good-deal-vs-good-value

Someone is inevitably on the losing end of a “good” deal.

Within the conversation of sustainability comes the reality that at some point we have to change our lifestyle habits in order to lessen our impact on the environment. And that can be inconvenient. It’s time consuming. It can be expensive – especially now, at the forefront of this development. I, like anyone, want to make the money I earn go as far as possible. I also want to make choices in my purchasing that I believe in.

Compromises are often made on quality or sustainability in the name of tight budgets, and what we are able, or unable, to afford. We’ve gotten used to the idea that certain categories are “inexpensive” and when faced with a version that is made and sourced locally, there inevitably comes some sticker shock. We’re not used to spending a lot of money on everyday products. Flyswatters, for example, are cheap plastic items that I want to pay as little as possible for at the dollar store. So when presented with a choice that is handmade with quality materials at 15 x the price, does my commitment to supporting sustainable manufacturing hold up?

Overseas production, with cheap labor, materials and shipping, made a wide range of products affordable and accessible to a large segment of people – resulting in a low “normal” price for many everyday goods. That wood and leather flyswatter might last many more years than the plastic one and lessen the load on a landfill, but what determines if it is “worth” the price? Longevity of use? A personal desire to support local craftsmen? Aesthetic appreciation? Concern over workers’ conditions? Each of us has our own hierarchy of priorities, creating a daily balancing act of where we place our money.

One important factor is differentiating “good value” and “good deal.” So much depends on branding, packaging and perception. Tracing down the line of production, there is money being removed from sections of that chain to achieve that price. Someone is inevitably on the losing end of a “good” deal.

As consumers, we are the groundbreakers – and with change comes growing pains. The prices we pay for many mass-produced products are, in a way, fake – achievable only due to low wages and inexpensive materials. At some point, these discrepancies will even out. The cost of making overseas goods won’t be cheap anymore; they will be closer to the “real” price. Wages will rise in developing countries, providing workers with a more comfortable and healthy life – and domestic prices will fall the more we support local manufacturing, allowing makers to not only survive but thrive. Each quality purchase we make now is an investment into our health, our economy and the world as a whole. If we demand better for ourselves, we will improve.

What does “good value” mean for you? Let us know in the comments below.

Three Tips on Affordability.

Three easy ways to add value to your everyday.

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5 Comments

  1. Posted June 2, 2014 at 12:12 PM | Permalink

    Good value for me means the joint between best materials + good design + best craftmanship
    Best materials are not cheap , good design makes the first sight difference and best craftmanship means an investiment on time and dedication to achive skills or good industrial process.
    We should be re-educated in appreciating the amount of talent behind a good product and consecuently pay for it.

  2. Posted June 3, 2014 at 7:00 PM | Permalink

    Thanks for a great article. I've been reading a book called "Timber" by Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister (http://www.amazon.com/Timber-Peter-Dauvergne/dp/0745649289) that discusses another facet of this issue: the social and environmental cost of raw materials that goes into "deals". We are literally clear-cutting the planet's precious rainforests to illegally extract free or low cost forest products– that are often times discarded after one use. Think: pallets and corrugated cardboard that are used to ship Amazon items, cheap furniture, paper products, lumber, palm oil, coffee, etc. All these things are priced artificially low because we're exploiting countries in the global south to produce them at whatever prices we'll agree to pay. Time to change to a more sustainable model! Walmart, Lowes, Home Depot, Costco, Ashley Furniture: stop green washing and get serious about responsible sourcing.

  3. Emma Segal
    Posted June 4, 2014 at 5:13 AM | Permalink

    Hi Peggy, thanks for the book recommendation! I'll check it out.

    I kind of think it always goes back to: you can't get something for nothing. So if you're getting a deal, then it's always worthwhile to think about how that was made possible. That being said, there are also many products that are overpriced due to perceived value based on brand and marketing. It's a fine line, finding the 'true' value or price of products.

    In the meantime, we can definitely make a strong contribution towards that goal by putting our dollars where our mouths are. Voting with your wallet is something you can do multiple times a day, and I'm a bit of a broken record when it comes to repeating that to anybody who asks! The economy is based on supply and demand, so let's demand better.

    Thanks for your thoughts. Let us know if there are any other topics or questions you'd like to see covered in this space!

  4. Angela
    Posted June 4, 2014 at 8:36 PM | Permalink

    Good value means to buy something today and still be happy with it in ten or fifteen years from now.

  5. Therese
    Posted June 7, 2014 at 8:00 AM | Permalink

    Recently moved after twenty years in same home and in the process, I was bombarded with all of my "good deals" that we're simply passing fancies, broke after a few uses, etc. I am determined to now make purchases on items that will be useful to me on a regular basis and last a significant amount of time. I came by this interesting article through Remodelista.com which I highly recommend for ideas and examples of sustainable products and design.

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