General Advice Warning. The information on Dad Mode is intended to be general in nature and is not personal financial or product advice.

Bear with me on this one. I know it sounds absurd to tell you that if you want to save money you should spend more, but trust me, there is a reason to my rhyme.

I grew up in a family that didn’t put focus on material goods and, in most cases, it was a good thing. We always valued experiences more than things and if wealth was measured in fun and togetherness, we were filthy stinking rich. As I got older, I started becoming more interested in personal finance and realised that caring about material things could be a good thing. Financially (of course) but for the environment and your sense of self-worth too.

You only have to buy good quality things once.

Before we start I want to quickly mention that this mindset should only be taken on board if you have the means to do so. There is no shame in only spending what you can, in fact in most cases spending less is the smarter move. If you can spend more, however, how will that actually save you money? Let’s get into it.

More expensive things can last longer.

Notice how I say ‘can’ above. There are just as many expensive things that are crappy quality as there are that are of good quality.

I’m going to use a pair of boots I purchased ten years ago as an example of how an expensive item can end up costing you less than a cheap one, and show you how to do the maths to work it out.

In 2010 while I was at uni and living in a share house I purchased a pair of boots for $350. I didn’t have very much money but I loved them and saved up for a few months to be able to take them home. My housemate at the time had coincidentally also purchased new shoes — a pair of Volleys. For anyone that doesn’t live in Australia, Volleys are old school tennis shoe that cost around $40. As soon as I proudly stepped in the door with my new boots on, my housemate asked me how much they were. He was shocked! “How could you spend so much money on boots?” I’ll admit I did feel a little self-conscious at that, but quickly brushed it off. Over the next few months, my boots were getting more and more comfortable, and his volleys were getting more and more worn down.

I still have those boots ten years later and wear them regularly. Who do you think spent more money in the long run? To simplify this a bit, let’s decide that a pair of volleys last six months and that my housemate is really boring and has repurchased the Volleys again and again for the last ten years.

The housemate and his low quality, low price, shoes:

Two pairs of volleys every year at $40 each over ten years.

Cost per year: $80

Ten year total: $800

Me and my high quality, high price, boots:

One pair of boots for $350 over ten years.

Cost per year: $35

Total: $350

It's probably already pretty clear how this works and this is an oversimplified example, but it illustrates my point. I not only saved money in the long term but I had the experience of wearing something I really liked and that made me feel good. Something that looked better as it aged, rather than shabbier. The benefits are many.

It’s easy to begin implementing this in your own life. Think about something material that you buy often. How much are you spending on them per year? Is there a way you can substitute them with items that last longer and will save you money in the long term? Next time you go to buy something new, do some research and find the highest quality option that you can afford.

This exercise can be applied to any kind of item, not just clothing or footwear. Furniture, kitchenware, and tools are some other things to keep in mind.

This only works if you buy the right type of expensive thing

As I mentioned above, there are plenty of high priced things you can buy that don’t last very long. Sometimes, a brand name slapped on something will up the price 5x compared to a similar version from a cheaper brand, and both will be made as poorly as each other.

Here are some things to consider when buying:

  1. It’s all about the materials. Make sure you are getting what you pay for. Substitute fake leather for real, plastic for metal and fibreboard for wood. In general, all-natural materials (whether it linen over polyester for clothes or glass over plastic for food containers) are the way to go.
  2. The country of origin is less important than you may think. Manufacturing has come a long way over the years and things made all over the world can be of great quality. People often get stuck in the mindset of buying from certain countries because they think it means that they are getting quality. Do your research before you write something off based on where it was made.
  3. Think ahead. Will you still want to wear your investments in ten years' time? Don’t spend big on something that will be out of style long before it’s worn out.
  4. Ask around and do your research. If you want to buy something but aren’t sure of its quality, chances are someone else has purchased it before you. Find forums, websites, blogs or ask your friends and family about what they own and how long they have had it for. Just beware of cheapskates like my old housemate, they will lead you astray!

Start at the top, not the bottom.

Everyone has a budget that dictates what they can buy. The difference between how my parents were (buying the cheapest thing they could) and how I am (buying the most expensive thing I can) is perspective. I look at purchases from the top-down, looking at the highest quality example first and working my way down to what my budget can accommodate. Doing it this way allows you to see what is possible (quality-wise) and gives you a better idea of what you can reach for. Instead of going with the lowest quality item by default you are made aware of higher quality and longer-lasting options.

As I said earlier, this mindset and buying strategy depends solely on your financial situation and is something to aspire to. Please don’t overextend yourself and spend more than you have. If you can afford to buy top quality, do the maths, look towards the future and give it a go! If what you can afford is also the cheapest, then buy that. But perhaps you will find you can afford just one step up the quality ladder.

You will save yourself more money than you think.