Friday, November 17, 2017

Going Cheap can Cost More

Owning a factory, gives me greater insights on materials, design and production. Buying something cheaper usually means a simpler design, less quality materials. Sometimes these trade offs are okay, but at some point, going "cheaper" may not pay off.

Buying the cheapest thing may not saw you money. There are always trade offs.


Today, many of the bigger supermarkets have pricing to show you the cost per weight amount. And in most cases, buying in bulk saves you money. So if you consume a lot, buying the smallest portion actually cost more, and buying the largest portion and wasting it (if perishable), also cost you.

Buying non-perishables from a big lot store which sells in bulk may be the lowest cost per unit option, but then, it also takes up space in your apartment.



No, socks are not just socks. A pair of Greenyarn Tyrrano Hiking Socks may cost about US$20, but by changing, washing and wearing them everyday (2 pairs), these socks can last more than 2 years.

I used to wear discounted 3 for $10 socks, and they become loose after 3 months, and you have to discard all of them within 6 months if you wear them and wash them daily. The result is about the same, but if you wear and wash them regularly, the cheap socks will cost more than US$40 in 2 years.

For many other items, cheaper generally means lower quality materials. And with the manufacturing done in China, factories in China have access to all sorts of materials and you can be shocked at how cheap a product can be.

I've bought a pair of $5 leather shoes in China. They work great, a little uncomfortable in the sole part, but works fine -- until it got wet. After the first rain, the sole fell off, and the leather warped.

Unknown brands that pop up in China does not care about quality assurance. In fact, many of them buy stock lots that failed quality assurance checks, A factory making for a major brand may have received a bad batch of low quality or flawed leather, unacceptable to the brand, and the factory just has to find cheaper ways to resell and still make some money.

Depending on which stage the production is cancelled, the product may be unfinished but sold to the public. You may think you get a discount on a 3 for $10 shirt, but often, these are unstretched fabric. And once washed, they may shrink, and the problem is not being just smaller, the shrinking may not be consistent sometimes.

Cheap printing is not breathable, and some peel off after 1 wash. There are also many toxic chemicals used in bright colored clothing, and there are processes to remove the chemicals or use less toxic chemicals, but in the focus on cost, the right thing is usually not done. Well, it is Asia, and many people are just out to make profits.

Sadly, many people go for "Fast Fashion" -- lower cost branded wear that is not durable. Many of our materialistic lifestyles in Asian countries promote the mentality of "lets go shopping" as a past time, and at lower cost, there is always something to buy.

What happens when Fashion becomes "Fast, disposable and cheap"? More style means more purchases. It may cost less, but you buy more.

"The rate of disposal is not keeping up with the availability of places to put everything that we're getting rid of and that's the problem." According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 15.1 million tons of textile waste was generated in 2013, of which 12.8 million tons were discarded.''

Discounted electronics:

Cheap fans, batteries and various other electronics do not last. I've broken 3 electric standing fans in a year, and after changing to a trusted brand like KDK, the KDK fan now last more than 3 years.

Cheap batteries generally have much lower capacity, and the other problem -- they leak. The leaking may cause other damage to your electronics.

The reason why cheap electronics can be cheap is because -- cheap low quality circuits + low quality control. For many products with lithium batteries, by just removing the batteries can reduce cost greatly.

Cheaper circuits and poor soldering can lead to a product breakdown fast. If you know electronics, checking it while it is still working may allow you to reinforce some soldering joints which can prevent fires.

Cheap lithium batteries do not have overcharging and heating sensors. So they may catch fire while charging or while in use.


Factory rejects / Factory outlets

I often buy shoes from the outlet store. According to some of my friends working in the big brands, it takes a shoe about 3 years from manufacturing to get to the outlet store. In the meantime, the shoe would be in warehouses for years.

Many big brands now use a more eco-friendly glue which binds the soles to the shoe. The glue would last easily 2 - 3 years, and beyond that, the bonds may start to weaken.

When a shoe is not worn, you will not see anything difference, but when you wear an old sports shoe you have not worn in years, chances are, the soles will give up and fall apart.

The environmental change can be an issue to the shoe. Most warehouses are low in humidity to prevent mold and other fungus, and when you introduce the shoe after years in such environment to a high humidity place like Singapore, besides the glue, the fabric, leather and other parts may warp.

There is usually no issues for me when I get a pair of discounted factory outlet shoe and just continue to wear them everyday until they wear out. It is the wearing them for a bit, storing them and wearing them again that kills them faster.


Food / Perishables

In many countries, you may have access to cheaper markets which sell produce which are "not so nice" Sometimes, it is just appearance, and it still taste the same, but other times, they are close to expiry dates, and you have to make sure that they are not inedible.

From time to time, I do go to Asian Supermarkets to get Mangoes (In the US which is very expensive) I usually pick the discounted ones which are overripe -- sweet and cheap, however, I need to eat them immediately. Sometimes I can't even keep them for more than 1 day in the refrigerator before they go bad.

It is ok if you buy and cook, some discounted vegetables and fruits may have slight damage, but removing the damaged parts makes it still edible.

Of course when you suddenly have an appointment and cannot cook, then chances are, the cheap vegetables you buy will go bad before you have a chance to consume it.



Going cheap sometimes does not save you money. You need to think and test the other options available as you may save money buying full price, and it really depends on your lifestyle.

If there are anything else you would like to add, feel free to contact me and let me know.

-- Robin Low

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