Growing up, I had a friend who was extremely frugal. She was and still is the sort who takes unopened ketchup or mustard packets left on a restaurant table so that she doesn't have to buy them for her needs at home. Even today, despite having a job that provides income to sustain her lifestyle, she sees no reason to go out and buy a bag of sugar when there are packets readily available during a meal out that can be collected for later use. I will never forget one outing during which I had ordered a cup of hot tea. The server had brought two tea bags and a couple packages of honey, and when I only used one tea bag and none of the honey she quickly inquired, "Can I take that... if you aren't going to use it?" She doesn't view it as stealing, but rather just taking what someone may have used while consuming a meal -- a means of conserving monetary funds. I suppose whether this is theft or not is somewhat debatable, but it's merely a representation of one of her habits to keep expenditures to a minimum and one illustration of her thrifty life choices.
For example, I don't find most furniture manufactured in recent years to be of high quality, so if I have the option, I'd rather find a second hand item that has made it through several decades (or even centuries) than spend on a fiberboard or plastic piece that will likely end up in a landfill much sooner than furniture should. Life has taught me that thinking I'm getting a deal on something because it's new but cheap usually results in disappointment with broken or unusable items.
When it comes to bike parts and cycling gear, I tried less expensive options when I first started out and found that I simply didn't like what I came across, and so a kind of habit developed (unconsciously, really) that caused me to seek out more expensive items, believing that if I spent more I would get a higher quality, longer lasting, more usable product. Generally, that thought has held true. Which is not to say that every product that costs more is or has been of higher quality or functions better, but simply that I have found that being willing to spend a little more and perhaps have fewer of an item allows me to obtain more comfortable cycling shorts or a longer-lasting bike part.
I am by no means a snob (bike or otherwise), but I suddenly was jolted into awareness of my unconscious behavior when I realized I was mentally protesting a particular garment for cycling simply because it was 1) less expensive than other items I'd typically buy, and 2) it was being sold by a discount cycling outlet type of store that carries off-brands.
Oh my word... I am a snob, I thought. How else could I explain my reasoning for not wanting to try a product simply because it's less expensive? Maybe it wasn't quite snobbish, but I definitely didn't have any valid reason to not give the item a try.
I started thinking about other areas of life and bargains I have found on items. Several of my favorite pieces have been the least expensive items I've purchased and even favorite dining spots are often not the fanciest, most costly places. Basically, I reminded myself that just because something is less costly or appears on the surface to be less-than-desirable doesn't necessarily make it useless, bad, or inferior.
So, with these thoughts in mind, I decided to purchase said item and give it a try.
The funny thing is, it turned out to be a remarkably usable product that has functioned better than some items on which I've spent three to four times its price. Since then, I've had a couple of other this-shouldn't-be-this-inexpensive type of purchases that have panned out well, and even though I do think that there are times when spending more can save a headache in the long run, I was reminded that just as an item can be expensive and useless or of low quality, it is also possible that an item can be inexpensive and still quite wonderful and usable.
I am grateful that when I initially started to cycle in adulthood that I didn't run out and buy the most expensive things I could find, but on the other hand, once I knew what I liked and didn't, I know I started to accept that I would need to spend more on the items I wanted for my bike or for gear. Somehow that realization seemed to get warped into an idea that spending more was the only way to find good items, which I know is not true. Yet, that thought process seemed to prevail until I came to understand that I was unintentionally but quite routinely avoiding certain items simply because they appeared to be too inexpensive, even if I thought they could work.
What are your thoughts on less expensive parts and goods for cycling? Is cheap worth trying when it comes to parts, bicycles or other gear, or do you believe that spending more will always provide a better product? Are there certain items you spend more on and refuse to compromise on your preferences, or are you willing to give an off- or generic-brand an opportunity to prove its worth? Have you bought anything expensive that you wish you would've passed on buying after using it, and/or have you bought anything less costly that you found to be a remarkable item for its price? Feel free to share your experiences.