Paying extra for things that add value to life, is the way to go
It is entirely possible that in the early days of marriage we tend to scrimp and save even little pennies in the hope that incrementally growing savings portfolios, maturing into fruitful investments, will one day come to our rescue in times of acute need or deep distress. But sometime we do find souls that continue to perpetuate the cycle of frugality and savings, regardless of the fact that their income or earning potential have grown considerably larger. The problem of paucity of funds may gradually be transformed into the problem of plenty, but even then our innate frugality in expenditure refuses to wither away, holding a vice like grip on lifestyle choices. As one couple said, “it’s not that we can’t afford to spend more, it’s just that we don’t desire to spend more”.
With the passage of time one realizes that frugality, nurtured over years of following conservative spending habits, has resulted in the accumulation (or sometimes over accumulation) of possessions that are at the cheapest end of the price spectrum but also stand pretty low in the quality stakes. The simple truth dawns that possessions that were considered to be cheaper and convenient accessories were possibly not adding much value to one’s life. What was considered inexpensive and par for the course need not necessarily be one that guaranteed the best value. Ultimately, we all have to face the reality that at least there are some things in life that deliver more value (are worth more) even if the price tag were a bit higher than average. There are some moments in life where frugality loses the argument to value addition:
The first thing I wouldn’t compromise on: The tools of my trade
For the homemaker, the kitchen is the place to be on a busy summer day, cooking up all manner of recipes and gastronomic delights. You have all the ingredients in place, and all the right utensils, but they would all amount to nothing if you don’t use the right power tools. The power drill that is decades old may not be worth zilch if it can’t do its basic job; the dulled knife would have you running for cover when the vegetables come out raw edged and imperfectly sliced; the mixer or grinder would come apart before you have ground the spices – there are a thousand and one things that can go wrong in a kitchen or garage or work place if the tools of our trade lack the cutting edge of technological innovation. After all, it is the purpose of technology to keep pace with our lifestyle and make our routine tasks easier, so why should we keep denying ourselves the basic innovations that release us from drudgery, even if the gadget in question comes at a higher price?
You definitely need the best products that your money can comfortably buy so that you perform routine tasks more efficiently. Thinking in reverse of this argument, let’s imagine for a second what we pay out in terms of frequent repairs, repeated visits of servicemen, delays in our normal routine and the extra costs involved in manufacturing substitutes, and we get a reasonably good idea about the downside of frugality carried to its extremes.
The second thing I wouldn’t compromise on: The automobile that delivers more than just the essentials
Has anybody wondered why certain cars are inexpensive to purchase, and yet present themselves so attractively? It’s because they carry inexpensive parts and cheaper accessories. These vehicles can’t burn the tarmac as other cars could because substandard parts make the going tough and the driving dull. You not only compromise on speed, you will have the misfortune of an uncomfortable driving experience. Possibly, you may have to get used to spending a lot more time in the garage than in actually driving the car, because there are infinite grounds for complaints and repairs and servicing. The epitaph on prematurely buried inexpensive cars often reads clearly, “I spent more repairing this devil than I enjoyed driving it”.
Therein lies an important lesson – the moment we compromise on price, opting for the cheapest car available – we literally open a separate account in the bank, one exclusively for financing repairs and sundry other expenses that we hadn’t reckoned on when we elatedly drove the vehicle out of the showroom.
The lesson is that nothing beats a healthy investment in reputation, reliability and roadworthiness when it comes to cars, regardless of the price tag, and what you should aim for is this triple combination at the price that you can afford. If you discover that you can’t afford your dream car, dream on a bit more till your savings stash is big enough to make the grade. That way you gift yourself the car that you really deserve; you don’t compromise on quality just to fit the car to your budget. This is not an argument for buying fresh cars; you can marry quality and performance at the right price by also buying a good used car. The only rider is, you need to do some good research.
The third thing I wouldn’t compromise on: Paying for services that only good money can buy
How many people have had the experience where the accountant they hired to file their tax returns comes up with grossly mismatched returns resulting in unending queries, torrential paperwork, and accumulating legal hassles involved in rectifying the mistakes? The same story could be repeated adnauseum whether you are dealing with lawyers, car mechanics or doctors. The problem in our approach, common to all such professionals, may be that we insisted on getting the best services at the least cost, and instead got saddled with low quality output. Eventually, the rectification measures cost us an arm and a leg, and yet we still wonder what went wrong and berate fate for landing us the “wrong guy”. What we must realize is that good money pays handsomely for better qualified professionals, but the end result will guarantee more peace of mind and less follow up action on your part.
The fourth thing I wouldn’t compromise on: Buying a dream home
There are probably a thousand and one reasons why going for cheaper homes doesn’t guarantee a lifetime of pleasant memories. You land yourself a home with wafer slim walls and leaking plumbing or the HVAC system works overtime to heat the uncomfortable inhabitants, among other issues. Possibly you invested in a cheaper but elegantly classic home with a great view, but realized soon enough that the neighborhood was noisy, polluted and crime prone. It also affects your investment if future buyers get turned off by the environmental negatives which you ignored earlier. The ideal solution is saving up substantially for investing in a good quality home that has strong fundamentals and which doesn’t compromise on quality. This simple solution guarantees a comfortable stay and a stress free exit at a good price that matches the money you worked hard to pay.
The fifth thing I wouldn’t compromise on: Creating memories that last a lifetime
More often than can be counted on fingers, people tend to get caught up in the drudgery of their daily routine, and refuse themselves pleasant memories that come only when they move out and enjoy a moment of touching togetherness or infinite isolation. Often, sad memories of the past keep holding us back, preventing us from realizing true happiness. Ultimately, it would seem that we are forever postponing the good times in the treasured hope that we will do all that and more when events turn favorable (they rarely do). The important lesson is that if money and budgets permit even ordinary luxuries like a trip to a neighboring city, or a weekend in the countryside or a fun-day at the beach or a get-together with friends and loved ones, do everything in your power to make that possible. By doing so you would be creating a treasure house of memories that will warm your hearth long after the log fires have died down.
The end lesson is that even as frugality is a way of life that does bestow tangible benefits, there is even more joy left untapped in living life many notches higher, on an income and budget that you can afford. There is definitely a strong argument for paying extra for the things that add value to your life.