376: Wise Investments: Understand the Difference between a Good Value and a Good Deal
Wednesday March 6, 2024

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A pair of denim jeans made of heavier weight denim, and long staple cotton will cost more at the till or checkout, but it will be worn and enjoyably so for years to come. And even better, you won’t be repairing it endlessly throughout its long lifespan (good value).

Compare the above purchase to a pair of jeans made of short fibres of cotton and the denim’s fit and shape, thus its durability will fade quickly, even if you purchased it at a wallop of a low price (good deal).

The savviness of wise money management encompasses many factors, but one is an approach often overlooked or dismissed: Understanding the difference between a Good Value versus a Good Deal.

Here in the states tax season is upon us, and so many of us may have money on the mind even more than we usually do; however, I often find myself at the beginning of the new year assessing my monthly budget, determining where I am gaining value or unnecessarily causing more tasks and draining money. Ultimately, whenever I sit down to assess my money, my goal is to do so less often, knowing I have invested well, so I can go about the living of my life that I love and trust that my decisions will stand a long duration of time offering the performance, purpose or function I purchased it for.

In other words, I don’t want to be shopping for my capsule wardrobe constantly, restocking and replacing worn out jeans that while a great deal, only lasted one or maybe two seasons. Likewise, I don’t want to have to be taking my car to the repair shop frequently, or gassing up frequently or even replacing the car itself as frequently (more on what I am hinting at below in our discussion).

When we invest well, and apply the wisdom of purchase great value rather than falling victim to a good deal, we deepen the quality of our overall lives because however we enjoy living them, we can do so without surprise expenditures frequently arising.

I appreciated author Byron Tully, founder of his blog The Old Money Book, addressing this topic as part of his explanation as to why frugality is a skill to hone and practice without apology. But in using the word frugal, many may misunderstand. Frugality when it comes to wise investments involves making sure you acquire great value for what you purchase, as opposed to buying two for the price of one (a great deal).

The alignment of his argument regarding frugality aligns well with living simply luxuriously as we approach the choices we make, purchases, social life, any arena of our lives with the mindset of quality over quantity.

Today, I would like to explore a handful of areas of our lives in which investing in Good Value vs. a Good Deal occurs, and to offer explanation as to why paying the large price tag upfront will save more money in the long run, as well as instances when a large price tag upfront is just welcoming more stress throughout the duration of your ownership. Let’s get started.

1.The home we purchase

In the New York Times series The Hunt, various individuals share three homes they are considering buying, detailing their budget and lifestyle, and readers get to guess which they will buy before it is revealed. In the most recent post, the purchased apartment wasn’t the cheapest one listed, but as the new homeowner shared, “when ‘I got deep into the math, [those] cheaper apartments are often worse investments’ — partly because of the many transaction costs”. Again, the value of the apartment is often seen in the price tag, but doing our homework is wise so we feel better about paying a bit more money.

As well as the overall price tag, paying more for a neighborhood that works with our lifestyle, reduces commuting time, offers good schools, any amenities or qualities that elevate the quality of our life, these are worth paying for and increase the value of our purchase.

On the flip side, buying a larger home isn’t always better. Depending upon the neighborhood, town, etc., the price per square footage will vary, but even if we find a large house at a great price, what maintenance costs, time spent cleaning, heating and cooling, are we going to continue to pay throughout the duration of our stay in the home.

As I wrote about in my 2nd book, Living The Simply Luxurious Life in chapter 13: Living Small, after living and owning a house with 2600 sq. feet, I knew I didn’t want a large house again when I purchased one in Bend. My house now, Le Papillon is only one story and have just under 1500 sq ft.. I have far less to clean, and when I pay for a house cleaner, that bill is smaller as well because they will give you a rate on your sq ft.. Continuing down the list of monthly utilities, the heating and cooling is far less in a smaller house, and so much more including the decorating of a larger house (but we will talk about decorating in a later point in today’s post).

Ultimately, wherever we choose to live, we must take into consideration what elevates the quality of our life and what will drain that quality due to upkeep and maintenance, stress due to noise and location, etc. If we only look at the dollar amounts, we aren’t doing enough exploration of what we are really purchasing (or not purchasing as the case may be).

2. Clothing and Accessories

This next point won’t surprise you in the least with regards to what will be shared. In fact in January’s Signature Style post, I dove deeply into my new approach to curating my capsule wardrobe with a detailed list of how I make decisions and purchases. For our purposes in today’s episode/post, what is the difference between good value and a good deal? Keeping in mind the purchase of denim jeans above, it is both Cost Per Wear we take into consideration, dividing the upfront cost of the item with how many times we can wear the item and it continues to shine. And as Byron Tully points out, if he purchases a well-made blue blazer at a hefty price, but never has to replace it or have it repaired, and it fits him perfectly, it is not only a great value, but actually low in cost due to its quality craftsmanship. The money doesn’t keep being spent after the initial sale.

