Imagine for a moment that you are going to the store to buy a new washing machine because your old one is dead. The store has a tonne options available, and as you look at the reviews on your phone, it’s pretty clear that there are a few mid-priced models with good reviews and a few more expensive models with good reviews. Which do you choose?
On the other hand, imagine that you are moving into your first apartment and that you need some elements for your kitchen. You have a reasonable budget to work with. Are you buying a small number of very high quality items that will last a long time, or are you buying a lot of inexpensive items that will work for now but will need to be replaced when they break?
It’s this constant dilemma of buying new things or replacing things. Are you getting something that is just good enough to meet your needs at the moment, or are you spending a lot more to buy something that will do a great job, now and for a long time?
Are you buying the best or just good enough?
It’s not an easy question to answer, and practices will certainly vary from person to person depending on things like their current financial situation. Here’s how I make this decision for myself.
Establish what you mean by “good enough” and “better”.
For me, this is usually resolved by looking at Consumer reports, which I rely on for comparative analyzes of all kinds of things, big and small.
In general, for me, the option “good enough” is the one that Consumer reports identifies as a “Best Buy”. It is usually the item that offers the best value for money, although it is not the best in its class.
On the other hand, the “best” option is usually their highest ranked option, usually marked with a “Recommended” check mark. They are generally the best in their class and are significantly more reliable and better manufactured than the “Best Buy” option.
I usually try to list a few options in each of these two categories. For example, if I buy a washing machine, I usually list three washers marked as “Best Buy” options and three washers marked “Recommended”. It gives me a much greater ability to shop around and find discounts, regardless of what I decide.
Can you easily afford the “best” option without causing financial hardship?
If you cannot afford the “best” option without incurring notable short-term financial problems, then you should not consider this option. It’s so simple.
Go into debt – especially high-interest debt, the kind you will usually fall if you buy consumer products – to buy a more expensive item when you can afford a “good enough” version without you go into debt, that choice is easy.
What is the downside to failure?
For many articles, there are not many disadvantages to failure. It may mean that you are launching a meal or something like that, but it is not a crisis.
For some items, however, failure at the wrong time can be very problematic and, in these cases, spending more, especially on reliability, is worth it.
For example, I am much more concerned with reliability when I look at a refrigerator or freezer than I am when I look at a stove. I’m more concerned with the reliability of a large device than a small item because the replacement process is easier, and I’m more concerned with something that keeps a lot of food safe than with something that, at worst, could ruin a meal.
Distinguish between the features you really need and the cool ones.
It is tempting to start paying more for “cool” features that seem to be something you would use, but I would object, especially with the expensive items you are going to rely on.
Generally, “cool” features mean more points of failure, and that also means a higher sticker price. A washing machine that can start to run loads over Wi-Fi seems pretty incredible, but now there is an on-board computer that can fail, (probably) a screen that can fail and that comes on top of all the normal components of the washing machine.
It is good for a purchase to have features that you will find really useful, but are those features that you are looking for really meaningful or useful for you, or are they just “cool”? Don’t pay for cool features unless you buy something you don’t count on at all.
Is it something that you have used before and that you have exhausted?
If you’ve used this type of item before, you should know how much you use it and how you use it, which should give you a much better indication of how it will be used in the future. In general, the more frequently I have used an article in the past, the more likely I am to invest in a more reliable and better version.
On the other hand, if this item is new to me, I’m probably not even targeting the “just good enough” version (unless I’ve used some kind of precursor and I know this item will be useful). I’m probably going to look for a used version of the article “just good enough” or whatever will meet my basic needs for a while, as I find out how I’m going to use this article.
Then, when I have to replace it – or, more specifically, if I have to replace it because I used it that much – I can go back to the question “good enough” or “the best” with my replacement purchase.
If I buy a type of item that I have never purchased before, I usually buy it second-hand and, if I can’t, buy the cheapest “good enough” version I can find, so I can determine how much I use and how often I use it use before investing a lot of money. The investment comes when I replace this “first” article.
If I buy an item that I use and rely on daily or almost daily, or an item that causes a lot of problems if it fails, I’m probably going for the “buy the best” option. I’m going to look for him like crazy, usually starting with Consumer reports but delving into trusted publications that are more specific to the article if necessary, then buy something that will absolutely meet my needs.
Otherwise, I buy an item “just good enough”. I usually look for recommendations for the best buy or the best value for money in comparative reviews from sources I trust, such as Consumer reports. If the item is not something I rely heavily on, I can even choose to save a lot of money and buy a used model.
In short, there is no answer to the question “buy the best or just good enough”, perfect for all situations. Rather, your response should depend on your specific purchasing situation and many other factors.