Customer Review

25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where is the differentiation between Cheap and Smart ?, May 1, 2010
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This review is from: In CHEAP We Trust: The Story of a Misunderstood American Virtue (Hardcover)
While I did enjoy reading some of the historical background of the frugality movement, as well as the presentation of the "Freegan" movement. Overall I found the read quite a bit disjointed, among other things, when it does not differentiate between cheap and smart consumers.

For example, author's father was shouting anytime a light was left on, even though he did not know the cost of the electricity wasted. In many cases switching on and off a light, reduces the life of the bulb, which is wasteful, while saving a negligible amount of electricity. The author continues to brag how her father, despite his cheapness, paid for her expensive tuition at a private college. Again, that's not rational, considering that a state school in most cases provides the best value.

The author also could have touched on how modern technology allows for a more frugal living. For example such avenues like Amazon Marketplace and eBay allow the sale of non-needed goods in a much more efficient way than garage sales (by selling online I usually can recover at least 50% of the original cost of the items, and sometimes more than 100% !). Also, it now becomes more and more feasible to not own a car, even in a suburb with limited public transit, thanks to proliferation of eCommerce (I do more than 3/4 of shopping online, even ordering some of my groceries online from sites like Amazon Fresh. I not only save upwards to 75% of what I can get at local Mall, but also don't need to own a car to transport bulky goods)

I also wish the author talked more on planned obsolescence. I personally like shopping from stores that give a lifetime warranty on their products (like LLBean), even though it require extra hassle, than buying it from a local store. However the $50 backpack I've bought at LLBean endured a lot of weight and abuse, and its zippers never failed for many years of daily use. While those "cheap" ($10 on sale) backpacks I used to buy from drugstores, didn't last even a season of daily use ! So while both were made in China, one was made to last, and the other to not lost. Like that old story goes:

"An American businessman goes to Italy and ask the factory owner if a pair of shoes can be made for $70, "We should be able to", how about "$50", "No, we can't make shoes for $50" the Italian factory owner responds.

The same businessman goes to China and asks if a pair of shoes can be made for "$50", "Certainly", "How about "$30", "Sure", "How about "$10" the greedy businessman asks the Chinese factory owner. "OK. We can do that." Chinese factory owner responds. So the delighted businessman makes a large order for $10 shoes, hoping to make a steal on them. However when he gets the shipment and starts selling them, he quickly discovers that the sole of those shoes falls off only after a couple months of wear. He goes back to the Chinese factory owner and complaints about the shoes he sold him. The Chinese factory owner responds: "You asked for $10 shoes, and that's what you've got, shoes that are worth $10. So stop complaining !"

The moral of the story is that buying cheap, disposable things is often wasteful. Long time ago I've heard an adage, "We aren't wealthy to buy cheap things." And there is a lot to it. And while I don't like buying luxuries or status symbol items, I do strive to buy premium quality ones, especially for something where quality is important, like kitchenware or small appliances. (I do quite a bit of research on Consumer Reports and online, reading reviews and comparing prices, before buying) And in the end I am much better off monetarily and frustration-wise, buying smart, that buying cheap.

Finally when it comes to the simplicity movement, I am a bit confused what does it exactly mean. Personally I like to think that I practice simplicity by adhering to the rule: "Use it or Lose It (i.e. Sell/Donate/Throw)" for all my belongings. I also try to eliminate any redundancies for any merchandise I own, or services I am subscribed to. For example, I've dropped my landline, since cell phone + Skype makes it redundant. I've dropped TV cable, since Netflix + Hulu makes it redundant and offers a much better value. I've sold my GPS, amateur Camera & Ipod touch since my Droid makes those items redundant. I've dropped Starbucks because my premium coffeemaker makes it redundant. I can go on and on, but the fact remains, that the practice of simplicity can be easier achieved by embracing the technological progress, rather than avoiding it.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Aug 12, 2010 6:05:19 PM PDT
I really enjoyed reading this, and got a little education along the way.
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