Doing without is often better than making do
For anything you might buy there are almost limitless choices. For purposes of argument, I'd like to group them into three categories: You can buy the best; you can buy some crappy imitation of the best; or you can buy nothing at all. People argue a lot about the parameters of the first two choices. I don't think the third gets the attention it deserves.
Buying the best is the right choice in many cases. For tools, it's a no-brainer. For something that you're going to be using for decades, the extra cost approaches zero when you figure it on a per-use basis. For something that's mission-critical (or life-critical), paying top-dollar for quality just makes sense.
Of course, in many cases, people can reasonably disagree about what's "the best" in any particular category. That's a good thing--if everyone agreed, whatever they agreed on would cost even more. There are plenty of more expensive things that aren't any better for your purposes than a cheaper one would be. There's not much point in thinking about what might be "the best" in the abstract--it's only a useful concept when you're thinking about something being best for a particular purpose.
There are circumstances where something just good enough to get the job done is the right choice. Something that's going to be thrown away after one use anyway, whether for safety reasons (like medical equipment) or just because you don't expect to need to do it again, just needs to be good enough to get the job done.
Sometimes, if you simply have to have one, and all you can afford is a cheap one, that's what you're stuck with.
Often, though, people only imagine that they need something. And, once they imagine they need it, it's easy to decided that, if they're going to buy one, they might as well buy a really good one. "But I need one" is probably the most common path to buying crap you can't afford (followed closely by "But I deserve one").
If you're going to live a frugal life, you need to break that chain before you start buying the best of everything, and the place to break it is not when you get to "I might as well buy a really good one." The place to focus is on the "If I'm going to buy one" part.
One trick that I find useful is to focus on the quality differential. There's hardly anything you can buy that doesn't have a better alternative available, if you pay enough. I've chosen not to buy an awful lot of stuff over the years, and pretty often part of the reasoning was along the lines of, "If I can't afford X, I'll just do without," filling in X with "the best" of whatever category I'm dealing with.
That's just a mental trick, though. The real key to making the right choice is to remember that acquiring stuff is not a series of yes/no decisions--it's an allocation of limited resources. You can temporarily hide the fact that your resources are limited by buying things on credit, but that doesn't change the underlying reality; it just means that you end up with even less in the long run.
Before you start the analysis of what's the best choice for your particular application, and before trying to decide whether it's worth paying extra to get it, think hard about whether you really need one.
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