4 Times When Cheapest Isn’t Always the Best Deal

I normally buy lower cost items if I have a choice. It has served me well in many cases and saved me a ton of money. Unfortunately, there have been other times in which the cheapest option hasn’t been the best deal. Below are a few reasons why buying the cheapest option isn’t always the best deal.

When It Causes You To Buy Something You End Up Hating

Have you ever debated between a slightly more expensive option when there was a cheaper option that seemed to serve the same purpose? Did you base your decision solely on price and get the cheaper one?Β Then, when you got it home you hated it.

I’ve been victim to this before. If you can afford the slightly more expensive item and you’re going to use it more or like it more just go ahead and get it. The key is being able to afford it! You can’t do this with everything either or else your budget will explode but don’t always buy because something is cheaper.

When It Means You Won’t Enjoy Your Purchase As Much

Another time where I often buy the cheaper item is at the grocery store. When there are two similar items sitting next to each other I compare the price per unit and normally go with the cheaper one. That has lead me to buy some food that isn’t quite what I was expecting.

I’ve learned which cheaper foods are good replacements and which ones aren’t. I don’t mind spending a bit more money for the better item, which is a matter of opinion. Recently I got some off brand candy corn. I love candy corn but it was nasty! So will I buy it again? Nope! Only Brach’s candy corn for me!

When It Causes More Spending Down the Road

Ever get that feeling that the cheaper alternative isn’t going to hold up as well as the more expensive counterpart? Sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t! It might take some experience to figure out when to go for the more expensive option here but pay close attention because this can cost you a ton of money!

My recent personal example in this category is jeans. I started my new job about six months ago and can now wear jeans instead of khakis and other dress pants. I went out and bought 3 pairs of Arizona jeans because they were the cheapest jeans in the store. I never really thought about the fact that some clothes are just cheap because they are poorly made. These jeans were those poorly made clothes.

On the first pair of jeans a belt loop just popped off within a week. I returned those and exchanged them no problem. Then about 2 weeks later another pair got a hole in a random spot at a seam. I took those back and exchanged them as well. Then about 3 months later all of the jeans had holes where the back pocket attached to the jeans… needless to say I won’t be buying Arizona jeans anymore.

When Dealing with Durable (Long Lasting) Goods

This is the category that can cost you the most. Your dishwasher suddenly breaks. You could afford a nicer model, you do have an emergency fund after all, but don’t really want to dip too deep into it for a new dishwasher. Instead you buy the cheapest version that will match your kitchen and then it breaks a couple years down the road or you end up absolutely hating it. Guess what happens next? It gets replaced with another new dishwasher… ouch!

When you’re dealing with durable goods go for quality first but still keep price in mind. Don’t go buy the absolute best version of an items because it could cost 10x more than a reasonable model. Instead make sure you do a good cost benefit analysis and buy the best of what you can afford within your price range. There are some times when this isn’t the best decision, but if you intend to use the durable good for its entire life I feel buying quality is key.

Do you ALWAYS go for the cheaper option? When has buying something more expensive benefited you and what are your rules of thumb about when to go for the more expensive item?

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About Lance Cothern

Lance Cothern, a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) licensed in the Commonwealth of Virginia, is the founder of Money Manifesto. You can read more about him here or connect with him on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or Pinterest.


  1. Some people are definitely tempted to buy things that are on sale simply because they are getting such a great deal. I’ve found that happens a lot with extreme coupon shoppers. You certainly aren’t saving any money if you are buying things that you won’t use or don’t need.

  2. We rarely buy the cheapest option because we’ve gotten burned too many times. We mostly look for quality (within our budget) before we look too much at the price. Browsing Amazon and looking for various reviews has helped us a lot.

  3. I’ll buy a lot of things on sale but I’ve found just saving up for the better version is usually better. I did manage to get lucky by going through craigslist and buying our washer and dryer used but it was through a reputable person who repairs them for his retiment living. I heard great things about him through other people who have used his business in the past.

  4. Depending on the item, I usually go for the highest quality but at a discount. Clothes is definitely one of those items. Higher quality clothes looks better and lasts longer.

    • Yup! I totally agree. But I don’t go for super high quality. Just good enough to last and not look like trash. You won’t find me buying a $2,000 suit!

  5. I’m with you, Lance: durability and length of time I’ll use it are key factors in whether I go with the cheaper model vs. something else. I also look at the warranty. I will sometimes pay more for something with a longer-lasting warranty because I know the manufacturer stands behind their product longer.

  6. I go for the cheaper option when it is something I already set out to buy. You just need to watch out because sale items can lead to unwanted impulse buys.

