There’s a saying in the software world "Good, Fast, Cheap, pick two". The basic premise is that you can make software that is good, and it’s done fast, but it won’t be cheap. Or it can be done fast, and cheaply, but it won’t be good. Or it will be good, and cheap, but it will take forever.
It seems to me that in our culture, there’s a widespread trend of buying lots of stuff, as soon as you can, for as cheaply as you can. This brings me back to the title of this post. Quick, Quality, Quantity, pick two.
I want it all, and I want it now
You can certainly have high quality stuff, in large quantities, but it won’t be quick. It will take time until you own it, which of course includes paying off credit cards used to buy it. Or you can have high quality stuff, right now (quick), but not very much of it. Or you can have a lot of stuff, right now, but it won’t be very high quality.
Unfortunately, I think that this is the mentality that stores like Wal-Mart promote. Get everything you think you need, right now, for cheap. But most of it’s really bad quality. All ethical issues aside, most of what Wal-Mart sells for cheap is cheap for a reason. It’s made cheaply.
The part of this that causes me major heartburn, is that it sends the message that quality is expendable. Just ignore quality, focus on how much you can get. While this is great in the short term, it breaks down in the long term because of more frequent repairs and replacements.
Learning to appreciate less for more
The idea of spending more money to get less stuff is a pretty direct affront to the mentality that most of us hold. If presented with an empty living room, most of us would choose to fill it up with a sofa, loveseat, and recliner, TV, and entertainment center, with enough money left over to buy a coffee table.
But what if we made the decision that instead of buying all that stuff, we were going to buy just two pieces of furniture that would last for 15 years. That’s a really hard decision to make when you’ve traditionally placed a high value on quantity over quality. If we make that decision, we’ll end up with more comfortable furniture and we’ll worry less about spills because the fabric will be stain proof. The reality is, for most of us, living that way takes longer. You can’t have the room filled up right away, because you’re valuing quality over both quantity and quick.
Knowing that the pendulum swings from one extreme to the other before settling in the middle, I feel that it would be careless not to mention that price does not equal quality. Many times one is an indicator of the other, but there’s more than one way to skin a cat. The rule of thumb I use is this.
Buy the highest quality items you can afford to pay for with cash.
That simple rule keeps you focused on quality, as well as financial stewardship, and that can’t be a bad thing.