I continue to be reminded that quality, well-made clothing items are an investment worth making as just recently I was wearing a pinstripe wrap dress purchased for just under $500 about six years ago, and it still looks in top-notch condition today even after having worn it frequently. I am not shopping as often (more time to do what I love), and due to how markets work – prices will always go up – I have a dress that is quite the detail today if it were available today. No more money is spent once the initial point of sale, and that is something to always wrap our minds around.

So long as we can afford the price, and we’ve done our homework and know the item is well-made, fits us well, or we can have it tailored to fit us ideally, once that is accounted for, we aren’t shelling out more money to fill this gap in our wardrobe for many years to come. The definition of a wise sartorial investment.

3. Transportation

Depending upon where we live and the public transportation made available to us, our choice of personal transportation will be different, but assuming most of us would use public transportation if it ran smoothly and saved us time on the road and money as well, I am going to address the vehicles we purchase should we have to do so.

Here in the states, most of us have to have a vehicle (but not all). In Bend, we definitely have to have a vehicle and not just any vehicle, but one that can safely travel and navigate in winter conditions for up to six months of each year during the long-spells that happen from time to time. With that said, it isn’t always the expensive vehicle that is best, but it isn’t the cheapest either. Let’s explore.

Tully points out that purchasing “an exotic sports car costs a lot to buy…and a lot to own when you add insurance, maintenance, fuel, etc. And you may not use that exotic sports car every day”. In other words, the most expensive doesn’t always equate to a great deal nor a good value as you are constantly spending money due to all sorts of factors. So it isn’t the price tag, but rather what the vehicle provides and the stresses it takes off of your plate due to its craftsmanship.

Similar to buying a house, we have to know what we prioritize and our lifestyle and thus the demands the car will need to meet. As someone who had to go car shopping in 2022 after my Buick Encore had been driven for more than 10 years, it took me six months to figure out what would be the best fit for my needs. It is important to point out, that while there are a lot of rankings out there by reputable companies, such as Consumer Reports, it is always important to note where the numbers are being gathered from. In other words, who provided the information – what kind of drivers were they, how often did they maintain their car, what were the weather conditions the car was repeatedly exposed to, was it kept in a garage or on the street, etc., etc. So while I took that information to heart in my research, I also took note of what wasn’t available as well as how many people typically buy certain brands due to the price and how long some types of vehicles have been around – plug-in hybrids and all-electric vehicles, for example.

Preventative regular maintenance, deciding whether to purchase extended warranty coverage, these are all expenses that may, depending upon what you are purchasing will cost far less up front than in response to the car when it isn’t performing as you would like.

While there is no best approach specifically, the best approach generally is to know what the purpose of a car is in your lifestyle, and purchase for those needs, the best quality available.

4. Home Décor

In episode #361 I shared the 33 decorating and construction lessons I learned while customizing my home Le Papillon over the three and half year journey, and with each day, week, month, year, you get the idea, passes, I am reminded why those large monetary investments that sometimes were mind-boggling to consider at first (how much for the tile in the bathroom?!!), the value they bring will last my lifetime.

Even when you purchase an item that may break down due to an ignorant cook (yes, I made a mistake or two!), such as my La Cornue stove (La Cornufe line, not the Chateau line), a significant investment for my budget, it comes with many years of full coverage in the warranty, whereas with a imitation brand such as AJ Madison, you will immediately feel the difference in its craftsmanship and durability (warranty coverage is still available, but it will be extra on top of the stove’s price, whereas with La Cornue, it was part of the price).

But let’s talk about the decorating – furniture, flooring, antiques, items that can cost a pretty penny.

Unlike the maintenance of a sports car, for example, once you purchase that antique chandelier, all you have to do is dust it from time to time. The maintenance is minimal if nearly non-existent, and if it brings you pleasure and aesthetically finishes the room which brings you comfort and calm, it is a sage investment indeed. A good value to say yes to rather than paying less for something you don’t love and likely will replace when you lay your eyes on something that does speak to you more sweetly.

Buy once, buy well, then savor and enjoy for a very long, lovely time while you go about living your life.

And here is another thing to think about, and I have done it often on one or two items that I eventually purchased a couple years later. If it is a quality, well-made item, and eventually you are going to purchase it, the price will over time go up. Of course, we all have to work within our budgets, but keep this financial commodity fact in mind. However, if the price gives you pause, it may not be exactly what you are looking for, and that too is a sign to heed and remind yourself to wait until you find exactly what you want.