  7. I’ve been burned by going for the cheapest option before. These days I try to find a good balance between price and quality. You’re right that sometimes you just have to learn through experience with things such as food. Sometimes you just don’t know if you will enjoy something or not until you try it. I know there are plenty of store brands that I do like, but for certain products it just isn’t worth it.

    • Jason Clayton | frugal habits says:

      This is my philosophy as well…. A good balance between price and quality. Sometimes this is the cheapest, because I don’t care about quality when buying baked beans or a box of tissues. Sometimes though, I go with the highest quality like my mountain hardware jacket that I’ve worn for 7 years non stop and it still looks like new. It all depends on the item.

    • I totally agree, but if there is the possibility for significant savings I’ll at least try it!

  8. I almost never go for the cheaper option anymore. I’m more of a middle ground to upper end guy now. Like those jeans, I usually just end up regretting my decision later when I cheap out.

  9. Veronica @ Pelican on Money says:

    Whenever I buy electronics, food or clothing, I try to to take quality in consideration more so than other products. If you are what you eat, I don’t want to put junk into my body. Electronics break, and the cost of replacing something usually ends up being more expensive than buying a better product to begin with. To answer your question, I don’t always go for the cheaper option, and I don’t believe most people do either unless they absolutely have no choice.

    • The cheaper option isn’t necessarily junk when it comes to food. Sometimes it is simply and off brand rather than a name brand (like with frozen broccoli florets!)

  10. Our rules of thumb are basically – how often are we going to use this and how long do we want it to last? If the answers are “often” and “for decades”, we try and make sure we get the best quality (not necessarily the most expensive, but usually not the cheapest).

  11. Candy corn isn’t a high quality option? Great updates to your design, I almost thought I was at the wrong place.

    • You aren’t the first to say that. I’m glad I finally got my site design done. It was long overdue (and by that I mean it needed to be done on day 2).

  12. I hardly ever go for cheap options – in my opinion this is the bad side of frugality. Only case I may do this is with cloths that are fashionable but not clasic style – in such case I don’t mind that they don’t last (I do this very rarely though). There is a saying ‘I am not rich enough to buy cheap stuff’ and I fully agree with it.

  13. Ok, we’ll see how this holds up as I just purchased a $99 dishwaher! I bet it lasts longer than I am in the house πŸ˜‰

    But I am totally with this post. Off-brand cereal is HORRIBLE. Fruity O’s are NOT THE SAME as Fruit Loops!!!

  14. It seems like appliances are made to break within a few years. It’s kind of ridiculous!

  15. Justin @ The Family Finances says:

    For us, a great example is our kitchen trash can. For the longest time we had this basic, cheap, plastic trash can from Wal-Mart. I think it may have cost $6 or something. I had it in my apartment before we got married, and we kept using it once my wife moved in.

    She hated this trash can. It always seemed to be in the way, and the lid would spradically fall of. I finally caved, and we bought one of those under-the-counter slide-out trash cans. It was around $50, but that was some of the best money I’ve ever spent. Well worth it.

  16. I learned a long time ago not to buy cheap shoes. I spend around $100 for a pair. Work shoes last for years, and running shoes get replaced about every 1-1.5 years. Cheap ones don’ t hold up and they hurt. Dollar store candy tastes horrible too. Name brand for sure.

  17. I kind of feel like the best products are always in the middle, like you say, the cheapest usually isn’t the best. And I think the most expensive is almost never the best either. I usually go for the generic versions of drugs like nyquil and dayquil since by law, they must have the same active ingredient. But when it comes to woven wheats(store brand) or triscuits, you gotta go with the triscuits. I used to always get really pissed at my dad when he would cheap out and buy these πŸ™‚ haha

  18. For us it really depends on the item. When it comes to certain food items we will buy the cheapest one. For certain clothes like those I backpack around Asia in I will buy cheap too. However with other things like cars, furniture, and other house items we like to make sure we buy something that is going to last.

    I love the new theme by the way. The site looks fantastic.

  19. Anne @ Unique Gifter says:

    I love your point about cheap jeans. I have finally convinced my spouse to “splurge” for more than the $20 or $25 jeans. My spouse hates shopping for pants, and I hate having it repeated too often.

  20. I usually go for the cheapest alternative, but not always. It’s important to make sure for long term buys you consider quality, like you said. Plus, I like quality purses and will spend on those as well as getting my hair done (a lot)!!!!

  21. One thing we will never buy again at the dollar store is band-aids.
    They don’t even bother sticking, even long enough to be slightly useful

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