Frugal Isn’t Cheap: Lessons I’ve Learned About Money

frugal isn't cheap

Frugal Isn’t Cheap: Cheap Isn’t Always Good

Being frugal is finally becoming kinda cool. I try to be frugal in life, especially now that I have the privilege of staying home with my children. I’ve always liked saving money. I’ve spent as little as possible when I could get away with it. But that wasn’t necessarily frugal; that was cheap. Turns out cheap and frugal aren’t the same thing. And cheap, cheap isn’t really that good.

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I’ve bought cheap things and it’s worked out really well. I love inexpensive storage solutions from Dollar Tree. You can’t beat $1 for… well, anything. But there are items I have purchased for bottom dollar elsewhere and found that while it was cheap, I didn’t get my money’s worth.

A Case Study

I decided our now two-year-old needed a pair of shoes last summer to help him when he started walking. We had preemies, and our son especially has done everything in his own time (this may be a post for later, we’ll see). While we were in Target shopping for school supplies and clothes on tax-free weekend for our soon to be kindergartener, I decided to get the little man a pair of shoes.

He was up to a toddler size 5. Once you hit the toddler sizes and get into shoes with walking soles the price tag on shoes for the little ones bumps up significantly. My frugal heart didn’t like that. The walking shoes in the baby department were not very frugal. We headed to the shoe department and found we had to shop outside the baby section to get his shoe size. Ok. We settled on a pair of velcro navy blue sneakers. He liked them, they were adorable, and they were $20. It hurt my frugal heart, but into the shopping cart they went. Though they weren’t cheap they did fit in the budget.

Fast forward several months and our slow little grower was happily wearing his well-made sneakers all day every day. I kept expecting a growth spurt any day so I cheaply held out on buying a second pair. But that growth spurt was very slow in coming. Then it happened; one Saturday afternoon we had a lot of fun outside, the shoes got muddy, and when it came time to leave for the annual spaghetti dinner at our local volunteer firehouse he didn’t have clean or dry shoes to wear. So off to the firehouse he went in his sock feet and his little feet were never allowed to hit the firehouse floor.

frugal isn't cheap

A tale of Two Pairs of Shoes – One Frugal, One Cheap

I washed the shoes and threw them in the dryer that night, but never remembered to check to see if they were dry until time to head to church. Big shocker, they weren’t dry. So off he went a second day in a row in sock feet. I told my husband I was buying a second cheap pair of shoes as a backup so this wouldn’t happen again. No way was I going to pay $20 when that expected growth spurt was coming any day now and he would outgrow them so soon.

Shop Kids Shoes Now

After doing some online pricing I decided to check the local Dollar General. I managed to find a couple of different pairs of shoes in his size and he liked a black and navy camo pair of slip-ons. The best part? They were the bargain price of $5! Perfect for my frugal, er, cheap wishes. We purchased the shoes and off we went, never to worry about having a sock-footed toddler out in public.

Flash Forward a Few Months… Why Frugal isn’t Cheap

It’s been just a few months, and the newer, cheap shoes are literally falling apart. The lining is gone, the seams on top are frayed, and the camo lining has torn away from the shoe on the toes. Now the toes are slowly coming unattached from the rubber. His little feet have just now started to outgrow his size 5s. The $5 Dollar General shoes are less than 6 months old and barely holding together. The $20 shoes I thought were overpriced? While dirty, they are 14 months old and still in pretty good shape! This is an excellent example of why frugal isn’t cheap.

frugal isn't cheap

Lesson Learned: New, Frugal Shoes Will Soon be on the Way!

The older shoes, while still holding up just fine are hard to squeeze on and seem to be too tight on him. The slip-ons, while fitting more comfortably, just aren’t really all that presentable. I literally expect them to come apart eery time he picks them up to wear. They are also not the best fit for him anymore. Time to get the little man some new shoes! This time around I am applying this lesson learned and buying frugal, not cheap shoes for our little guy.

So what shoes will he get this time? I have done quite a bit of comparison shopping online and have these two pairs in my Amazon cart right now. You could definitely say I did my homework this time around; I read reviews, limited my search to 4 stars and above, and saved several options to my wish list. It would be convenient for the boy to own more than two pairs of shoes at a time; I’m just a little too frugal to buy more than two pairs at a time.

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This time around I am buying some basic, neutral shoes for now and plan to buy some more colorful options later. I opted for a pair of navy blue canvas slip-ons for every day and a pair of brown slip-on boots with side zippers for church read all the reviews and comments and found the canvas shoes to run small so I ordered a size up. I feel confident in these choices for their practicality, budget-friendliness, and quality. And that makes this frugal mama’s heart very happy.

4 thoughts on “Frugal Isn’t Cheap: Lessons I’ve Learned About Money

  1. Sophie says:

    Such a great post! I’m like you, my frugal heart instinctively has amounts I think things should be worth and it hurts my soul to spend more than that. But quality items that last longer are definitely worth the investment and perhaps the more frugal option long term! x

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