5. Everyday Expenditures

The other day, I popped into a local coffee shop, one of the coffee shops that actually does make a great cup of tea and gives their customers actual ceramic tea cups & saucers. This is one of the many reasons I return to this particular place. I head to this coffee shop when I want to give myself an hour to step away from technology and just read (an actual paper or hardback version in hand), ordering myself a large English breakfast tea, a favorite treat and then settle into one of the rare open seats and while away an hour. The best $6.50 spent in my day often times. On all of the other days, I make my own pot of tea at home with my favorite teas – Twinings, Yorkshire Gold, etc. explore all of my favorite tea varietals here)

This purchase is a Good Value because it brings with it something I savor, pleasure and enjoyment, a calming respite and thus an elevation of my day; however, if I were in the habit of driving through a coffee spot and purchasing coffee to go, that would not be a wise investment, especially once added up as it isn’t bringing value to my day and is draining my budget. In other words, a paradoxical truth is that it might actually behove the quality of your everydays to purchase a special coffee machine or dreamed about tea kettle for your home – pay well up front, and then save money ever-after.

I consider this often when I am deciding whether or not to go out to dinner or to order take-out versus cooking at home. Part of the reason I love cooking at home is that I have a kitchen that is well-stocked with the proper tools to enjoy the process of cooking and that enable me to cook as well as my skills enable. In other words, the ingredients I have in my épicerie are of higher quality, and my knives are sharpened and my skillets heat up evenly and quickly. I may have invested up front on many of these items, but I don’t have to pay again and again to keep using them so long as I know how to maintain them, and I am assured a good meal.

Again, it comes down to what you value. If you don’t mind if the food might be hit or miss because you simply want to rest and sit while catching up with friends an family, then going to dinner is a Good Value, but if you are in need of a satiating meal and cannot be guaranteed you will have it, nor if there will be good service, the good value is to invest in good ingredients and utensils and cook yourself a dependably wonderful meal at home.

What I find revealing about each of the arenas in our lives where we might choose to pay more up front due to the choice, for us, being a good value rather than a good deal, is that onlookers may have an opinion or make a judgment about us, assuming we have oodles of money or assuming we are trying to one-up others or casting aspersions from their sole perspective. Of course, we serve ourselves well by paying no mind to anyone else’s opinion but our own and those that we seek out expertise, but what we forget is that what is of value to one person may not be of value to another.

To bring it back to the jeans discussed at the top of the episode/post. For one person, they may not need to have jeans that look sharp but merely get them to work so they can do their job, and the money they save is invested in something of more importance to them. Whereas the person who invests in a quality pair of jeans may wear the item as part of they daily uniform at work where presentation is paramount but they also must be comfortable. Again, what is of value to us is our business and no one else’s.

So I guess why I am sharing that is, we can learn from others, we can be inspired by others, but to expend energy sharing our thoughts or opinions about their purchases reveals our nescient mind about information we will never be privy to. Best to concern ourselves with what will be the best investments for our life journey and savor the outcome of our sagacious choices as our peace of mind elevates and energy and budget, in the long-term, is no longer depleted unnecessarily.

Nolly, PBS Masterpiece

-learn more about the series and read/listen to my review in this detailed post (or tune in to the end of today’s podcast episode).

Episode 331


12 thoughts on “376: Wise Investments: Understand the Difference between a Good Value and a Good Deal

  1. Hello,
    Everything you wrote is what my parents taught me growing up. Plus they also said to purchase the best you can afford and then take care of it. Yes, in the end, we will all spend our money differently(as you rightly pointed out)… my personal values are also a major determining factor…how were the workers treated in their work place?, how does my choice impact the environment ? (foe example). Thank you so much for your thoughtful article.
    you’ve given me a lot to think about, as I navigate a very consumer driven landscape.
    thanks, Emilie

    1. Thank you for sharing your experience with these ideas and how it drives your decision making. 🙂 Yes, being cognizant that the world is a consumer priority focus reminds us not to fall prey to the pushes that constantly surround us so that we can find what we want when and if we need it, or simply appreciate it and move past it. 🙂 I appreciate your stopping by today and your comment.

  2. I can not express how many times I now repeat, “Pay less, buy more. Pay more, by less” to my family and friends. For both my boys, I told them to pay more for the suit they needed to purchase so it would last (as long as their current weight did). I even convinced one to do a suit for prom instead of renting a tux. He has not regretted it, wearing it often and interchangeably.

    I am in the market for a new vehicle, and Subaru is in the running. Can you share what you decided on?

    Great episode!


