I hope that by learning about what’s behind the cheap price tags on mega e-retail websites (and stores), that you too will reject the over-consuming masses and get back to valuing artisanship, craftsmanship, and prizing ethical standards over the lowest price.