Last week, Raspberry wrote: I don't know if you previously did a post about wise economy and what that means, but I would love to see you do one. Wise economy doesn't always means buying what's cheapest, but it can sometimes be difficult to know when it's wise to buy what's cheapest and when it's wise to pay extra, especially when it comes to quality. I would love your thoughts on this issue.
Raspberry was commenting on my knitting post when I wrote: I use to think it was a wise economy to buy the cheapest wool; I no longer believe that. The cheapest wool comes with its own invisible price attached. Fibres - even natural fibres like pure cotton and wool, are often processed with harsh chemicals you don't want on your skin. Paying a few dollars more for a better quality yarn will give you a better quality garment and peace of mind, knowing it's not tainted.
As Raspberry said, the cheapest isn't always the best value for money. What good is a scarf that you buy the wool for, knit and start to use, only to find that it irritates your skin, is too scratchy or leaves a rash. You won't want to throw it away because you spent all that time and money on it. That scarf will sit in your cupboard and not be used. Saving a few dollars not buying the yarn you really wanted will turn into a total waste of money.
There is no rule that covers this. Often when it comes to making a decision on what to buy, you have to try it first. For instance, I thought buying embroidery cotton would be simple and straight forward so I bought a slightly cheaper brand. I discovered when I'd made the cover, embroidered and washed it, one of the red colours ran. Since then I always buy the more expensive cotton. I think the best advertising is word of mouth from someone you trust. If you're going to buy something, ask your friends what they know about it. If you can't find anyone who knows and it's a small item, buy the smallest amount you can to try it.
If you're learning how do various things, ask those you're learning from about how they choose their materials or ingredients. If you're starting a new craft, learn as much about the materials as you do about the techniques. Do your research, read good books on your topic and be selective about what you find on the internet. There will be differing opinions on just about everything.
I can't give you recommendations for various products but I am firmly convinced of the wise economy of:
- buying good quality that lasts, can be recycled, mended, changed, painted, dyed or handled down through the family. This applies to clothes, shoes, appliances, furniture, equipment, tools and cars and much more. The longer you use anything, the more value you're getting for the dollars you put into it.
- cloth nappies/diapers. I think setting yourself up with cloth nappies/diapers is a good investment. Generally you'll spend about $1200 for everything you need. You have to pay for washing costs, but make your own washing liquid and that cost goes down significantly, hang them on the line to dry, it goes down again. When you have one set, you have enough for most, if not all, of the babies you'll have. The cost of disposable nappies/diapers in Australia, is said to be about $3000 for each baby. It's a big difference in financial cost and in the cost to the environment.
- buying goods produced in your own country and if you can buy local produce, meat or goods, it's the best bonus.
- buying organic, if you can afford it. If you can't, buy it whenever you can and be okay with that. Just do your best and rest easy.
- living within your means, or below it.
- teaching children the value of money when they're growing up.
- cooking from scratch and developing a good selection of incredible recipes that people ask you for. When that happens you know the food you cook is healthy and thrifty without sacrificing flavour.
- never walking down the cleaning aisle of a supermarket unless it is to collect borax, bicarb, vinegar and soap.
- looking after what you already own.
- doing your own repairs and maintenance - from darning, sewing and mending to changing the tyres around on your car, changing the oil, checking brake fluid and tyre pressure and everything else you're skilled enough to do.
- growing your own vegetables and cultivating plants that will allow you to make your own fertilisers - comfrey, yarrow etc.
- developing a worm farm to help you recycle household waste and to supply fertiliser and microbes to your garden.
- preserving, canning or freezing excess vegetables. Whether you grow them or buy them in season at the market.
- paying your mortgage off faster than you're expected to. You can do that by paying fortnightly instead of monthly or paying extra payments throughout the year. It's a sacrifice, but the payoff in savings is extraordinary.
- getting rid of disposables as much as possible.
I guess my overall recommendation is to know about what you buy. Otherwise you're at the mercy of the manufacturers and we all know that's not always the best position to be in. If you go into the shop to buy something, go armed with as much knowledge as possible. When you buy something that exceeds your expectations or disappoints you, tell your friends about it. Making the decision to buy is never easy but if you're aware and have done some research, you'll be better placed. Don't be one of the uneducated sitting on the side lines thinking that everything you should know will be on the label. It won't be. I think there are many good manufacturers and ethical retailers out there. The problem is, generally, we don't know who is who.
What are your wise economies?