    1. Michelle,

      Thank you for sharing this mantra. A great one to really remember and tickled your son is realizing how true the maxim is!
      I decided on a Volvo, a brand I have been fond of for its security inclusions – one of the reasons they have such a small ‘screen’ compared to other vehicles is that they don’t want you to be distracted by what’s on it and instead keep your eyes on the road. 🙂 I also purchased a hybrid as I wanted to begin to do what I could to ween myself off of gas, a bit more of an investment, but in the long-run (and even in the current moment as I only visit the gas station once every two months), I feel good about this choice.

      Speaking of Subarus, they have always had a fondness in my heart. I swear they epitomize Oregon, especially the valley and they are everywhere in Bend and get around in the snow so well for being ‘a car’ vs a SUV. I still remember that scene in Portlandia where four cars pull up to a 4-way stop, each having Subarus and each driver kindly waving the other drivers to go first. 🙂 Gets me every time – but a VERY true depiction of Oregon drivers in most situations.
      Wishing you well on the search and the decision. I have no doubt you will make a wise decision that is ideal for you.
      Thank you for stopping by and tuning in.

  3. I love this! I was rearranging my closet yesterday morning & smiled at a tropical print blouse I bought well over 2 decades ago for the then outrageous price of $250. It’s down to pennies/wearing by now, still looks like new, & I still absolutely love it. It really is worth figuring out what’s most important to you: I’m one of those people who lives in jeans & good leather jackets & boots & doesn’t mind paying a bit for them (ditto nice lingerie) but looks for a good bargain on most everything else.

    And yes, cars. Sighhh. Definitely an area for me in which emotion plays a greater part of the Good Value equation than practical considerations. Case in point: a Grenadier-red Triumph TR6 rag-top, insanely impractical in Canadian winters — I once drove home in a snowstorm with the top down because the chair I bought at a thrift store wouldn’t fit otherwise — but terrific fun when you’re young & footloose. Then I got married, my then-husband hated it & I stupidly sold it (I should have divorced him sooner & kept the car, another lesson in “good value” I’ve never forgotten! 🙂 ).

    I’m car shopping now & am leaning toward something fast & completely impractical (Corvette? Mustang??) while good sense (& my husband, although even HE admits it’s hard to take advice about ‘practical transportation’ from a guy who loves motorcycles) are pushing me toward the more mundane. Hard to say if speed or good sense will win 🙂 Stay tuned!

  4. Hello Shannon and readers,
    A lovely mention of Brian Tully and his books ! I have reread them often and appreciate his experience in managing wealth (especially what to do if you come into a significant amount). Do you know he lives and writes in a yet-to-be-renovated château?
    The last few years I have settled into spending less. Each month I review the discretionary spending I did six months before and consider the value I get from the item. Each month I am reminded of an item I haven’t appreciated enough and of the abundance in my life, it is so easy to forget!

    1. Nicolle,

      It has been very interesting to listen to to him share the journey thus far of the chateau adventure in France. Thank you for reminding us of this aspect of his life. Quite the unique journey and what he share certainly gives one much to ponder. I too appreciate his insights. 🙂

      Thank you for sharing the financial habits you have found especially helpful. What you have shared is a great exercise and demonstration of awareness and no doubt has helped strengthen even wiser purchases and investment as you move forward. Thank you for stopping by. 🙂

  5. Shannon, a very thoughtful piece. We’re in the process of updating our kitchen and when we were told it should last 10 years I did think of the cost per year. I’m definitely gravitating towards the approach you have described but it’s hard when you see a bargain 😂. X

    1. Nicola,

      Be strong Nicola! You will be grateful you invested when you, as I know you do frequently, spend time in your kitchen baking, as it will be dependable and perform ideally making the time in your kitchen even more enjoyable. Look beyond the dollar amount and remember your joy you have in your kitchen.

  6. Hi Shannon,
    This podcast really spoke to me as I had taken the day off from work to run several errands and I listened to it in my car. One of the errands was a dental visit to get my teeth whitened – something I had never done before, and was weighing the expense and then I started listening to your podcast. My son’s wedding is next month and I want to look my best. Your podcast reassured me that if I felt my best, especially on that day, it was money well spent. Later that day I had to update my foundation as mine was no longer in stock, and the woman who helped me (we were similar in age) introduced me to a Christian Dior foundation that she used and recommended. It was a little more expensive, but her advice and recommendation made a noticeable difference (even my spouse noticed!). Thank you for this podcast and putting into words that things that make us feel better and give us more confidence are so worth it. Ear rubs to the pups!

    1. Noreen,

      Thank you for tuning in to this episode and for sharing both of these examples. For all the reasons you explained as to why investing in value is worth paying a bit more up front, and reading how you value yourself in making these purchases, you deserve to care for yourself well and feel good and your best. Have a most memorable and wonderful time at your son’s wedding next month. Thank again for stopping by. 😌💛

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