What's better when it comes to purchasing stuff - quality or quantity?
There's a movement gaining in popularity that encourages folks to stop buying "throwaway" items, like fast fashion and cheap plastic, in favor of items made with long-lasting materials that hold up to the daily grind and can be fixed (if needed) instead of thrown away. Instead of buying a cheap pot and pan set that will rust quickly, buy the higher quality pans that will last a decade. Invest in a set of leather boots that can be re-soled and oiled each year. Spend the extra money to purchase a quality item now, so you can eliminate the waste of purchasing the same cheap item over and over.
This is a great movement. It helps us ask important questions about the waste we produce, our own shopping and spending habits, and the ethics of consumption and throwaway culture. The Buy Me Once website is a great resource that gathers information on a wide variety of products that are designed to last a lifetime. Even though "buy it once" products are pricey, the price per use is usually insanely low, since you are using it for years and years and years.
Over the years, my own purchasing experiences have led me to wonder if sometimes quantity over quality is not so bad, particularly if I am sourcing materials second-hand. I hesitate to even say that out loud because the "buy it once" movement feels so righteous and ethical and I kind of really love it. But I also can't justify spending $300 on an ethically made flannel shirt when every thrift store in the country has 25 flannel shirts for $5.
I've spent a good deal of time researching great footwear. I've bought Chaco sandals and winter Ugg boots (the nice waterproof kind) for hundreds of dollars because they are high-quality long-lasting brands. But when my Ugg boots sprung a leak in the third winter I wondered if I wasn't better off buying a new thrift store pair of boots each winter for $7 each.
I could spend $100 on jeans that would last me 10 years. At $10 a year that's a really great price per wear. It totally makes sense. Or I could spend $5 on a pair of jeans that I get tired of every 2 years (and then donate back to the thrift store). So over the ten years I've spent $25 and gotten to wear a lot of different kinds of jeans. Regarding boots and shoes, I'm just not sure that quality over quantity really IS better. Because for many, many items (dishes, tables, dressers, chairs, tools, etc.) the used version is just as quality as the new version.
While I love the idea of quality over quantity, I feel like it doesn't tell the whole story. Yes, we should be intentional about our spending choices and yes, we should consider buying more long-lasting items. But we should also ask ourselves some other tough questions, like - do we need this type of item at all? Is there somewhere we could get a quality version for less money (thrift store, Craigslist, family member's basement)? Would it make more sense to buy a mid-range version of the item and take good care of it?
So despite my desire for a series of adorable and high-quality backpacks and luggage, and the sunk cost of those hours of shoe research, I will keep on questioning my purchases so that I can find my perfect balance of quality and quantity.